Justice Ministry says review of GBV legislation is prepared, but activists not happy

Justice Minister Ronald Lamola.
Justice Minister Ronald Lamola.
Jan Gerber, News24

The Ministry of Justice and Correctional Services has confirmed that a review of the Domestic Violence Act and the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Act has been prepared.

"A review of the Domestic Violence Act, the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Act, in relation to the register of sex offenders, and legislation pertaining to the Criminal Procedure Act to tighten bail and sentencing provisions for perpetrators of gender-based violence, has been prepared," spokesperson Chrispin Phiri told News24 on Friday.

"In due course the Ministry of Justice and Correctional Services will undertake a process of consultation before the draft legislation will be taken to Cabinet to approve its introduction in Parliament in the first half of this year," Phiri added.

This comes after the president's announcement in the State of the Nation Address (SONA) about fighting the scourge of gender-based violence and femicide (GBVF) through an amendment of the above acts "to broaden the categories of sex offenders, whose names must be included in the National Register for Sex Offenders", as well as the passing of laws "to tighten bail and sentencing conditions in cases that involve gender-based violence".

He further stated that a budget of R1.6bn had been allocated for implementing the emergency action plan.

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

This was met with mixed reaction from key stakeholders.

DA deputy spokesperson on women, youth and persons with disabilities Nazley Sharif told News24 on Friday that the figure cited for the emergency action plan is "not new money".

"Treasury has said that R1.4bn of this R1.6bn is already allocated into the budget. So this is not something new that happened magically in September after the president sold the nation dreams. The truth is there is no R1.6bn in the adjustment budgets of departments geared towards the emergency plan," she explained.

While the emergency plan was presented in Parliament in September 2019, the president failed to detail how the various role players have done with implementation so far.

"I'm left speechless by the president's speech. There was no detail and this is simply not sufficient," activist and researcher Lisa Vetten said.

"They have not said how they will broaden the categories of sex offenders, what does that mean? We do not have the money to play around," she further explained.

The Commission for Gender Equality's (CGE) Dr Tlaleng Mofokeng hoped that the President would elaborate on the work achieved through the emergency plan since it was announced during an extraordinary joint sitting of Parliament.

"The CGE would have liked to see the key role player in the emergency plan - detail. What have they done so far? The lack of detail is very worrying to us," she said.

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

Mobilisation group Total Shutdown said they welcomed and recognised government's interventions but remained concerned about how funds would be allocated.

Money allocation

"How will the funds be allocated? How will we be able to trace where the funds are going and how it is being spent? How do we guard [the money] against corruption in the fight against GBVF," its spokesperson Lesley Ncube said.

"This issue of GBVF is not treated as a crisis. What is R1.6bn going to do, really? A report has stated that we need billions and because government does not have that economic power, there is only so much they can do," she further explained.

The concerns around the growing scourge were amplified by Total Shutdown during Women's Month in 2018 when activists from across the country marched to highlight the plight of women and children in South Africa.

This led to the president convening the first ever summit against GBVF which saw an emotional session of testimonies from GBV survivors who put forward proposals and solutions to the president. He was accompanied by then-justice minister Michael Masutha.

ALSO READ | #GBVSummit: 'We hear you and we will not fail you' – Ramaphosa tells delegates

This was followed by the signing of the official declaration, aimed at putting an end to the growing scourge, during the opening of a Sexual Offences Court in the Booysens Magistrate's Court in Johannesburg.

Shortly after these interventions, violence against woman and children in the country continued unabated. The death of Uyinene Mrwetyana and Precious Ramabulana - among other gruesome killings - sent shock waves through the country.

Citizens who live in fear and the reality of #AmINext called for the National Register for Sex Offenders (NRSO) to be made public.

While researchers and legal experts strongly advise against this, a petition created on the Amandla.Mobi has reached 9 180 out of 10 000 signatures.

To date, the Ministry of Justice and Correctional Services has yet to pronounce on whether the register will be made public.

However, Deputy Minister John Jeffery told Parliament in November that while government was considering making the list more accessible, the country had to carefully consider it because it could lead to vigilante attacks on those who are on the list, News24 reported.

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