Parliament hears amendments to law in bid to curb gender-based violence

Philippi residents march to Nyanga Police station during a protest against gender-based violence. File photo.
Philippi residents march to Nyanga Police station during a protest against gender-based violence. File photo.
Image: Sunday Times/Esa Alexander

The department of justice has introduced a new amendment to the Sexual Offences Act which criminalises sexual intimidation.

This was highlighted during a presentation on Tuesday to the justice portfolio committee, which introduced various amendments in a bid to deal with gender-based violence.

“[The amendment] aims to introduce a new offence of sexual intimidation in order to prohibit persons from intimidating others into believing that they will be subjected to or forced to commit certain sexual offences,” read the report.

The amendment is one of many which parliament will put forward for comment.

Another seeks to compel people to report acts of sexual abuse against a child or a person who is mentally disabled.

“A person who has knowledge that a sexual offence was committed against a child must report such knowledge immediately to the police. A person who, on the other hand, has knowledge, reasonable belief or suspicion that a sexual offence was committed against a person who is mentally disabled, must report it immediately to the police,” read the report.

Another report tabled at the meeting revealed amendments to the Criminal and Related Matters Bill.

It proposed broadening the use of intermediaries or audiovisual links for victims of gender-based violence, femicide and related crimes.

“Evidence through intermediaries is an effective procedure to protect witnesses or complainants against victimisation during court proceedings and is currently available to child witnesses or complainants in criminal proceedings,” read the report.

It also prohibits the release on bail of accused people in domestic matters, including violation of a protection order, by the police or a prosecutor without appearing in court.

It also compels prosecutors to give clear reasons in cases where they do not oppose bail.

“The court must consider the view of the victim of the offence regarding his or her safety. Grounds which do not permit the release of an accused on bail include the likelihood that the accused will endanger the safety of the person against whom the offence in question was allegedly committed,” read the report.  

It also places the onus on the accused to motivate that it is in the interest of justice that they be released on bail.

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