National Shelter Movement South Africa said the bill “will overburden already-stressed women’s shelter services”. Picture: Tracey Adams/African News Agency/ANA
National Shelter Movement South Africa said the bill “will overburden already-stressed women’s shelter services”. Picture: Tracey Adams/African News Agency/ANA

‘Victim Support Bill will make life more difficult for shelters’

By Mwangi Githathu Time of article published Oct 7, 2020

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Cape Town - The draft Victim Support Services Bill, released for public comment by the Department of Social Development (DSD), “will overburden already-stressed women’s shelter services,” according to the National Shelter Movement South Africa (NSMSA).

The bill aims to “bring victims to the centre of the justice system in order to ensure that the rights applicable to a perpetrator are also extended to a victim.”

NSMSA’s Western Cape representative Bernadine Bachar, who also serves as director of the Saartjie Baartman centre, said the current iteration of the bill was punitive in nature.

“Rather than serving to protect survivors, it will further prejudice them, as it will lead to the closure of organisations that are more informal in nature, especially those in rural areas,” she said.

“Many will be unwilling or unable to undergo the certification process and will face criminal charges in the absence of certification. Women’s shelters, in particular, are already seriously compromised as a result of underfunding, with some struggling to even keep their doors open.

“Now, with the proposed requirements, shelters will need even more funds in order to comply and be able to provide these critical services.”

Director of the Nisaa Institute for Women’s Development Zubeda Dangor said: “We are very worried about the criminalisation of victim support services. The bill also gives DSD officials and police officers the power to enter any service provider’s facility, without a warrant, interview any person present, and request confidential documents.

“If refused, service providers may be criminalised,” said Dangor.

The DA’s provincial spokesperson on social development Gillion Bosman said: “The bill emphasises the critical need to address secondary victimisation, which is the experience of additional violence when a victim of abuse attempts to report a crime or seek out support. It fails to recognise the vast network of both formal and informal, registered and unregistered, service providers and charitable organisations, most of which fill the gaps left by poor performing state-led agencies, such as national DSD and the police.”.

“Instead of smoke and mirror tactics which would ultimately lead to bullying of non-profits, national DSD ought to bolster resources and ensure that provinces follow the lead of the Western Cape, which continues to set the standard in on-time, needs-based provision of resources to partner organisations.”

Cape Argus

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