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Comment Sought on Gender-based Violence Bills

September 10, 2020

Parliament

The portfolio committee on justice and correctional services seeks comment on the three recently tabled gender-based violence bills.

Cabinet approved the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences and Related Matters) Amendment Act Amendment Bill, Domestic Violence Amendment Bill and Criminal Matters Amendment Bill in August 2020 for tabling in parliament.

According to the cabinet statement, the bills respond to a number of issues raised during the Presidential Summit Against Gender-Based Violence and Femicide held in 2018 in respect of the criminal justice system.

The amendments provide a victim-centred response in the criminal justice system to sexual offences.

Cabinet also indicated that bail conditions for perpetrators of sexual offences will be tightened and warrants of arrest will no longer be a requirement prior to law-enforcement agencies responding to reported sexual crimes.

Parole conditions are also strengthened and minimum sentences increased. The amendments also strengthen the consequences of contravening a protection order.

In terms of the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences and Related Matters) Amendment Act Amendment Bill, it aims to amend the National Register for Sex Offenders by broadening its scope to not only protect children and mentally disabled persons but all vulnerable groups.

Persons listed in the register are compelled to disclose this information when they submit applications to work with vulnerable groups.

The Domestic Violence Amendment Bill seeks to amend the act in order to address practical challenges, gaps and anomalies that have manifested since the act was put into operation in 1999.

The amendments also seek to enhance the application of the act in order to protect victims of gender-based violence and other vulnerable persons against domestic violence.

Amendments also aim to align the act with the Protection from Harassment Act of 2011.

The Criminal Matters Amendment Bill aims to amend various acts designed to address gender-based violence and offences committed against vulnerable persons and provide for additional procedures to reduce secondary victimisation of vulnerable persons in court proceedings.

Comment on the three bills is invited until 9 October 2020.