Draft Report on Public Hearings on Domestic Violence Act: Consideration and Adoption
Women, Youth and Persons with Disabilities
16 February 2010
Chairperson: Ms B Thompson (ANC)
Arising from key issues raised at the public hearings, it was recommended that certain sections of the Domestic Violence Act be amended to effect changes that best spoke to the needs of victims of domestic violence. One of the major problems and gaps highlighted was the discretionary powers of the police and how they viewed and interpreted certain sections of the DVA. Section 8 of the DVA had been highlighted due to the phrase ‘imminent harm’, and how police officials interpreted issues of ‘imminent harm’. It was in their discretion whether the person needed to be arrested. The Committee would have to decide whether to tackle the phrase ‘imminent harm’ by means of a specific legislative amendment that defined it, or whether there be a regulation or set of guidelines to establish what ‘imminent harm’ was. If such criteria were met, then they had to arrest.
The Committee agreed there was a need to look at finalisation of the Domestic Partnership legislation.
Another issue was the training police officials received about the Domestic Violence Act, and the Firearms Control Act. There was a need for improved training by police officials that did not know of or how to comply with the National Instruction on Domestic Violence and the Firearms Control Act. In terms of the seizure of firearms and other weapons it was essential that police questioned witnesses at the home of the complainant in domestic violence cases as to whether a firearm had been used. They should not wait until a hearing at the Magistrate’s Court before matter of seizure of firearms was raised, that was too late.
There was an over reliance by magistrates on SAPS police officials to serve protection orders. The police officers did not see the serving of the protection order as an urgent matter. There should be a reworking of Regulation 15 of the regulations to the DVA to look at how court officials or the magistrates could make more use of the sheriffs to serve protection orders. It was further recommended that the Minister of Justice (responsible for sheriffs) bring those regulations to the Committee and advise the changes and an instruction manual for the Magistrates.
The cost of serving protection orders severely hampered women in applying for protection orders, and was unacceptable. It was critical that regulations make explicit reference to courts that the courts should pay for protection orders where the applicant could not afford to have the protection order served on the respondent.
The Justice Department should come up with a detailed plan to ensure that courts were accessible with specific reference to the needs of children, persons with disabilities and victims of domestic violence and sexual offences. After hours access to courts was another crucial issue requiring attention.
On 9 September 2009 the Portfolio Committee on Women, Youth, Children and Persons with Disabilities adopted a resolution to host public hearings on the Domestic Violence Act (DVA). The Domestic Violence Act (No. 16 of 1998) was one of the first pieces of legislation aimed at promoting gender equality following the advent of democracy in South Africa and was the primary legislative measure to combat domestic violence in the country. However, despite the Domestic Violence Act having been in operation for eleven years, levels of inter-personal violence in the country remained unacceptably high. The aim of the public hearings had been to ascertain what the impact of the legislation had been on persons affected by inter-familial violence and abuse, particularly women, children, youth, persons with disabilities, men and the elderly during the eleven years of the Domestic Violence Act’s implementation.
The Chairperson commented that the Committee Strategic Report on the public hearings was very important. After its adoption, the aim was to debate it in the House.
Ms Kashifa Abrahams (Committee Researcher) explained that there were two reports, the first being the Summary of Submissions report giving details of each and every submission; the second was the Strategic Report to assist both Committees to look at the direction forward.
Ms Crystal Levendale (Researcher: Gender) summarised all the recommendations and inputs made by members last year.
Key issues identified in the submissions
The Research Unit had looked at the key issues per department under the Government Clusters.
Based on the submissions received, persons with disabilities and people in the rural areas and impoverished environments had less access to effective help; patriarchal attitudes and power dynamics were at the heart of domestic violence; and many victims did not know their rights and, where they did, were not able to access appropriate services.
There was a lot of emphasis on the criminal justice system but not enough on violence prevention; there was no overarching framework or strategy to deal with domestic violence holistically; different departments were involved but there was not a structured framework; and communication between departments was not synergised.
Departmental budgets were not gender responsive and brought into question how women, children, youth and persons with disabilities were prioritised in departmental spending.
There was no database to access information on victims of domestic violence, each department had their own information system and systems did not match up with one another; and it was not clear what the targets were for reducing domestic violence in the country or whether they had been achieved.
The faith-based sector had a large role to play in combating domestic violence but did not provide services and at times subjected the victim to secondary abuse.
Peace and Security Cluster: Department of Police
- There appeared to be a disincentive by police to record cases of domestic violence, targets were set for reducing contact crime, so often when cases of domestic violence were reported people were turned away so it looked as if the figures were coming down.
- Firearms were not always confiscated after being used to threaten victims, nor were the licence of the alleged perpetrator suspended.
- The safety of persons who had obtained protection orders was compromised, as police were not always willing to arrest perpetrators who had violated the protection order.
- Numerous incidents were reported citing the appalling attitude of police officials who often subjected victims to secondary abuse.
- There was a reluctance of police officers to serve the protection order or to arrest perpetrators who had violated the protection order.
- There was a need for risk assessment to make victim safety a priority when returning to the environment.
Lack of resources: The police claimed they had no vehicles available and services were not rendered where they claimed the areas from which victims called were not in their jurisdiction, particularly in rural areas.
Service of protection orders: Protection orders often did not serve the purpose it was intended for because the victim still had to return to the abusive environment; cost implications were not applied uniformly across the country; and reluctance of police officers to serve protection orders, or undue delay, placed the victim in grave danger.
Training: SAPS provided training, but was it adequate to deal with victims of domestic violence? There was a need to review existing training modules and to monitor and evaluate their application, and to debrief officials to keep them sensitive to the issues they were dealing with.
Specialised Units: The reestablishment of the Family Violence Child Protection Unit and Sexual Offences Units was welcomed, but more information was needed, particularly around the mandate in relation to domestic violence.
Victim Empowerment Programme
- Most police stations lacked facilities for private consultation and victims often had to provide statements in environments that were not conducive to confidentiality or safety.
- Often lay counsellors and volunteers assigned to trauma rooms did not have adequate training to deal with victims of domestic violence, and there was inadequate supervision of volunteers.
- Lack of interdepartmental collaboration between all role players responsible for victim empowerment.
- Batho Pele principles were not being applied and the attitude of officials often deterred victims from laying a charge or seeking a protection order.
Record keeping: Domestic violence should be recognised as a reportable category of crime; and domestic violence registers were not being properly maintained.
Community Police Forums: Community Police Forums did not appear to be dealing with domestic violence.
Peace and Security Cluster: Department of Justice and Constitutional Development
- Access to the criminal justice system remained a problem for persons with disabilities; localised sign language was not being used in courts, making communication and interpretation difficult.
- Courts and police officials were not really accessible after hours; there was a need for people to be able to access services after hours;
- Victims of domestic violence were often subjected to secondary victimisation within the judicial process;
- Many court officials were ill equipped to deal with matters of domestic violence; and
- Availability of magistrates after hours was problematic.
Secondary Victimisation: Partly through delays in court processes, and cases where victims were not granted a protection order but sent back with a ‘notice to show cause’, which meant that the person had to return to the abusive environment to come back with evidence.
There was a lack of privacy when dealing with domestic violence cases, although sensitive, the proceedings were often open to the public.
There was a lack of a child-centred approach in matters related to court processes and children as victims of domestic violence, such as postponement of cases and long waiting periods, as well as attitudes of court officials that impacted negatively on the child.
Domestic violence was often related to divorce and maintenance matters so many cases were a combination of criminal and civil matters. Many victims reported having to engage with the judicial system at multiple points, which was costly, confusing and inefficient. Individual cases were not dealt with holistically.
Social Services Cluster: Department of Social Development
There was a serious lack of psycho-social support for victims of domestic violence, interventions that were rendered were usually of a bio-medical perspective as opposed to a developmental, community based approach including psycho-social rehabilitation, and often with very little or no follow through for the victim.
There was insufficient attention to ensuring the safety of children as well as addressing their specific psychosocial needs arising from their witnessing domestic violence, and services were not reaching children. In many cases the services were only provided to the victim and not to other persons in that household. There were very few support groups for victims of domestic violence.
The severe shortage of shelters, especially in rural areas, and the limited access to emergency shelters for victims of domestic violence required urgent attention.
A lack of synergy between the different programmes resulted in victims of domestic violence often not being assessed for social security benefits.
In many instances persons with severe mental illness struggled to access disability grants, and SASSA must ensure measures were put in place to make these services accessible.
The Victim Empowerment Programme failed many victims, largely due to a lack of inadequate allocation, as well as the Minimum standards for Service Delivery in Victim Empowerment not being met. The lack of guidelines for the VEP severely impeded service delivery.
There was a limited number of social workers with very high caseloads but there seemed to be an over reliance on social workers alone. It was not clear who else was involved in any services to victims of domestic violence.
Social Services Cluster: Department of Health
- Forensic specialists were a scarce resource, which directly impacted on the ability to provide medico-legal services to victims of domestic violence;
- There appeared to be little or no follow-up of victims of domestic violence after initially visiting a health facility;
- Health care professionals were reported to subject victims of domestic violence to secondary victimisation;
- Many health care professionals did not know about the Domestic Violence Act;
- There was a need for holistic care provisions, particularly in relation to psycho-social trauma.
Social Services Cluster: Department of Human Settlements
Where a couple was married in community of property and the family provided with RDP housing; once the victim separated or divorced they often were not able to access housing again because government registers indicated they had already benefited from housing. It must be noted that the marital status of a domestic violence victim should not hinder access to government services such as housing; and there was also an urgent need to respond to secondary housing for victims of domestic violence.
In addition to the need for more shelters, there was no policy for women who exited shelters to access housing.
Department of Women, Children and Persons with Disabilities:
There was no overarching National Strategic Policy Framework to combat domestic violence, resulting in a lack of synergy between departments. The department was responsible overall for the needs of socially vulnerable groups and was well placed to lead the development of an overarching policy framework to address domestic violence.
The department must outline specific programmes to address high levels of violence against women, children and persons with disabilities, and to ensure that those programmes were adequately costed and resourced.
The department must collaborate with other departments to ensure the implementation of the Domestic Violence Act and the inclusion or organisations addressing domestic violence in the planning of the National Strategic Policy Framework.
National Planning Commission & Monitoring and Evaluation:
It was imperative that the two bodies be included in the development of a National Strategic Policy Framework for Domestic Violence. Monitoring and evaluation was important for oversight in terms of the implementation of the DVA, as well as holding service providers to account for the effective implementation of the DVA.
The Chairperson asked Ms Levendale to state for something about the role of the Gender Commission.
Ms Levendale responded that that was included in the Recommendations; they were also not fulfilling their role.
The Chairperson thanked Ms Levendale for the presentation and asked whether copies of the report had been sent to the people who had been invited to the hearings, especially the NGOs.
Ms Abrahams replied the idea was after adoption of the report to send it out under cover of letters of thanks, and including an indication of what the Committees decided to take on, particularly around the debate in the House.
Ms D Robinson (DA) thanked the researchers for the excellent report; it was a challenge for the Committee to put into practice measures that would actually work so that the legislation and inadequate institutions could be beefed up to make a difference in the lives of so many.
The Chairperson asked members to note budget issues while going through the report; it would assist in the budget debate.
Ms P Duncan (DA) brought to the attention of the researchers that during the hearings she had requested that departments submit a breakdown of their budgets but these had not been received. Her main concern was the fact that the Act itself had not been costed, which was why it was so poorly implemented.
Mr G Selau (ANC) noted that the report reflected domestic violence to be only between husbands and wives, which impacted on the children. However, domestic violence impacted very negatively on people with disabilities and older persons. Examples were blind people who were not able to defend themselves and pensioners as the pension money became a source of conflict in the home, and people who received disability grants were also vulnerable.
The Chairperson noted that that was one of the gaps in the Act.
Ms H Malgas (ANC) added that a person who was deaf and dumb could not even scream when attacked and proposed looking at accommodating disabled persons in the Act. Domestic violence was not criminalized; it was regarded as assault and it should be criminalized. Regarding firearms, the Act had to be changed, police did not confiscate that firearm and women in such situations could die. The Committee’s database must be built up. Of the 500 000 mentioned in the President’s State of the Nation Address, how many of those were women? Women were always the first to be retrenched, and she would like to know how the Committee’s policies impacted on the new regime?
The Chairperson asked whether there were facilities to accommodate the disabled in Parliament.
Ms Duncan asked which was the lead department on the Act; the doctor who made submissions from the Health Department had said he would have liked it to be the Department of Health. She suggested the Committee confirm whether it was the DoJ or whether it should look at other options and influence that process.
The Chairperson asked whether it was right for the Act to be with Department of Justice (DoJ), why not with Police, Social Development or Health?
Ms Robinson felt it was an opportunity for the Committee to take up those issues. It was located in the DoJ but there were cross cutting issues and the Committee’s whole portfolio was so cross cutting that this was a challenge that the Committee should drive to ensure those deficiencies were covered.
The Chairperson said such legislation would be a problem because Justice would always shift it to the police, the police would shift it to Social Development, and they would shift it to Health, so it needed to be clear.
Ms S Rwexana (COPE) was concerned that would delay matters; the objective of the hearings was in order to propose an amendment to the Act, not a change of department.
The Chairperson said they could raise it, the Committee should not have to worry whether it was in the right place or not.
Mr D Worth (DA, Free State) said the budget allocation was important. Some things such as shelters could be quantified, but it went over various departments so the Act would have to be implemented by the police that did not have sufficient training, money was already budgeted for the Department of Justice; some costing would have to be done so that it was implemented properly.
Ms I Ditshetelo (UCDP) commented that the report was very inclusive. Domestic violence involved the whole family. The mandate involved each and every department; there would be the problem of who was responsible for what. It was difficult for costing.
The Chairperson was interested in the budget speech and what was in it for the department. If the Committee was not satisfied, they would have to see what other avenues could influence that. It would be a guide as to how serious government was about this new department.
Ms Ramodibe said the report was a tool by which the Committee could monitor what was happening. She supported Ms Malgas that one had to disaggregate according to the cost. The Committee was a monitoring and evaluating one at the highest level, so the Women’s Ministry had an influence at that level. Funds in each department could be shifted if the Committee felt strongly. Domestic violence had not been budgeted for for many years but with the Committee’s involvement it would have to ensure that it was implemented.
The Chairperson asked the researchers – the NGOs had made lots of contributions at the hearings, if they had not received draft copies of the report, how could they make additions to it?
Ms Abrahams responded that the Research Unit did engage with the key NGOs, liased with the children’s sector and with the disability sector and crosschecked each recommendation to ensure that nothing had been left out. The report was for members to say they acknowledged that those were the recommendations that came through but strategically for what it could manage for 2010 and the next five years to monitor and take forward.
The Chairperson said it was important to engage them so they did not feel it was all a waste of time.
Ms Duncan referred to the budget and said it was the Committee with teeth and would fight; it was the hope for people outside so they needed to be positive and make an impact. She again requested that all departments give a budget breakdown so that when the Committee heard how much its Ministry was allocated, then at least they would have the departments say how much they were budgeting for women, for children, for the disabled.
The Chairperson stressed it was important to listen to the budget speech so that if the budget allocated for this ministry was not adequate the Committee should be able to hear from the other departments whether they had accommodated this Committee.
Ms Abrahams responded to Ms Rwexana’s concern on whether the Act was in the right place and how long it would take. That could be raised but lessons learnt around the Children’s Act - that also had to deal with several departments - was they put in a particular clause that compelled departments to work together. An Integrated Policy Framework was not in the Act, so was missing in terms of the legislative amendment and could be a recommendation. Working together cost money, so that was one way to ensure the resourcing of allocations happened.
Mr Gary Rhoda (Committee Researcher) dealt with legislative recommendations in respect of specific sections of the Act and the tricky regulations to specific pieces of legislation. The regulations fell under the exclusive jurisdiction of the minister responsible for a particular Act. The only way the Committee could have oversight over that regulation was in the exercise of oversight over the particular minister and the performance of that minister.
Amendments to the Domestic Violence Act (DVA)
One of the major problems and gaps highlighted was the discretionary powers of the police and how they viewed and interpreted certain sections of the DVA. One of the major concerns about Section 8 of the DVA, was how police officials interpreted the phrase ‘imminent harm’. It was in their discretion whether the person needed to be arrested. The Committee would have to decide whether to tackle the definition of ‘imminent harm’ in terms of a specific legislative amendment, or whether there should there be a regulation or set of guidelines to establish what ‘imminent harm’ was. If they believed those criteria arose then they must arrest.
There was a need to look at finalisation of the Domestic Partnership Legislation. Women who cohabited with their partners did not access protection orders as much as women in marriages, due to fear of reprisal by the intimate partner after getting a protection order. They were only entitled to what they brought into the relationship and no legal claim to property or any other assets to whose purchase they had contributed.
If there was no costing of the DVA at the beginning it was critical it be done now to cost the amendments to the DVA.
Regulatory powers were conferred on the Minister in whose department that regulation fell. The Committee had to look at the performance of the Minister in relation to the officials under his or her control. The regulations were not under the legislative influence of the Committee directly, but would need to be handled through the performance of the Minister and how he or she dealt with the officials.
One of the major issues highlighted by civil society during the public hearings was that of firearms control.
One point was the training police officials received in terms of the Domestic Violence Act, and the Firearms Control Act. There was a need for improved training for police officials who did not know of or how to comply with the National Instruction on Domestic Violence and the Firearms Control Act. In terms of the seizure of firearms and other weapons it was essential that police questioned witnesses at the home of the complainant in domestic violence cases on whether a firearm was used. They should not wait until a hearing at the Magistrate’s Court before the issue of seizure of firearms was raised, that was too late.
Another point was the gap between the granting of an interim protection order and approval of the final protection order in terms of the seizure of weapons. The time between the first complaint, the lodging of the interim protection order and the initial questioning, there was a time line for a return date and only then would they question whether a firearm had been involved, especially where a policeman was the respondent in the domestic violence case. The proposed guidelines should centre on the protection of the victim and in particular to seek to:
- introduce more rigorous questions about the presence of weapons in the communal home, and whether firearms and weapons were the property of the victim or the perpetrator; whether the perpetrator had access to weapons, especially in the workplace;
- have the transfer of the onus for the request to remove firearms from the communal home from the applicant to the presiding officer;
- making it clearer that the firearm must be removed immediately and not only on the return date when the protection order was made final.
The Independent Complaints Directorate (ICD)
The regulations and the subsidiary bodies of the individual departments was to look at the oversight of the ICD over the SAPS. The ICD was tasked with reviewing allegations of abuse of police power, particularly insofar as it related to domestic violence. The South African Police Service Act did not afford the ICD sufficient powers to hold the police to account. They could make recommendations but was powerless to compel the police service to follow up on those allegations and recommendations. Presently discussions were involved to move certain sections relating to the DVA under the discretionary powers of the ICD and move that completely over to SAPS, there were also moves to increase the powers of the ICD and that amendment should come to Parliament in this year. It was critical that this Committee form part of those discussions and confer with the Committee on Police. It was critical that in terms of domestic violence the ICD would follow up and say the police were not doing their job.
Development of a Performance Monitoring Framework for Courts
Record keeping at courts was poor. There was no uniform record keeping between courts between different districts and even in the actual courts. It was important that a performance monitoring framework be established to assess the courts’ effective implementation of the Act, which would enable authorities to:
- assess the quality and completeness of record keeping by the courts;
- the standardisation of processes and procedures across courts – including courts working hours and their interpretation and application of the provisions of the DVA; and
- making it mandatory that all domestic violence applications be dealt with in private offices where applicants’ confidentiality could be maintained.
Service of Protection Orders
In the serving of protection orders on the respondent by the police, there was an over reliance by magistrates on SAPS police officials to serve the protection orders. The police officers did not see the serving of protection orders as an urgent matter. There should be a reworking of Regulation 15 of the regulations to the DVA, to look at how court officials or the magistrates could make more use of the sheriffs to serve protection orders. It further recommended that the Minister of Justice (responsible for sheriffs) bring those regulations to the Committee and advise the changes and an instruction manual for the Magistrates.
The cost of serving protection orders severely hampered women in applying for protection orders, and was unacceptable. It was critical that regulations make explicit reference to courts that the courts should pay for protection orders where the applicant could not afford to have the protection order served on the respondent.
Ensuring Availability of Shelter and Counselling Services
The DVA did not place any obligation on Health and Social Service providers to make such services available. It was recommended that certain regulations governing the availability of shelter and counselling services might be necessary and the Department of Social Development should be consulted around the guidelines for shelters and services to victims of domestic violence, and it was critical that the Committee took part in the development of those guidelines and look at issues of:
- how counselling services and shelters would be funded;
- the training norms and standards, as well as competencies required by those working in this field;
- the management and recruitment of volunteers; and
- the nature and interventions required to address domestic violence.
The Committee must make note of the relationship between child abuse and intimate partner abuse and how children who also suffered as a result of domestic violence could be helped.
The Department of Health also had a role to play in providing services of well trained professionals.
Once finalised these guidelines in relation to counselling, shelter provision, health care, should be submitted to Parliament and gazetted as regulations in terms of 19(1)(c), and crucially ensured that it was appropriately resourced. It was important that when those regulations were made that the Committee bring in those ministers under whose jurisdiction those regulations. The Committee in its oversight had to check whether those regulations fitted the needs of women.
Ms P Lebenya (IFP) thanked the researchers for putting the report together. It was crucial that communities be educated. The Committee should ensure there was a programme aimed at driving an awareness campaign. A partner was afraid to report domestic violence due to lack of knowledge of their rights.
There was a need for user friendly police stations and training of policemen and women on these sensitive issues, as Mr Rhoda had mentioned that the courts should deal with these issues in private, the same should apply to police stations.
Ms Malgas said it was important to know who was the lead department and who was accounting for the costing of the DVA.
Ms Robinson referred to privacy when giving evidence, she found it horrifying that when rape victims went to court they had to sit next to the person who raped them and that was really most unacceptable.
The Chairperson related a case where a minor had an affair with an older person and at the police station the minor was convinced not to proceed with laying charges against the perpetrator. She would like to know what was the role of the State in such cases? Was there anything in the Act to force the case to go on? The young girl was only thirteen and probably did not even know what she was doing – was it possible to have something in the Act for such cases as well?
Ms Rwexana added that during the hearings there had been concern of older women dropping the charges, the real issue was the dropping of the charges.
The Chairperson agreed it was not only a problem but also a waste of resources and time.
Mr Rhoda responded that it was usually at the discretion of the prosecuting authority to withdraw the charges. The magistrate, in certain circumstances, could refuse the prosecuting authority to withdraw the charges. In such cases the complainant did not pitch up and testify and warrants of arrest would be issued in very few cases, but where the complainant was married to the respondent or defendant, the complainant would not have to testify.
Mr Selau said with girls under the age of sixteen it was statutory rape, parents could raise the matter and the State would take it over on behalf of the minor and raise charges of rape against the perpetrator.
The Chairperson asked Mr Rhoda to check that. She supported Ms Lebenya that people must be made aware of those things.
Mr Rhoda responded that the Sexual Offences and Related Matters Act specifically said that girls and boys under the age of sixteen where there was sexual interaction that was statutory rape, it was the onus of the parent or the caregiver to bring the case to the attention of the police officials and then the courts. However, once the matter went to court the State took on the onus of that charge and drove the process, so even if the complainant did not testify, they would still proceed with the matter.
The Chairperson wanted to know what should happen to parents who did not do that.
Ms Duncan supported the motion to educate people to take up their rights, but even more importantly their responsibilities.
Ms Abrahams went through the oversight recommendations.
- Strategy to look at vulnerable groups, including pensioners and persons with disability;
- The National Youth Development Agency, the Commission for Gender Equality and the South African Human Rights Commission and what their role was in relation to domestic violence;
- A mechanism should be devised within Parliament to ensure the implementation of the DVA by all Committees. Several departments were involved, but also within Parliament in terms of how oversight was conducted, how to ensure that the Portfolio Committee on Human Settlements talked to secondary housing needs, how Social Development when talking to their budget talked to VEP, so a mechanism had to be developed so that that was not lost.
- All relevant departments must report to the respective Portfolio Committee on an annual basis in terms of progress with respect to the DVA. A scorecard related to the implementation of the DVA should be devised for monitoring and evaluation purposes.
- The Inter-departmental Committee at government cluster level to come together to look at collective planning, that would be a good Committee to be called to present to the Committee because those were key people with positions within the Executive that lead around taking decisions and programmes, and hold them to account.
- That Parliament insist on reports from the Department of Police on its compliance with the DVA and the Firearms Control Act as it related to the implementation of these Acts. To what extent did the Committee ensure that there was oversight on the implementation of the Acts, where was the mechanism to ensure that those things were consistently monitored and overseen.
- Parliament must request reports on the implementation of measures to ensure that firearms were returned when staff went off duty because of escalating domestic violence incidents resulting in family murders by officers (police, SANDF and private security guards) with access to legal firearms.
- Parliament should oversee that the respective government departments had awareness programmes around the DVA.
- In order for members to engage and oversee the implementation of the Act, Members required training on the implications of the Act.
- The lack of an overarching framework to bring all the departments together to work together, legislated for in the Act itself, but that had to be overseen. The new Ministry for Women, Children and Persons with Disabilities should be taken the lead role in developing such an overarching framework and it was the Committee’s prerogative and mandate to hold them to account to ensure that the policy was developed and implemented, with time frames and budgeted accordingly.
- There need to be norms and standards regarding training that were consistent around the country.
- The Department of Police must amend its National Instructions to provide clear guidelines to police officers at when perpetrators should or should not be arrested.
- There needs to be a five-year plan and an indication from the Department of Police looking at decreasing the incidence of domestic violence. The role of SAPS Evaluation Service in monitoring whether those targets were being met or not should be clearly stated.
- The referral of victims of domestic violence for health care services and counselling by police officers must be closely monitored.
- It was crucial that the domestic violence registers be maintained and monitored, and to hold to account the person responsible for monitoring and maintaining it.
- A mechanism should be developed to deal with withdrawals, or situations where women did not wish to lay charges but nonetheless still required help and protection.
- Sufficient resources must be allocated in terms of obtaining forensic evidence.
Develop a costed policy and/or legislation around the Family courts (and other specialised courts)
given that the status and future of the Family Courts was unclear there needs to be clear policy in this regard and the policy should be elevated to the status of regulations with clear time frames and goals.
Justice had said that the issue of Specialised Courts was important but there were no time frames.
In the Children’s Act there were provisions around ensuring that the courts were child friendly and also in terms of children with disabilities.
Developing norms and standards around training for court personnel
there had to be training standards and norms that should clearly stipulate what knowledge was required of the magistrate, prosecutors and clerks, there had to be minimum levels of competency in terms of those who provide the training and training should be ongoing with follow up courses.
In the case of DoJCD the training framework should be included in the revised regulations.
Justice should come up with a detailed plan to ensure that courts were accessible with specific reference to the needs of children, persons with disabilities and victims of domestic violence and sexual offences. The issue of after hours access to courts was another crucial issue requiring attention.
A means test must be developed that assesses on an equitable basis the cost incurred for having a protection order served by the Sheriff’s Office.
Victim Empowerment Programme
- The VEP was not serving the needs of victims of domestic violence. The programme needs to be reviewed in terms of what the programme had to offer and how it was being resourced.
- Neither the Victims Charter nor the Minimum Standards defined secondary victimisation. This was problematic as government officials subjected many victims of domestic violence to secondary victimisation. It was imperative that this was done so that government departments had an understanding of secondary victimisation and thus be able to prevent revictimisation through appropriate institutional responses.
- Reassess funding criteria for VEP grants to civil society organisations: grants should be made available to shelters given that they provided a critical service to victims of domestic violence.
- Victim Empowerment Legislation needs to be expedited.
- Greater public awareness was required around the rights of victims, and resources were needed.
- Greater synergy was required between the VEP, the Victims’ Charter, the Minimum Standards for Service Delivery and the Uniform Protocol on Victim Management to avoid duplication and the more efficient use of resources.
- The management of lay counsellors at Thuthuzela Centres had not been working effectively on account of poor supervision, lack of accountability and often ill equipped counsellors. Counsellors should rather be called Victim Advocates where the role would be merely to assist the victim throughout the administrative process within Justice and Police Sector to Health and Social Development. The counselling of victims should be left to appropriately trained professionals equipped to deal with domestic violence.
- A review of existing services and programmes must be done to determine where services were absent or need to be upscaled.
- An audit of government personnel rendering psycho-social support be undertaken to determine where the skills shortages were in order to address the shortfall. Identify a recruitment strategy to increase the cadre of skilled personnel, such as bursaries for psychologists, occupational therapists.
- Rehabilitation of perpetrators.
- Thuthuzela Centres should be opened up to victims of domestic violence.
Effective information systems
- an effective systemised screening within and across government departments such as Health, Education and Police, for domestic violence against women and children was lacking. A framework for screening was required and a mechanism for locating pertinent information regarding the victim, which could be achieved by establishing databases at hospitals and schools in order to identify victims of violence. This would also monitor trends in domestic violence.
Policy and Strategy Development
- The Department of Health should develop a policy to deal with domestic violence. Such a policy must clearly outline the roles and responsibilities of health care workers, the training required by health workers to implement the policy, a monitoring and evaluation strategy as well as a budget to effectively implement such a policy.
- It was recommended that the Department of Health develop a strategy to work with the Department of Police in ensuring that victims of domestic violence were taken to a medico-legal facility to have the incident reported officially. That required that health personnel were adequately trained and competent in documenting the nature and extent of the injury and be able to testify in a court of law.
- In the context of HIV/AIDS pandemic, the DoH should develop a plan stipulating how the existing public communications campaigns would address domestic violence in the current messaging. A targeted strategy was required to deal with women in abusive relationships who had limited choices in terms of applying the Department’s current prevention strategies (abstain, be faithful, use a condom).
The Committee agreed that the Strategic Report should be published in the Announcements, Tablings and Committee Reports (ATC) and debated in the National Assembly.
Ms Abrahams added that Human Settlements should come up with a policy that addressed the secondary housing needs of victims of domestic violence.
Ms Abrahams added five further issues that were not in the report that dealt with how the Committee should proceed.
The Chairperson was concerned as to how to make other departments accountable in terms of not using the names of victims.
Ms Rwexana suggested a joint oversight meeting with the Department of Housing and other departments.
She noted that same sex relationship issues were not covered in the Act.
Ms Robinson endorsed the Chair’s suggestion to call other departments to account. There was a need to show other departments that the Committee was serious, it was dealing with major issues and could not just be fobbed off.
The Chairperson agreed, there should be some progress; they had resources.
Ms Tseke said the names of individual people who raised their concerns during the public hearings should be kept confidential.
She was surprised at the issue of the protection order; she had understood it was free. Most victims were women from the rural areas, unemployed, from squatter camps and dependant on their husbands. In those cases the courts were far from their areas so they had to find money for transport and then still pay for the protection order. She proposed amending that.
The Chairperson added that it also went to the unequal distribution of resources; why pay for that when municipal workers were riding around in cars.
Mr Selau added that there were lots of problems such as security, psychological treatment, economic issues, education, health, housing and protection orders, and to access any of those cost money. As the Committee dealt with the vulnerable groups it should make an impact around the issue of access for those people without necessarily having to find money.
Prioritisation of things to do in 2010 and beyond was there any plan to handle 2010 violence or was the Committee engaging with other departments around what their plans were for 2010.
Was research done in respect of what other countries were doing in respect of specialised courts?
The Chairperson was not sure what could be done about dealing with those groups that could not pay for protection orders.
Ms Malgas said Justice had said they were doing away with the specialised courts, so the Committee should push that the specialised courts remained.
The Chairperson would like the Committee to share topics if there was time in their budget vote.
Ms Abrahams stressed that the Committee still had to prioritise what it could do. Three components could be
- Legislative amendments, was that something that the Committee wanted to do? Look at the Act and look at the amendments, because the Committee Secretary would need to liase with the Portfolio Committee on Justice, that took the lead in that respect. If that needed to be done then there was the whole process of fitting that into the programme.
- the issue of regulations, was that something the Committee wanted to do?
- In terms of oversight there were several things, Police, Justice, Ministry, Victim Empowerment, Health, Social Development. Was the Committee going to do all or issues pertaining to the Ministry, Housing and Victim Empowerment.
The Chairperson felt the Committee must do the Legislative amendments because that was hindering the progress of the Act. The issue of oversight was also important.
Ms Rwexana suggested recommending an amendment to the Act.
Mr Rhoda advised that there was the power of two Committees so suggested the Portfolio Committee could tackle issues around the Department of Justice, whereas the Select Committee had competencies around community safety, health, so there could be more impact on oversight.
Ms Duncan said the Ministry would only come into effect after 31 March, would the debate on the DVA be before that?
Ms Abrahams said there was a whole process to be done.
The Chairperson asked the Committee Secretary to check on that.
Ms Robinson suggested the Committee take on all three; they were vital, it had to go those routes.
The Chairperson supported the issue of waiting and asked Ms Abrahams to check on that.
The Committee had gone through the report, having discussed it very thoroughly, could it be adopted?
Proposed by Ms Robinson, seconded by Ms Duncan, the report was adopted.
Committee Programme (25 January – 28 March 2010)
Ms Robinson read through the draft programme. She was satisfied that it covered things, but actual steps forward (the three suggestions Ms Abrahams made) should be fitted into the programme.
Mr Selau said the programme was not fixed; it could change, so should be accepted as a working document as developments unfolded.
Ms Rwexana said if the briefing by the Department on 3 March was before the budget vote it should be included in the report.
The Chairperson and Ms Robinson suggested going to police stations and hospitals jointly regarding the DVA. The Committee supported that, the Chairperson asked the Committee Secretary to work around that, including which provinces. She supported going earlier during Parliament time. The House Chairperson was reluctant to allow that but the Committee Secretary would make an application.
The Committee Programme was adopted and the meeting was adjourned.
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