7 August 1998
ANC Introduces Legislation to Better the Lives of Women
Domestic Violence Bill
The ANC Government has a proven track record of combatting violence
against women. It has complied with the Beijing Platform provisions, ratified
the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Violence Against Women
(CEDAW) and entrenched the rights of gender equality and freedom from violence
in the Constitution.
The Justice Ministry, in a strategy document, made it clear that it
wants a criminal justice policy that looks at the special needs of women
and children. The Minister and Deputy Minister have started an ongoing
public awareness campaign on preventing violence against women. The Domestic
Violence Bill clearly spells out that violent behaviour against women and
children will not be excused or tolerated.
Improving on the Prevention of Family Violence Act
- The Bill acknowledges that domestic violence is a serious crime against
society and that the majority of the victims are women. Domestic violence
is a major obstacle on the way to gender equality.
- It is apparent that the existing Prevention of Family Violence Act
is too narrow in its scope. The Bill is much more progressive and covers
a wider scope.
- The Bill offers protection to any victim who is in a domestic relationship
whereas the Act applies to only to 'parties to a marriage'. The Act did
not define family violence while the Bill gives a broad definition of domestic
- The Bill forces a member of the Police Services to inform victims of
their rights at the scene of a domestic violence case. In the past women
were treated as if they either provoked the incident or deserved to be
beaten up. They never had any clear idea as to what their rights were.
- Peace officers may now arrest anyone reasonably suspected of a domestic
violence crime at the scene of the crime. Previously women were left at
the scene at the mercy of the attacker.
- The Bill provides that anyone can apply for protection orders on behalf
of the victim, because a victim is normally unstable and disempowered for
some time after the incident. Courts can also issue suspended warrants
of arrest to immediately arrest a perpetrator when he breaches the protection
order. The Act only provided limited relief to victims.
- The courts may now ensure that people accused of domestic violence
pay the rent and other expenses for their dependents. Dangerous weapons
may also be seized at the scenes of domestic violence crimes.
- The Bill goes further than the old Act to ensure that perpetrators
of domestic violence are regarded as violent criminals by increasing the
period of imprisonment from a maximum of one year to a maximum of five
- The Bill makes sure that there is no room for careless and insensitive
handling of domestic violence cases. Amy police officer who doesn't handle
domestic violence cases with sensitivity and a as a matter of urgency can
be sent to gaol or fined.
Making life better for millions of South Africans
The ANC Government have always been committed to the protection of the
citizens of this country from abuse and violence.
Women and children are the most vulnerable to violence and have little
power to deal with domestic. The ANC believes that the Government has a
special duty to protect them with.
The ANC-led Government is committed to giving high priority to the rights
of children, their survival and their protection and development. It recognises
the right of every child to a standard of living that is good his or her
physical and mental, as well as spiritual, moral and social, development.
It therefore regards the recovery of maintenance for children as a priority.
Reforming the Maintenance System
The Bill acknowledges that the existing laws and system of maintenance
recovery is inadequate and fall short of international standards. This
Bill is a first step in the reform of the entire system of maintenance
The legislation will create for the first time in South Africa:
- Maintenance Courts - every magistrate's court will be a maintenance
- Maintenance Officers - will be appointed to appear in maintenance court
- Maintenance Investigators - may be appointed to:
The common law duty of parents to support their child(ren)
The power of maintenance courts to institute orders of arrest when
fathers fail to go to court
- locate parents who fail to pay maintenance
- attend the process of any court
- summons or arrest fathers who fail to pay
Making life better for millions of women and children
- The ANC knows the hardships women experienced in the past to find fathers,
and force them to pay, who ran away from their responsibilities.
- The ANC introduced this legislation to rectify the injustices of past
practices, make the Bill more people friendly and give the maintenance
courts more powers to make orders even when parents run away from their
responsibilities by not going to court.
- The Bill will allow automatic deductions from the salaries of defaulting
- For the first time, the State will help women to find run-away fathers.
This will reduce the financial burden on women who, in the past, had to
pay for maintenance papers to be served. It reduces emotional stress of
women because the State now joined them in their search for justice.
- This legislation demonstrates the high priority the Government give
to improving the position of women and children in our society.
- Over 3 million children already receive the state maintenance grant
under the new Child Care Act. This Bill ensures that even more children
receive maintenance money that are due to them by their parents.
- Like the Welfare Act, this Bill guarantees all women equal
access to protection from unjust treatment by people who continue to undermine
the rights of women.