VIEWS: 5 PAGES: 7 POSTED ON: 2/12/2011
Chapter 12 Policy scan In order to understand the broad implications of the results of the national survey on violence against women policy, this chapter provides an overview of the key policies, procedures and pieces of legislation that have been developed by government to reduce violence against women. Key developments since 1994 are outlined drawing on available documents from the departments responsible for law enforcement (police and justice) as well as those responsible for health and welfare. The aim is not to provide an assessment of what government has achieved but rather to sketch the context within which women's experience of abuse and service delivery can be considered. The challenge of dealing with violence against women is to develop policy and legislation that provides for a range of practitioners to work together to assist each survivor. The nature of domestic violence and rape impacts on the psychological health of women. But there are also physical and social aspects that require intervention from a variety of government departments, service organisations and individuals.1 The current trend internationally is towards an approach that ensures a co- ordinated policy and practise response that allows the vast array of relevant practitioners to deliver the necessary services. This approach requires not only sufficient numbers of delivery agencies but also practitioners who can effectively deliver in respect of their core business. In South Africa, this approach has been difficult to implement. There is an insufficient number of agencies and professionals. Those that do exist are disproportionately located in the urban centres and many are under-resourced and under-skilled. Moreover, many government departments-especially those responsible for tackling violence against women-struggle to deliver their most basic line function services. This, together with a tradition of working independently of other departments, poor communication systems within and between departments, and a shortage of resources, makes inter-departmental cooperation very difficult. Nevertheless it is encouraging that government has identified violence against women as a priority and is determined to adopt the multi-agency approach. The National Crime Prevention Strategy (NCPS), which provided the broad prevention policy framework from 1996 to 2000, is the most prominent of government's multi- agency approaches. Other initiatives include the sexual offences courts and multi- 150 Violence against woman disciplinary care centres (recently established by the National Prosecuting Authority in various parts of the country), the guidelines for all criminal justice and health system service providers to deal with survivors of sexual offences, the victim empowerment programme coordinated by the Department of Social Development, and smaller initiatives such as the medico-legal centres in Gauteng to assist survivors of rape or abuse. Since few of these initiatives have been evaluated, the only conclusion that can be drawn at this stage is that they have met with varying levels of success.2 The present government's recognition of the problem of violence against women can be traced to the signing and ratification of several international conventions (see box below). This was largely the result of pressure from activists in the violence against women sector and the need for government to align its stance with that of the international community. In South Africa, the Department of Justice appears to be taking the lead in respect of both these international conventions. International conventions dealing with violence against women signed by the South African government Convention for the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), December 1995. CEDAW states that violence against women is an aspect of discrimination and that sovereign states need to provide direct support to victims of gender-based violence, including shelters, "specially trained health workers, rehabilitation and counselling services". Signatories should guarantee the protection of women from gender-based violence. Beijing Platform of Action, 1995.3 The Beijing conference was the last major international conference that dealt with violence against women. The South African government committed itself to protect women from violence through: Funding programmes and research aimed at eliminating violence against women and the dissemination of research results. Creating appropriate laws, monitoring them, and punishing offenders. Setting up programmes to protect, compensate and heal women survivors of violence. Training service providers. Funding shelters and ensuring they provide holistic care. Supporting awareness campaigns and encouraging the media to address the issue in a positive and constructive way. Policy scan 151 Department of Justice and Constitutional Development The Gender Policy Statement 1991 This framework is intended to guide all members of the justice system by ensuring that decision making, policy making and service delivery within the department are gender sensitive.4 With regard to domestic violence the policy focuses on the implementation of the Domestic Violence Act. In terms of sexual violence, specialised sexual offences courts will be set up countrywide and the substantive and evidential law as well as the legal procedures related to sexual violence will be reviewed (see below). National Policy Guidelines for Victims of Sexual Offences 1997 The guidelines aimed to improve survivors' experience in the criminal justice system by providing detailed protocols for officials in the police, health, welfare, justice and prisons. Justice Vision 2000 This is the department's five year national strategy to create a legitimate, effective, accountable and accessible justice system.5 Indicators of success in areas that relate specifically to violence against women are to: ensure race and gender representation in all structures at all levels within the department; establish more legal advice offices; increase the number of prosecutions and convictions and ensure there are fewer delays and lower costs involved in the processing of cases; introduce specialised courts for survivors of sexual offences. With regard to the last indicator, the National Prosecuting Authority had, by the end of 2000, established 19 sexual offences courts across the country and trained 375 people including police officers, social workers, prosecutors and even some magistrates to work in these courts. A further 12 courts will be opened in 2001. These courts aim to reduce secondary victimisation of victims and witnesses in cases of violence against women and children, by improving the management of cases through the courts. They should also allow for more effective prosecutions by specially training prosecutors.6 Early observations have however shown that the required standards in the courts have not always been met and that insufficient space at some courts means that neither court rooms nor waiting rooms are used specifically for rape matters. There are also not enough trained intermediaries, prosecutors and magistrates to staff the 152 Violence against woman courts. This problem is aggravated by high staff turnover which means that the effects of training are lost unless courses are repeated regularly.7 Domestic Violence Act 116 of 1998 The Act aims to provide survivors with protection from the perpetrator and to facilitate their progress through the criminal justice system. It replaces and improves on the Prevention of Family Violence Act (1993). The Domestic Violence Act provides a holistic definition of domestic violence and protection to survivors through the Protection Order. It also mandates police officers to inform survivors of their rights and provide assistance in terms of referral to a doctor and/or a counsellor as well as to assist women in the collection of their belongings after reporting the crime. Relevant departments (Safety and Security, Justice and Constitutional Development, Social Development and Health) are responsible for developing specific directives for implementing the provisions which will be attached to the Act.8 Minimum sentencing legislation Amendments to the Criminal Law Amendment Act 105 of 1997 aim to ensure that persons committing serious offences such as rape are not released on bail and, if convicted, receive specified minimum sentences.9 The Act mandates life imprisonment for persons convicted of rape under the following circumstances: if the rape involved "aggravating circumstances" as specified in the Act; if the victim is raped more than once, or by more than one person, or by a person who has been convicted of two or more offences of rape, or by a person who knows that he or she has HIV/AIDS; if the victim is a girl under the age of 16 years, or is a physically disabled woman and thereby particularly vulnerable, or is a mentally ill woman; if the victim is seriously assaulted. A person convicted on any other grounds for rape should receive a minimum sentence of 10 years for a first offence, increasing to 20 years for a third offence. Judges and magistrates are not however obliged to impose these sentences. A judicial officer may impose a lesser sentence than the prescribed minimum sentences provided he or she can find "substantial and compelling circumstances" to do so. Sexual Offences Bill (1999) The South African Law Commission recently released Discussion Paper 85 which considers the substantive law on sexual offences and a proposed new Sexual Offences Bill. It proposes replacing the definition of rape and intends to make rape Policy scan 153 a gender-neutral offence. It stipulates that no relationship can be used as a defence against this charge. The Bill recommends that victims no longer need to prove the absence of consent although the accused can still raise consent to sexual intercourse as a defence. The final Bill should be released by the Law Commission by the end of 2001. Department of Safety and Security National Crime Prevention Strategy 1996 The NCPS was approved by Cabinet in May 1996. By dealing with crime as a social rather than a security issue, the NCPS shifted government's approach to safety from one of crime control to crime prevention. The NCPS called for a victim centred, restorative justice approach to crime reduction rather than a state centred system.10 The strategy also aimed to promote safety as a basic need and suggested that violence against women has a serious impact on democracy, stability and human rights. The problem-solving approach by the NCPS towards crime reduction required the participation of a range of government departments, including Safety and Security, Justice and Constitutional Development, Correctional Services, Social Development, Defence, Intelligence, and Home Affairs. The Departments of Arts, Culture, Science and Technology, Education, Transport and Health later also became involved.11 The business sector and non-governmental organisations were also key NCPS partners. Within it's four key focus areas: re-engineering the criminal justice system, reducing crime through environmental design, community values and education and trans-national crime, the NCPS prioritized seven crime problems, one of which was violence against women and children. One of the key projects directly associated with implementation of the NCPS is the Victim Empowerment Programme, led by the Department of Social Development (see below). It is however important to note that structural changes in the Department of Safety and Security since the new minister took office in 1999 have resulted in the NCPS being downgraded from an inter-departmental coordinating body to a small unit within the crime prevention division of the South African Police Service (SAPS). Although the SAPS believes that the NCPS remains government's crime prevention strategy it is unlikely that a small unit with a limited budget within a division of the SAPS will carry enough clout to drive and coordinate the multi-agency approach required for reducing violence against women.12 154 Violence against woman SAPS Policing Priorities and Objectives for 1999/2000 Each year the SAPS releases a document outlining its priorities and objectives.13 Crimes against women and children are listed as one of the priorities and clear reference is made to improving service to victims. The objectives in terms of this priority include: Improved multi-disciplinary cooperation. This will be measured in accordance with the number of joint initiatives and by monitoring the conviction rates and percentage of reported cases for selected crimes that are withdrawn before trial. Victim empowerment. This objective will be evaluated by the number of police officers trained in victim empowerment and the number of police stations that have the facilities to take statements in privacy. Enforce the relevant sections of the Domestic Violence Act by issuing national instructions, monitoring the number of protection orders applied for and the number of arrests made in terms of the Act. Department of Social Development Ten priorities The Department of Social Development has identified ten priority areas for the department over the next five years.14 One of the priority areas is to respond to the "brutal effects of all forms of violence against women and children as well as effective strategies to deal with the perpetrators". The department has established a directorate that deals with the development and implementation of policy and programmes for the economic and social development of women.15 Victim Empowerment Programme The Victim Empowerment Programme (VEP) aims to address the lack of adequate recognition and services to victims of crime through coordinated activity between government departments and partnerships with civil society. Key to the programme is the provision of information on available services, the progress of a criminal investigation, and other relevant information about procedures and processes.16 The department's approach to victim empowerment includes supporting and working with organisations that provide services to women and children. Policy scan 155 Endnotes 1 N Harwin, G Hague, E Malos (eds) The Multi-Agency Approach to Domestic Violence: New Opportunities, Old challenges? Whiting & Birch Ltd, London, 1999. 2 For more detail see S Rasool, Sexual offences courts: Do more courts mean better justice?, Nedbank ISS Crime Index 2(4), 2000; L Vetten, While women wait…(2) Can specialist sexual offences courts and centres reduce secondary victimisation?, Nedbank ISS Crime Index 5(3), 2001; P Parenzee, While women wait…(1) Monitoring the Domestic Violence Act, Nedbank ISS Crime Index 2(4), 2000. 3 Department of Welfare and Population Development, Beijing Conference on Women: Plan of Action for South African Women on the Road to Development, Equality and Peace, CTP Book Printers, Cape Town, 1995. 4 Gender Policy Statement: Balancing the Scales of Justice through Gender Equality, Department of Justice and Constitutional Development, Pretoria, 1999. 5 Department of Justice and Constitutional Development, Justice Vision 2000, <http://www.cmpp.co.za/reports/1996/justice.htm> 6 L Vetten, 2001, op cit; Presentation by T Majokweni, head of the Sexual Offences and Community Affairs Unit in the National Prosecution Authority, to the Joint Monitoring Committee on the Improvement of the Quality of Life and Status of Women, Violence Against Women & Access to Justice Hearings, Parliament, Cape Town, 1999. 7 L Vetten, op cit. 8 For more detail see S Rasool, The new Domestic Violence Act: Responding to survivors' needs, Nedbank ISS Crime Index 3(5), 1999. See also South African Police Service, Implementing the Domestic Violence Act, 1999 at < http://www.saps.co.za/domestic/index.htm> 9 For related insights into minimum sentencing legislation and public attitudes to punishment see M Schonteich, Justice versus retribution: Attitudes to punishment in the Eastern Cape, ISS Monograph Series No 45, Institute for Security Studies, Pretoria, 2000. 10 S Kotze, Victim Empowerment Programme (VEP), Department of Social Development, Pretoria, 1999. 11 B Fanaroff, Putting the National Crime Prevention Strategy (NCPS) in context, in L Camerer and S Kotze (eds) Special Report on Victim Empowerment in South Africa, Institute for Security Studies and Department of Welfare, Pretoria, 1998. 12 S Pienaar, speech delivered at a seminar on the National Crime Prevention Strategy, ISS, Pretoria, 2000. 13 Department of Safety and Security, Safety and Security Policing Priorities and Objectives for 1999/2000, <http://www.saps.co.za> 14 Z Skweyiya, Mobilising for A Caring Society: People First for Sustainable Development, Sunday Times, 2000. 15 Z Skweyiya, The Department of Welfare's Role in the Implementation and Access to Justice in Relation to Gendered Violence, presentation to the Joint Monitoring Committee on the Improvement of the Quality of Life and Status of Women by the Minister for Welfare, Population and Development, Parliament, Cape Town, 1999. 16 L Camerer and S Kotze (eds) Special Report on Victim Empowerment in South Africa, Institute for Security Studies and Department of Welfare, Pretoria, 1998.
"12. Policy scan - Policy scan"