GBV activists criticise new bill 'obligating' people to report domestic violence
The Domestic Violence Amendment Bill proposes a range of new provisions to curb gender-based-violence (GBV) and improve access to justice for survivors.
These include the submission of online affidavits and the use of technology in the issuing of protection orders.
However, gender activists have taken issue with a provision in the bill on the obligation to report domestic violence.
The provision aims to make reporting domestic violence a mandatory requirement of law.
This means that anybody who has "knowledge or a reasonable belief or suspicion" of domestic violence must report it to a social worker or the South African Police Service (SAPS).
Bernadine Bachar, who heads up the Saartjie Baartman Centre for Women and Children, says that mandatory reporting by a third party will put survivors in danger.
Bachar says women are at an increased risk of violence when they report their perpetrators.
On Monday, a Mthatha woman was shot dead by her husband inside an Eastern Cape police station while reporting a case of domestic violence.
[The provision] is very problematic. I am afraid that it is going to further imperil survivors rather than protect them.Bernadine Bachar, Director - Saartjie Baartman Centre for Women and Children
Over and above that, the mandatory reporting takes away their agency.Bernadine Bachar, Director - Saartjie Baartman Centre for Women and Children
The women that are reporting [abuse] are at increased peril to be murdered by their perpetrators.Bernadine Bachar, Director - Saartjie Baartman Centre for Women and Children
We know that a woman is at most risk of being injured grievously by her perpetrator on reporting the crime.Bernadine Bachar, Director - Saartjie Baartman Centre for Women and Children
Bronwyn Pithey, an advocate at the Women's Legal Centre, says activists had advised against the provision during the initial drafting of the bill.
Pithey says she is disappointed that the provision was not removed, despite objections raised last year.
She says the bill takes away the autonomy and agency of GBV survivors and places an absurd obligation on members of the public.
I think it's really problematic that we have this mandatory reporting provision in the new bill.Bronwyn Pithey, Advocate - Women's Legal Centre
It may very well exacerbate very volatile domestic violence situations. It also places an absurd legal duty on the average person.Bronwyn Pithey, Advocate - Women's Legal Centre
At the same time, researcher and activist Lisa Vetten says GBV legislation should not be rushed, or else the laws will fail to respond to the true problem.
She agrees that mandatory reporting will further endanger women.
While it's important to show political commitment and political responsiveness, rushing through legislation can often just result in bad law being made rather than law that responds to the problem.Lisa Vetten, Research associate - Wits Institute For Social Economic Research (Wiser)
Having everybody, everywhere report every woman they know who is in an abusive relationship is at best paternalistic and at worst, it is positively dangerous.Lisa Vetten, Research associate - Wits Institute For Social Economic Research (Wiser)
There are a couple of provisions that are helpful but I think, in many ways, they misdiagnosed the problem.Lisa Vetten, Research associate - Wits Institute For Social Economic Research (Wiser)
Listen to Bronwyn Pithey and Bernadine Bachar on The Midday Report:
Listen to Lisa Vetten on Afternoon Drive with John Maytham:
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