December 2, 2020

Every year, 16 Days of Activism takes place from 25 November to 10 December and is a campaign towards no violence against women and children. The purpose of this campaign is to highlight the negative impact violence has in an attempt to help victims of such violence. Although this campaign runs for 16 days, Government urges everyone to continuously act to safeguard against this type of abuse.

Gender-based violence ("GBV") is one of the biggest problems that South Africa faces and affects women and girls regardless of their age, race and social circumstances. GBV stems from a history of deeply rooted gender inequality and is essentially violence that is directed against a person because of their gender. Although GBV can be directed towards both men and women, the majority of victims are women. Gender role expectations and unequal power relationships between men and women are the most significant underlying factors that contribute to this problem faced in South Africa.

 Although GBV is most commonly in the form of physical violence, such as assault, it can also be other forms of abuse against women and includes sexual assault, emotional and psychological abuse, financial abuse and so on.

GBV is a human rights violation and the impact it has is far reaching. Victims of GBV not  only have to deal with the psychological trauma but also the physical and emotional damage it causes. This, inevitably, may have an impact on all facets of their life, including their career, family life and their ability to live in a society without fear.

Unfortunately, victims of GBV sometimes fear to report the violence towards them. However, the law is there to protect them and they can obtain a protection order or lay criminal charges against their perpetrators.

South Africa already has a legislative framework in place aimed at addressing GBV. If the violence occurs between persons who are in a relationship, a protection order can be applied for under the Domestic Violence Act. Other legislation includes the Protection from Harassment Act and the Prevention of Combatting of Human Trafficking in Human Persons Act.

With the recent increase in GBV, the Government is now more than ever determined to put into place new legislation and programs to protect the women and children of South Africa from abuse. These programs include a victim empowerment program committed to intensify and accelerate efforts to achieve the elimination of all forms of violence against women and children.

South African President, Cyril Ramaphosa, recently stated that the laws in GBV and sexual offences will be tightened and there are three amendment bills announced to close loopholes and curb the exploitation of the legal system by perpetrators of GBV.

The Criminal Law (Sexual Offences and Related Matters) Amendment Act will be amended to create a new offence of sexual intimidation. This will mean that it will be a criminal offence to threaten someone else with certain sexual acts.

The Criminal and Related Matters Amendment Bill will allow for amendment that impose stricter conditions for the granting of bail in South Africa to those who are charged for allegedly committing a criminal offence linked to GBV. These amendments will also expand the types of offences for which minimum sentences must be imposed, for example, to allow for a minimum sentence of life imprisonment for the murder of a child.

Changes to the Domestic Violence Act will see additions to what will be considered as domestic violence in South Africa. For example, it will also include controlling behaviors, such as isolating the victim from support and regulating the victim's everyday behavior.

Although these three amendment bills must still come into effect, it shows the Government's seriousness to provide for stricter laws to prevent GBV. Apart from legislative changes, South Africans will have to work together to protect women and children against GBV.

Did you know…Gender-based violence does not only refer to physical violence, but also emotional and psychological abuse.


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