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New laws to combat GBV

As a result of an enormous public outcry, as well as civil society mobilisation, President Ramaphosa announced the Emergency Response Plan in 2019 to address gender-based violence and femicide (GBVF), including strengthening the legislative framework. In January this year, the President signed into law new legislation with a “victim-centred focus”, aimed at addressing the extremely high levels of GBVF in South Africa. For victims of GBV and those working with victims in communities, these new measures are important to understand.

The new laws include:

  • Introducing new definitions of controlling behaviour and coercive behaviour
  • The definition of domestic violence has been expanded to to include spiritual abuse, elder abuse, coercive behaviour, controlling behaviour, and exposing children to domestic violence.
  • Protection orders can be applied for online. If a SAPS member suspects a victim is in danger due to breach of a protection order, they must arrest the respondent immediately.
  • A court can an issue a Safety Monitoring Notice that requires SAPS to be in constant contact with the victim without the knowledge of the abuser.
  • Expanding the circumstances when a victim can give evidence through an intermediary or audio-visual link.
  • Tightens bail procedures and minimum sentencing for perpetrators of GBVF.
  • Gives victims of domestic violence the right to participate in parole proceedings.
  • The National Register for Sex Offenders (NRSO) will now include all convicted sex offenders, not just child sex offenders.
  • The list of vulnerable people is expanded to include people with physical, mental or intellectual disabilities and people over 60, particularly those who receive community-based care and support services.
  • There is a new offence of sexual intimidation and grooming.
  • SAPS members who fail to comply with their obligations under the new law will be guilty of misconduct.

Perhaps most significant is that the new legislation puts a duty on all adults who are aware that sexual offences have been committed against vulnerable people to report these to the police or a social worker. Failure to do so is now a criminal offence. According to the President:

“This puts into law the principle that violence against women and children is everyone’s responsibility.”

It is indeed critical, if we are to turn the tide on GBV in South Africa, for every single person to play their part. For more information about GBV, how to spot it and what to do if you know someone who is affected, view our video series: