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Parliament Gives Green Light to GBV Bills

September 14, 2021

Parliament

Parliament has passed the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences and Related Matters) Amendment Act Amendment Bill and the Domestic Violence Amendment Bill and sent them to president Ramaphosa for assent.

Earlier this month, the national council of provinces (NCOP) passed the bills with amendments and returned them to the national assembly (NA) for consideration of the proposed amendments.

The Criminal Law (Sexual Offences and Related Matters) Amendment Act Amendment Bill, tabled in August 2020, aims to amend the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences and Related Matters) Amendment Act of 2007, so as to:

• extend the ambit of the offence of incest;
• introduce a new offence of sexual intimidation;
• further regulate the inclusion of particulars of persons in the National Register for Sex Offenders;
• extend the list of persons who are to be protected in terms of Chapter 6 of the Act;
• extend the list of persons who are entitled to submit applications to the Registrar of the National Register for Sex Offenders;
• further regulate the removal of particulars of persons from the National Register for Sex Offenders; and
• further regulate the reporting duty of persons who are aware that sexual offences have been committed against persons who are vulnerable, and
• provide for matters connected therewith.

Cabinet approved the bill for tabling in parliament at the beginning of August 2020.

In a statement, cabinet pointed out that the bill amends 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.

According to the bill’s memorandum, the bill forms part of South Africa’s commitment to address the scourge of gender-based violence and femicide that have reached endemic proportions in the country.

The Domestic Violence Amendment Bill, tabled in September 2020, aims to amend the Domestic Violence Act, 1998, so as to:

• amend and insert certain definitions;
• further provide for the manner in which acts of domestic violence and matters related thereto, must be dealt with;
• further regulate protection orders in response to acts of domestic violence;
• amend provisions of certain laws; and
• provide for matters connected therewith.

According to the bill’s memorandum, it 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 bill’s explanatory summary was published in Government Gazette 43595 on 7 August 2020.

Cabinet approved the bill at the beginning of August 2020 for tabling in parliament.

According to the cabinet statement, the proposed legislation facilitates the obtaining of protection orders against acts of domestic violence via electronic means.

It also obliges the social development and health departments to “provide certain services to victims of domestic violence and aligns the provisions of the Domestic Violence Act, 1998 (Act 116 of 1998) with the provisions of the Protection from Harassment Act, 2011 (Act 17 of 2011)”.

The portfolio committee on justice and correctional services adopted the proposed amendments.

The D versions of the bills are not yet available.

The NA has also passed the Criminal Procedure Amendment Bill and sent it to the NCOP for concurrence.

The bill was tabled in parliament in May 2021.

The justice and constitutional development department published the bill’s explanatory summary in Gazette 44505 at the end of April 2021.

The bill aims to amend the Criminal Procedure Act, 1977, so as to:

• further regulate the publication of information which reveals or may reveal the identity of an accused, a witness or person against whom an offence has allegedly been committed who is under the age of 18 years; and
• provide for matters connected therewith.

According to the bill’s memorandum, section 154(3) of the act provides that no person shall publish any information that reveals or may reveal the identity of an accused under the age of 18 years or of a witness at criminal proceedings under the age of 18 years.

The Constitutional Court, in Centre for Child Law and Others v Media 24 Limited and Others, held that section 154(3) of the act does not afford protection to child victims of criminal offences and that the protection does not continue to apply even after a child accused, witness or victim turns 18 years of age, which it should do.

Section 154(3) was, therefore, declared inconsistent with the constitution and parliament was given 24 months to correct the defect.

The committee passed the bill with amendments.

The select committee on security and justice will process the bill.

The B version of the bill is not yet available.