On 28 January 2022, President Cyril Ramaphosa signed three new GBV laws aimed at strengthening efforts to end gender-based violence (GBV) in South Africa: the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences and Related Matters) Amendment Act Amendment Act, the Criminal and Related Matters Amendment Act, and the Domestic Violence Amendment Act.
The Bills were first introduced to Parliament in June 2020 following public outcry about GBV, which President Ramaphosa described as “no less than a war being waged against the women and children of our country.”
Following a year of public participatory processes, and consideration from the National Assembly and National Council of Provinces, the trio of GBV laws are set to improve protection for women, children, and gender and sexual minorities, and provide better access to justice for victims and survivors.
Changes to the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences and Related Matters) Amendment Act Amendment Act include revisions that:
- Introduce a new offence of sexual intimidation;
- Expand the scope of the National Register for Sex Offenders (NRSO) to include the particulars of all sex offenders, and not only sex offenders against children and persons who are mentally disabled;
- Expand the list of people who are to be protected to include other vulnerable people, such as women under the age of 25 who are studying or living in student residence; people with physical, mental or intellectual disabilities; and people over the age of 60 who, for example, receive community-based care and support services; and
- Increase the period for which a sex offender’s particulars must remain on the Register.
The Criminal and Related Matters Amendment Act makes changes to:
- The Magistrates’ Courts Act, 1944, to provide for the appointment of intermediaries and the giving of evidence through intermediaries in proceedings other than criminal proceedings; and the giving of evidence through an audio-visual link in proceedings with the assistance of intermediaries; other than criminal proceedings;
- The Criminal Procedure Act, 1977, to further regulate the granting and cancellation of bail; the giving of evidence by means of an audio-visual link; the giving of evidence by a witness with physical, psychological or mental disability; and the right of a complainant in a domestic-related offence to participate in parole proceedings;
- The Criminal Law Amendment Act, 1997, to further regulate sentences in respect of offences that have been committed against vulnerable people; and
- The Superior Courts Act, 2013, to provide for the appointment of intermediaries and the giving of evidence through intermediaries in proceedings other than criminal proceedings; and the giving of evidence through an audio-visual link in proceedings other than criminal proceedings.
The Domestic Violence Amendment Bill amends the Domestic Violence Act of 1998 to address practical challenges and gaps in that Act, such as:
- Including new definitions, such as “controlling behaviour” and “coercive behaviour”;
- Expanding existing definitions, such as “domestic violence”, to include spiritual abuse, elder abuse, coercive behaviour, controlling behaviour, and subjecting children to certain listed behaviour;
- Removing gender binary terms and relying on gender-neutral terminology to ensure inclusive and equal protection for all persons.
- Expanding the scope of the Act to apply to forms of harm that occur through the use of electronic communication, including unreasonably and repeatedly contacting a person online monitoring or tracking a person’s movements or activities without their consent, or disclosing an electronic message that is abusive, degrading, offensive or humiliating, or violates or offends the sexual integrity or dignity of a person.
- Introducing online applications for protection orders against acts of domestic violence and imposing obligations on the Departments of Health and Social Development to provide certain services to survivors of domestic violence.
Learn more about the new GBV laws:
- The Criminal Law (Sexual Offences and Related Matters) Amendment Act Amendment Act is available here.
- The Criminal and Related Matters Amendment Act is available here.
- The Domestic Violence Amendment Act is available here.
- The Presidency’s statement about the trio of Acts is available here.
Please note: The information contained in this note is for general guidance on matters of interest, and does not constitute legal advice. For any enquiries, please contact us at [email protected].