Who Is Protected Under The Domestic Violence Act 116 Of 1998 | Legal Articles


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Who Is Protected Under The Domestic Violence Act 116 Of 1998

Domestic violence in South Africa is governed by the Domestic Violence Act, 116 of 1998 (the Act). The Act was promulgated to give effect to the obligations under Sections 9, 10 and 12 (1) (c), (d), (e) as well as obligations under international conventions such as the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women.  

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Domestic violence comes in different forms as per the Act, which provides that it can either be physical abuse, sexual abuse, emotional, verbal and psychological abuse, economic abuse, intimidation, harassment, stalking, damage to property, entry into the complainant's residence without consent where the parties do not share the same residence or any other controlling or abusive behaviour towards a complainant. The last part is aimed to be a ‘catch all’ net whereat abusive behaviour ought not to escape under the pretext of not having been provided for in the definitions. Important changes are provided for in an amendment Bill that is currently under process.

The Act protects victims of domestic violence who are under certain defined (domestic) relationships, such as the below:

What is a Domestic Relationship?

Domestic relationship means a relationship between a Complainant and a Respondent in any of the following ways:

(a) they are or were married to each other, including marriage according to any law, custom or religion;

(b) they (whether they are of the same or of the opposite sex) live or lived together in a relationship in the nature of marriage, although they are not, or were not, married to each other, or are not able to be married to each other;

(c) they are the parents of a child or are persons who have or had parental responsibility for that child (whether or not at the same time);

(d) they are family members related by consanguinity, affinity or adoption;

(e) they are or were in an engagement, dating or customary relationship, including an actual or perceived romantic, intimate or sexual relationship of any duration; or

(f) they share or recently shared the same residence.

Reporting Domestic Violence

A substantial number of domestic violence incidences go unreported and therefore unpunished owing largely to, the victim being afraid of the repercussions for reporting the abuser. This is because a domestic relationship is generally (not exclusively) a close range one, where the complainant and the abuser share the same domestic space. Therefore, for the complainant to report the abuse, may seem discouraging as both parties will still come back to the same close space after the matter is reported or finalised. This is a huge discouraging factor.

Other incidences are also not reported, owing to the abuser preventing the complainant from doing so. The Domestic Violence Amendment Bill [B20-2020] therefore proposes a way of online registrations of complaints. This is progressive wary of the Covid-19 pandemic promoting social distancing as well as the general growth in the interaction on the cyberspace.

Van Deventer & Van Deventer Inc. - Family Lawyers South Africa

Our family law department legal practitioners assist in matters such as divorce, domestic violence, maintenance as well as aa wide array of other matters.

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