NSMSA wants to see Parliament passing GBV bills much faster

Parliament is considering three draft laws aimed at strengthening the response to gender-based violence.

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CAPE TOWN - The national outcry two years ago over unprecedented levels of violence against women saw hundreds of thousands of people put their names to a petition calling for the return of the death penalty in cases of rape and murder.

The protests and the petition showed women’s frustration with spiralling incidents of gender-based violence (GBV) and femicide and the apparent inability of the police and the criminal justice system to deal with the crisis.

Now Parliament is considering three draft laws aimed at strengthening the response to gender-based violence.

READ: Gender activists question whether harsher punishments will solve GBV problem

Mariam Mangera, project coordinator of the National Shelter Movement of South Africa (NSMSA), said that the Domestic Violence Amendment Bill recognised emotional and verbal abuse and controlling behaviour as offences.

"A lot of times violence does not show with scars," Manera said.

With 98 affiliated shelters countrywide, the NSMSA helpline gets more than 20 calls a day from women looking for somewhere to stay and for help with planning their escape from an abusive relationship.

"The second big inclusion is when we deal with protection order application process moving to an online platform. That makes a big difference in terms of access, especially when you’re dealing with victims under control of their perpetrator and they can’t get out of the house."

Mangera said that the NSMSA was opposed to other people being forced to report domestic violence where they saw it or suspected it, saying that women in abusive relationships needed the right to choose and could be deterred from confiding in friends or family.

Like many, Mangera was impatient for Parliament to finish processing the trio of gender-based violence bills.

"We need to see bills being passed much faster, especially when we’re talking about GBV, especially since the president has called it a second pandemic and we know this pandemic has been there longer than COVID-19," Mangera added.

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