COMMENT: Is The Domestic Violence Act A Failure?

Justice and Constitutional Development Minister Ronald Lamola announced on Thursday that the department will introduce a new Domestic Violence Bill that will enable victims of gender-based violence to apply for a protection order online. 22 years after the initial Domestic Violence Act was passed in South Africa, gender-based violence is still a major problem for women and girls. The purpose of this Act was to afford victims of gender-based violence maximum protection of the law. That begs the question: Is the current Domestic Violence Act a failure?

Domestic violence refers to violence that is carried out by partners or family members but also includes violence against children or other family members. This includes gender-based violence which refers to violence that targets individuals or groups on the basis of their gender.

Photo: Getty Images

South Africa is facing a gender-based violence crisis with the 2019 crime statistics released by the Department of Police revealing the depth of the crisis. Nearly 3,000 women were murdered between April 2018 and March 2019, translating to seven deaths per day. It is undeniable that South Africa has a pathological problem with gender-based violence.

Photo: SABC

This new Domestic Violence Bill appears at a time where police turn away victims of gender-based violence further incentivising victims to not report cases. Violence against women and children is a severe violation of human rights. It negatively affects women’s general well-being and prevents women from fully participating in society. Violence not only has negative consequences for women but also their families, the community and the country at large.

Photo: Getty Images

It is rare for a day to pass without horrific reports of women and children attacked, raped, or killed. The killing of women and children is nothing but an affront to our shared humanity. South Africa has the legislation but historically has not taken enough action against the perpetrators of gender-based violence. The cries of women and girls seem to fall on deaf ears, while plenty of promises are made by the government with little to no end result.

Photo: Google Images

Unfortunately, it is not the first time that the government reneged on its promises regarding domestic and gender-based violence. As mentioned before, since the initial Domestic Violence Act was introduced, cases of gender-based violence continued to increase. Clearly then, it will take more than legislation to combat these social ills. I think comprehensive training should be given to the police and the judiciary on how to address violence against women and children. In order to end gender-based violence, the justice system will have to challenge social norms that condone violence or impose gender roles. Without these distinct approaches, the new Act will fail as the current Act already has.

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