Statistics reflect that South Africa ranks amongst those with the highest incidences of domestic violence. This is a sad state of affairs, especially realising the historical and cultural dynamics around which women, who are mostly the victims of domestic violence, were subjected to abuse in traditional settings. So menacing are the effects that victims of domestic violence are left with emotional scars that will last for many years in their lifetime. In the most extreme of cases, it has been recorded that the behavior and/or character of some of the victims ends up turning antisocial if professional assistance is not sought.
In the case of S v Baloyi 2000 (1) BCLR 86 (CC) the Constitutional Court (Concourt) noted that, “All crime has harsh effects on society. What distinguishes domestic violence is its hidden, repetitive character and its immeasurable ripple effects on our society and, in particular, on family life. It cuts across class, race, culture and geography, and is all the more pernicious because it is so often concealed and so frequently goes unpunished.”
The reasons why most incidences of domestic violence go unpunished as noted above are various. With regards to men as victims, they are more inclined not to report domestic violence owing to the stigmatisation they may suffer thereafter, relating to being seen as weak by society, and being laughed at for not having fought back against the female abuser. Some incidences against women are not reported for slightly different reasons, whereby some may not be aware that the conduct of the abuser is actually abuse, and secondly that the abuser may do all within his power to ensure that the victim does not report to the authorities. This makes unfortunate statistics, and society ought to confront the menace of domestic violence in a legally permissible way that seeks to promote human rights of all individuals.
The State on its part, has done a great deal to create a legislative framework around which the protection of domestic violence victims is given effect to.
Firstly, the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa provides for, in Sections 9 and 10, equality and human dignity. Section 12 (1) provides that,
Everyone has the right to freedom and security of the person, which includes the right—
(c) to be free from all forms of violence from either public or private sources;
(d) not to be tortured in any way; and
(e) not to be treated or punished in a cruel, inhuman or degrading way.
Flowing from the above as well as obligations under such conventions as the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women, the legislature promulgated the Domestic Violence Act 116 of 1998, which regulates domestic violence in South Africa. An amendment Bill is currently in process to adapt domestic violence regulation to the changing circumstances in society.
Our family law department legal practitioners assist with commitment and professionalism. We assist in such matters as divorce, domestic violence, maintenance as well as a wide array of other matters. Contact us for comprehensive assistance.
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