Issue No. 41
ANC Introduces Legislation to Better the Lives of Women
7 August 1998
Domestic Violence Bill
The ANC Government has a proven track record of combatting violence against women. It has complied with the Beijing Platform provisions, ratified the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Violence Against Women (CEDAW) and entrenched the rights of gender equality and freedom from violence in the Constitution.
The Justice Ministry, in a strategy document, made it clear that it wants a criminal justice policy that looks at the special needs of women and children. The Minister and Deputy Minister have started an ongoing public awareness campaign on preventing violence against women. The Domestic Violence Bill clearly spells out that violent behaviour against women and children will not be excused or tolerated.
Improving on the Prevention of Family Violence Act
- The Bill acknowledges that domestic violence is a serious crime against society and that the majority of the victims are women. Domestic violence is a major obstacle on the way to gender equality.
- It is apparent that the existing Prevention of Family Violence Act is too narrow in its scope. The Bill is much more progressive and covers a wider scope.
- The Bill offers protection to any victim who is in a domestic relationship whereas the Act applies to only to ‘parties to a marriage’. The Act did not define family violence while the Bill gives a broad definition of domestic violence.
- The Bill forces a member of the Police Services to inform victims of their rights at the scene of a domestic violence case. In the past women were treated as if they either provoked the incident or deserved to be beaten up. They never had any clear idea as to what their rights were.
- Peace officers may now arrest anyone reasonably suspected of a domestic violence crime at the scene of the crime. Previously women were left at the scene at the mercy of the attacker.
- The Bill provides that anyone can apply for protection orders on behalf of the victim, because a victim is normally unstable and disempowered for some time after the incident. Courts can also issue suspended warrants of arrest to immediately arrest a perpetrator when he breaches the protection order. The Act only provided limited relief to victims.
- The courts may now ensure that people accused of domestic violence pay the rent and other expenses for their dependents. Dangerous weapons may also be seized at the scenes of domestic violence crimes.
- The Bill goes further than the old Act to ensure that perpetrators of domestic violence are regarded as violent criminals by increasing the period of imprisonment from a maximum of one year to a maximum of five years.
- The Bill makes sure that there is no room for careless and insensitive handling of domestic violence cases. Amy police officer who doesn’t handle domestic violence cases with sensitivity and a as a matter of urgency can be sent to gaol or fined.
Making life better for millions of South Africans
The ANC Government have always been committed to the protection of the citizens of this country from abuse and violence.
Women and children are the most vulnerable to violence and have little power to deal with domestic. The ANC believes that the Government has a special duty to protect them with.
The ANC-led Government is committed to giving high priority to the rights of children, their survival and their protection and development. It recognises the right of every child to a standard of living that is good his or her physical and mental, as well as spiritual, moral and social, development. It therefore regards the recovery of maintenance for children as a priority.
Reforming the Maintenance System
The Bill acknowledges that the existing laws and system of maintenance recovery is inadequate and fall short of international standards. This Bill is a first step in the reform of the entire system of maintenance collection.
The legislation will create for the first time in South Africa:
- Maintenance Courts – every magistrate’s court will be a maintenance court
- Maintenance Officers – will be appointed to appear in maintenance court proceedings
- Maintenance Investigators – may be appointed to:
- locate parents who fail to pay maintenance
- attend the process of any court
- summons or arrest fathers who fail to pay
- The common law duty of parents to support their child(ren)
- The power of maintenance courts to institute orders of arrest when fathers fail to go to court
Making life better for millions of women and children
- The ANC knows the hardships women experienced in the past to find fathers, and force them to pay, who ran away from their responsibilities.
- The ANC introduced this legislation to rectify the injustices of past practices, make the Bill more people friendly and give the maintenance courts more powers to make orders even when parents run away from their responsibilities by not going to court.
- The Bill will allow automatic deductions from the salaries of defaulting parents.
- For the first time, the State will help women to find run-away fathers. This will reduce the financial burden on women who, in the past, had to pay for maintenance papers to be served. It reduces emotional stress of women because the State now joined them in their search for justice.
- This legislation demonstrates the high priority the Government give to improving the position of women and children in our society.
- Over 3 million children already receive the state maintenance grant under the new Child Care Act. This Bill ensures that even more children receive maintenance money that are due to them by their parents.
- Like the Welfare Act, this Bill guarantees all women equal access to protection from unjust treatment by people who continue to undermine the rights of women.