South Africa could by the end of this year implement tough new laws to fight gender-based violence and femicide.  Earlier this year, Cabinet approved the submission of three key Bills designed to fill the gaps that allow some perpetrators of these crimes to evade justice.

The three Bills are, the Domestic Violence Amendment Bill, the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences and Related Matters) Amendment Act Amendment Bill and the Criminal and Related Matters Amendment Bill, this will also give full effect to the rights of women and children.

Gender-based violence is a widespread problem in South Africa impacting on almost every aspect of life. But government is taking steps to deal with the scourge.  The country has seen a number of gender-based violence cases that spurred the nation into action.   In 2019, nationwide protests against the spate of rapes and killings of women and children erupted in the country.

South Africa was reeling from the murders of University of Cape Town students, Uyinene Mrwetyana, Jesse Hess and other unknown women who had lost their lives at the hands of brutal men.

Wilheminah Mmako from KwaMhlanga, Mpumalanga, was lucky to escape with her life. She explains how she was almost killed by her partner.

“I asked him to go and drink water. He refused and told me I was going to die in that room.  He told me that my life was going to end. He also said after killing me, he was going to run away and my family would find me in the house with my mouth full of flies. But he’d never be arrested.”

Mmako says despite laying charges at the local police station, the perpetrator was not arrested and she continued to receive threats.  She feels that she was let down by the law enforcement agencies.

Government says these new laws will ensure that victims receive the attention and the protection they deserve. The laws are also responding to issues that were raised in 2018 during the Presidential Summit on gender-based violence.

The chairperson of the Portfolio Committee on Justice and Correctional Services, Bulelani Magwanishe, says the proposed new laws are providing a victim-centred response in respect of sexual offences.

“Some of the issues that are being proposed in the three Bills is to ensure that people who are found guilty of the GBV crimes serve long sentences and the other is the introduction of being able to apply for protection orders online”

Magwanishe says meetings are going to be held with all other relevant stakeholders including the SAPS, Education and Social Development Departments to ensure that they have the capacity and resources to implement the new laws. According to Magwanishe, when parliament rises at the end of November, one or two of these three Bills will have been approved. He says this will ensure that gender-based violence, which has been described as worse than the COVID 19 pandemic, is dealt with effectively.

“This pandemic is eating the moral fibre of our society. We need to make resources available, we need to make sure that police are trained properly, we need to ensure that our Judiciary is sensitive to issues of gender-based violence. We need to introduce issues of intermediaries to ensure that people who are emotionally distressed and young children are able to be helped.”

Government believes that these bills once finalised, will help restore the confidence of  South African women in the justice system and that the law is there to protect them.

Deputy Minister of Justice John Jeffery and Brenda Madumise-Pajibo, Director of Wise4Afrika share more on the Bills: