The public register for sex offenders should also include the perpetrators of intimate partner violence and femicide, says Lifeline director Sinikiwe Biyela.
“This should be included if as a country we are serious about ending intimate partner violence and femicide.”
Biyela was interviewed by the The Witness following President Cyril Ramaphosa’s recent announcement on three key bills relating to gender-based violence.
The bill to amend the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences and Related Matters) Amendment Act creates a new offence of sexual intimidation, extends the ambit of the offence of incest, and extends the reporting duty of persons who suspect a sexual offence has been committed against a child.
The register for sex offenders will be made public and will include the particulars of all sex offenders.
The amendment bill will tighten, among others, the granting of bail to perpetrators of gender-based violence and femicide (GBVF).
Domestic violence is defined to cover those in engagements, dating, in customary relationships, and actual or perceived romantic, intimate or sexual relationships of any duration.
The bill also extends the definition of “domestic violence” to include the protection of older persons against abuse by family members.
Biyela said that in order for laws to be effective, there should be a quick turnaround and finalisation of sexual offence court cases. She is disappointed that there is nothing in the amendments about this.
While the bills are good on paper, the devil is in the implementation, said Biyela. She said she is uncertain how cases of sexual intimidation will be proved because even proving rape cases is difficult, especially without DNA.
As far as the reporting duty of people who suspect a sexual offence has been committed against a child — this provision is already part of the current law, she said.
The problem, added Biyela, is that people are not reporting suspected sexual abuse and no legal action is being taken against them. Until the justice system implements this provision and those who condone child sexual abuse are arrested, nothing will change.
In her 15 years working in the field of GBV, she said she has not heard of a person being convicted of not reporting child sexual abuse, let alone suspected cases.
Of the sex offenders register, she urged the public, especially employers, to make use of it in order to limit staff exposure to sexual perpetrators.
Mary Makgaba, CEO of People Opposing Women Abuse, said the president is on the right track.
Legislative reform is imperative to help improve old ways, she said.
Makgaba added that it is good that numerous factors will have to be considered before deciding on bail. It gives the victim/survivor more rights on issues of safety and protection.
“The victim is given a chance to highlight her fears and whether she thinks the accused deserves bail or not. Her view is considered, unlike [under] the past laws,” said Makgaba.
Online protection orders will only be practical for certain groups of women, she said. There should be an option for easy access of protection orders by the low income groups of girls and women in informal settlements and rural communities without resources. Information should be given to them in a language that they understand, for instance, indigenous languages —depending on the predominant language they use in their provinces.