Ramaphosa proclaims legislation to establish Sexual Offences Courts

2020-02-06 15:31
President Cyril Ramaphosa after leaving the protest against gender-based violence. (Jan Gerber, News24)

President Cyril Ramaphosa after leaving the protest against gender-based violence. (Jan Gerber, News24)

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President Cyril Ramaphosa has issued a proclamation on legislation that provides for Sexual Offences Courts aimed at bringing relief and justice to survivors of gender-based violence.

"The joint effort by government and civil society against gender-based violence and femicide (GBVF) has received a significant impetus with the commencement on 31 January 2020 of the Judicial Matters Second Amendment Act, which provides for the establishment of courts dedicated to matters related to sexual offences," his spokesperson Khuselo Diko said in a statement on Thursday.

READ | Ramaphosa's 5-point emergency plan to tackle gender-based violence

"The commencement of the legislation has been proclaimed by President Cyril Ramaphosa," Diko added.

The Judicial Matters Second Amendment Act of 2013 (Act No. 43 of 2013) and Sections 35 and 38 of the Judicial Matters Amendment Act, 2017 (Act No. 8 of 2017) provide for specialised courts that deal exclusively with bail applications, plea proceedings, trials or sentencing in criminal matters that entail sexual offences.

"The commencement of the legislation does not apply to Section 4 of the Judicial Matters Second Amendment Act of 2013 (Act No. 43 of 2013)," Diko said.

The new legislation is intended to allow for these specialised courts to have the resources required to provide better support and protection to survivors of GBV.

It is also hoped that it will enhance the quality of prosecutions and evidence in sexual offence cases, and minimise secondary trauma for complainants. 

"These focused services are intended to make it easier for complainants to report offences and to give evidence in trials, as a means of deterring potential offenders from breaking the law," Diko said.

READ | Ramaphosa launches Sexual Offences Court: 'Women and children don't feel safe on SA's streets

The Presidency has called this new legislation "a significant development in the context of the government’s implementation – in partnership with civil society – of the Emergency Action Plan on GBVF, and the fulfilment of the National Strategic Plan on GBVF".

In March, last year South Africa's 84th Sexual Offences Court was launched at the Booysens Magistrate's Court, where Ramaphosa signed the declaration against GBVF.

This comes after South Africa held its first ever presidential summit against GBVF in November last year at the St George's Hotel in Tshwane.

The declaration is one of the outcomes of the summit which was convened after the #TotalShutdown movement planned a national march to highlight the plight of women and children in the country, News24 reported.

- Compiled by Canny Maphanga

Read more on:    cyril ramaphosa  |  judiciary  |  courts  |  gender based violence
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