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Ramaphosa approves changes to three bills to 'strengthen fight against GBV'

President Cyril Ramaphosa approved changes to three bills which will further protect victims of gender based violence and make it more difficult for perpetrators to escape justice. File image
President Cyril Ramaphosa approved changes to three bills which will further protect victims of gender based violence and make it more difficult for perpetrators to escape justice. File image
Image: REUTERS /MIKE HUTCHINGS

President Cyril Ramaphosa on Friday signed into law legislation aimed at strengthening efforts to end gender-based violence, saying that they spoke to a victim-centred focus on combating such criminal acts.

Ramaphosa approved the amendment of the following bills:

  • Criminal Law (Sexual Offences and Related Matters) Amendment Bill;
  • Criminal and Related Matters Amendment Bill; and
  • Domestic Violence Amendment Bill.

Ramaphosa's office said the National Assembly considered the three bills together as part of legislative measures to strengthen SA’s response to GBV.

It said the laws, among other things:

— expanded 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 people who are mentally disabled;

— expanded the list of people who are to be protected;

— increased the periods for which a sex offender’s particulars must remain on the NRSO before they can be removed from the register;

— further regulated the granting and cancellation of bail; and

— added additional regulation of sentences of offences committed against vulnerable people.

In particular, the Domestic Violence Amendment Bill amends the Domestic Violence Act to address “practical challenges, gaps and anomalies which have manifested since the act came into operation in December 1999".

“In particular, the amended legislation includes new definitions, such as 'controlling behaviour' and 'coercive behaviour', and expands existing definitions, such as 'domestic violence', to include spiritual abuse, elder abuse, coercive behaviour, controlling behaviour, and/or exposing/subjecting children to certain listed behaviours,” the presidency said.

It also introduces online applications for protection orders against acts of domestic violence and imposes obligations on functionaries in the departments of health and social development to provide certain services to victims of domestic violence.

Ramaphosa said the legislation protected victims of abuse and made it more difficult for perpetrators to escape justice.

“It is a major step forward in our efforts against this epidemic and in placing the rights and needs of victims at the centre of our interventions. This legislation demonstrates democracy at work. Civil society’s demands from the gates of parliament were heard and listened to, and gave rise to our nation reaching a point where the demands of citizens are now cast in our law,” he said.

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