Johannesburg – On 9 October 2020, ALT Advisory, along with Research ICT Africa (RIA), the Association for Progressive Communications (APC), and the Feministing While African (FWA) network, filed a joint submission to the Portfolio Committee on Justice and Correctional Services on the Domestic Violence Amendment Bill (DVA Bill).
The object of the DVA Bill is to introduce amendments and additions of certain definitions, including the additions of coercive and controlling behaviour, and amendments to the definitions of harm, harassment, intimidation and sexual abuse and harassment. Additionally, the DVA Bill makes provision for online applications for protection orders by way of a secure online submission.
One of the primary objectives of the joint submission was to highlight that the digital environment, initially envisaged as a safe and accessible place with significant potential for empowerment, has in many instances become yet another space in which domestic violence, harassment, abuse, misogyny, sexism, racism, homophobia, and transphobia are often reproduced and amplified.
In raising these contemporary and emerging challenges, we submit that the Bill ought to adopt a nuanced and evolving understanding of online domestic violence and domestic violence aided, facilitated or abetted by information and communication technologies (ICTs). Accordingly, our submissions proposed that the definitions of domestic violence and sexual harassment be expanded to reflect violence and harms that occur online.
Further to this, we encouraged the Portfolio Committee to ensure the right to privacy and data protection principles relevant to the use of ICT and data-driven technologies are reflected in the amendments, in particular in relation to the proposed establishment of an integrated electronic repository for domestic violence protection orders.
Beyond the specific proposals to the DVA Bill, we listed several overarching considerations that may be of use to the Portfolio Committee in revising the Bill, which include the need to:
- ensure that domestic violence facilitated by or through ICTs is adequately and appropriately addressed in the amendments to the DVA Bill and not deferred to other legislation;
- take a broader view to understand the role(s) of technology and digital intermediaries in supporting or mitigating the impacts of domestic violence in diverse contexts in South Africa;
- support more research efforts to provide a proper understanding of not only the factors that may make some South Africans, in particular, more vulnerable to harm from online risks but also the supporting environments available or unavailable to help them deal with such potential exposure to online risk;
- collect more data to understand the prevalence and incidence of domestic violence that is committed, abetted or aggravated, in part or fully, by the use of ICTs like the Internet by reviewing existing research and evidence, and where data is not available, to commission data collection before legislating on the issue; and
- provide disaggregated gender and domestic violence data to include the use of ICTs in the perpetuation of violence, including specific data on violence against gender and sexual minorities.
Ultimately, through these submissions, we sought to highlight the urgent need to ensure that victims and survivors of domestic violence, both on- and offline, are afforded the maximum protection from domestic abuse that the law can provide.
The joint submissions can be accessed here.
Analyst, ALT Advisory
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