Cape Town - Gender activists have described the approach to gender-based violence (GBV) cases as “lukewarm” saying the scourge of violence against women has to be treated as an epidemic.
The National Council of Provinces (NCOP) on Wednesday passed gender-based violence bills which includes the Criminal and Related Matters Amendment Bill, Domestic Violence Amendment Bill and the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences and Related Matters) Amendment Bill.
The bills were introduced in Parliament following a presidential summit against gender-based violence and femicide (GBVF) in 2018.
Amendments to the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences and Related Matters) Amendment Bill include the legislation regulating the National Register for Sex Offenders (NRSO).
This amendment seeks to expand the scope of the NRSO to “include the particulars of all sex offenders and not only sex offenders against children and persons who are mentally disabled and to expand the list of persons who are to be protected to include other vulnerable persons, namely, certain young women, persons with physical, mental, sensory or intellectual disabilities and persons over 60 years of age”.
The bill further proposes to expand the ambit of the crime of incest and introduces a new offence of sexual intimidation.
Adjustments to the Domestic Violence Amendment Bill include among others, to further provide for how acts of domestic violence and matters related thereto must be dealt with by certain functionaries, persons and government departments; and further, regulate obtaining of protection orders in response to acts of domestic violence.
The Criminal and Related Matters Amendment Bill, which will be sent to President Cyril Ramaphosa for assent, seeks to amend four acts, namely the Magistrates’ Courts Act 32 of 1944, the Criminal Procedure Act 51 0f 1977, the Criminal Law Amendment Act 85 of 1997 and the Superior Courts Act 7 of 2013.
The House has however passed two of the Domestic Violence and Criminal Law (Sexual Offences and Related Matters) Amendment Bills.
Parliamentary statement reads that the two bills will be sent back to the National Assembly.
Women’s rights activist advocate Brenda Madumise-Pajibo welcomed the amendments but emphasised that since Ramaphosa declared the scourge of gender-based violence a second pandemic, it needs to be treated as such.
“If it is a pandemic, it must be responded to the same way the Covid-19 pandemic is being responded to. The attitude against GBV always tends to be lukewarm until a gruesome murder surfaces then politicians want to jump up and down. The approach can’t always be lukewarm.”
Madumise-Pajibo made specific reference to the recent gruesome murder of 23-year-old Nosicelo Mtebeni from Quigney in East London. She was a law student at the University of Fort Hare.
Mtebeni’s dismembered body was found stuffed in a suitcase about 100m from her house on August 19 after police were alerted by a passer-by.
Madumise-Pajibo added that priority should be placed on educating the South African Police Service with these new bills.
“I want to know, what is the plan to ensure that every police officer in SAPS is aware of these amendments and also understands the application and interpretation of these laws? The justice system must use this time to make sure they are prepared and have mobilised resources,” Madumise-Pajibo said.
Co-founder of Engender and gender activist Bernedette Muthien said there is already more than enough legislation dealing with GBV.
“For me it’s always about implementation. We already had more than adequate legislation dealing with GBV. Now we have yet more legislation. But still GBV and femicide continues unabated, including among millennials, which means we’re failing our people, our girls and boys.”
Muthien questioned why, with all the legislation in its current form, men continue to “slaughter” women?
“We need implementation. And we need mindset shifts, from primary school to old age homes.”
Another activist Lebogang Ramafoko passing the bills was a victory for women, but remained concerned about their implementation.
“In South Africa, the passing of laws is a very easy act to do. What we are not good at is allocating competent people to make sure that these acts and policies that are passed are implemented. We need to look at what is needed at a local level to make sure that these acts and policies become a reality,” she said.