Gender based violence (“GBV”) is a global pandemic which affects 1 in 3 women in their lifetime. Women and girls are being abused, assaulted, and murdered in our country on a daily basis at the hands of men. The perpetrators are more likely to be a spouse, an intimate partner, or an acquaintance.
Globally, more than 243 million women and girls were abused by an intimate partner in the past year. The sad reality is that less than 40 per cent of women who experience abuse report it or seek help.
GBV is a pandemic which has been part of our society long before we knew of the existence of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Contrary to popular belief, GBV is not limited to emotional, physical, or sexual abuse and it includes a variety of other offences. The Domestic Violence Act, 116 of 1998 (“the Act”), defines GBV as any physical, sexual, emotional, verbal, psychological or economic abuse. It includes harassment, stalking, damage to property as well as the entry into a complainant’s residence without consent, where the parties do not share the same residence or any other controlling or abusive behaviour towards the complainant.
A woman who has been a victim of GBV may apply to a court for a protection order. If she is not assisted by a legal representative, there is a duty on the clerk of the court to inform her of the relief available to her under the Act as well as her right to lodge a criminal complaint against the person who is abusing her. There is always help available to victims of GBV and she may approach a court outside of ordinary court hours where the court is satisfied that the victim may suffer further incidents of violence if the matter is not dealt with on an urgent basis.
President Cyril Ramaphosa recently introduced three new bills to Parliament which are designed to bring justice to the victims of GBV. These bills have been approved by Cabinet. However, the bills are still up for commentary and changes from the South African public. With these bills, it is the government’s objective to address three important issues relating to GBV, i.e.:
1) The process of applying for a protection order;
2) State police not taking harassment claims seriously; and
3) The lack of accountability and adequate punitive measures for offenders.
There is always help out there for any woman, despite race, religion, or status! Do not suffer alone!
Author: Zelda Damons