Justice for GBV victims a step closer after National Assembly passes 3 bills

Parties were unanimous in backing the bills on Thursday but also warned that there was no easy fix for the deep-rooted problem of the scourge.

FILE: Capetonians took to the street to protest against gender-based violence on 4 September 2019. Picture: Christa Eybers/EWN

CAPE TOWN – A trio of bills that aim to help bring justice to victims and survivors of gender-based violence (GBV) and femicide are a step closer to becoming law.

The National Assembly has passed the Criminal Law (Sexual offences and related matters) Amendment Bill, the Domestic Violence Amendment Bill, and the Criminal and Related Matters Amendment Bill.

The bills must now be processed by the National Council of Provinces (NCOP) before they can be signed into law, but their passage on Thursday marked the fulfillment of a pledge made by President Cyril Ramaphosa almost two years ago.

It’s nearly two years since University of Cape Town (UCT) student Uyinene Mretwana was raped and murdered while picking up a parcel from the post office. Her killing fuelled growing outrage over a war against women and goaded the government into action.

READ: Gone but not forgotten- SA remembered Uyinene Mrwetyana & reflects on GBV

Parliament’s justice committee has put many hard hours into processing the bills that are aimed to strengthen the fight against GBV and femicide.

Parties were unanimous in backing the bills on Thursday but also warned that there was no easy fix for the deep-rooted problem of the scourge.

The Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF)’s Yoliswa Yako said: “All these legal provisions will, however, not assist in the fight against gender-based violence if they are not complemented by working institutions and the political will to deal with these crimes. We need the police to be properly trained and resourced so that when these cases is reported, action is taken swiftly.”

At the same time, the Democratic Alliance (DA)’s Glynis Breytenbach said: "These bills are not a panacea for gender-based violence; they will go a long way to improving ways of dealing with the consequences, but what we need to do is bring up men who respect themselves sufficiently to respect women [and] we need to bring up women who respect themselves sufficiently enough to not accept this behaviour from men."

The three bills will now be sent to the National Council of Provinces (NCOP) for concurrence, after which they will go to President Cyril Ramaphosa for him to sign them into law.

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