Cape Town - Advocacy and civil society organisations have commended the approval of the three GBV bills as a step closer to curbing the scourge of gender-based violence and femicide.
They are the Criminal and Related Matters Amendment Bill, the Domestic Violence Amendment Bill and Criminal Law (Sexual Offences and Related Matters) and the Amendment Act Amendment Bill.
The bills, which were adopted by Parliament later last week, are awaiting President Cyril Ramaphosa’s signature.
Speaking on Sunday, Ramaphosa said these pieces of legislation would further strengthen the criminal justice system and ensure harsh penalties for those found guilty of gender-based violence.
Mosaic Advocacy, Policy and Research Officer Kerryn Rehse said the changes provided for in the Domestic Violence Amendment Bill presented the opportunity for a strengthened protection order system that removed some of the earlier administrative hurdles and gaps that made it difficult for victims to access protection and justice.
“One of the significant changes to the bill is the introduction of electronic applications of protection orders. Applications can now be sent electronically to the relevant court for consideration without the applicant needing to leave home.
“The bill introduces the provision for a safety monitoring notice, an order made by the court on the relevant SAPS station to monitor the safety of the protection order applicant who shares a residence with the respondent or their abuser,” she said.
Action Society spokesperson Nomfundo Jele said a victory for victims of GBVF was that the Criminal and Related Matters Amendment Bill would now allow for complainants to testify in bail and parole proceedings.
“Action Society also welcomes the fact that victims will be able to testify via CCTV in GBVF cases – which will ensure victims don’t have to face their perpetrators and be subjected to further trauma during court proceedings,” she said.
Women’s Legal Centre advocate Bronwyn Pithey said while there were significant amendments to the bills, they were as good as their implementation.
“We have to have good, strong laws that provide a legislative framework to protect women and children, but at the end of the day a piece of legislation is only as good as the people who implemented it.
“We have to have people in the courts, police who implement these pieces of legislation properly, otherwise it only remains a theory. We currently have a lot of concerns over the consistency in the way that the act(s) is implemented by both the justice department, the police and the prosecution,” said Pithey.