It’s been widely reported that lockdown has aggravated gender-based violence (GBV), prompting government to improve law enforcement and support for victims of violent crimes. It’s also a fact that the rate of femicides has spiked during the lockdown. In response, the government drafted an entirely new bill to provide support for victims of violence.
The Victim Support Service (VSS) Bill’s objectives are to:
- provide rights and services to victims;
- outline the roles and responsibilities of service providers and relevant departments;
- registration of victim support facilities and;
- service facilities for victims.
The public was invited to comment and suggest amendments to the bill.
SA Institute of Business Accountants (Saiba) board member, Lee-Anne Germanos, was one of those making suggested amendments to the bill. She is a director and co-founder of a non-profit organisation (NPO) called The Embrace Project, which runs an advocacy division to create awareness on GBV. They then took an interest in providing amendments for the bill.
Lee-Anne commended the Department of Social Development for the bill but raised major concerns around the following:
- regulation of non-governmental organisations (NGOs) would result in their closing down;
- The state is in no position to take over NGO facilities, creating a vacuum that will leave victims without support;
- Shutting down non-compliant facilities
- Lack of funding for facilities
The regulation of NGOs has been seen as a major flaw in the amendment and has raised concerns from the public, NGOs and the National Shelter Movement of South Africa NSMSA.
Lee-Anne emphasises how support for victims of violence have been stripped away. She says the bill could mean facilities for victims may be forced to shut down, leaving them stranded.
The amendment bill makes mention of providing compulsory and regular judicial training, as well as sensitisation training, proper accountability mechanisms and public education campaigns for the victims.
“The police department has identified some of the hotspots for violent crimes, and the bill could introduce in psycho-social services to those communities. Also, the Department of Basic and Higher Education could get involved by adding a curriculum in schools that will address boys and girls separately on issues of violence in the family because these children grow up learning to continually perpetuate violence.”
There is a positive side to the bill, such as fostering of relationships between government departments that could lead to new policies and laws being implemented.
“I hope that the fostering of these relationships between the government and these facilities would be facilitated by non-government entities,” she says.
There are three more bills which are set to amend existing bills which she hopes will bring change to the issue of gender-based violence:
- Criminal Law (Sexual Offenses and Related Matters) Amendment Bill
- Criminal and Related Matters Amendment Bill.