Important concepts defined in The Domestic Violence Amendment Bill

The Domestic Violence Amendment Bill (the Bill) was introduced in the National Assembly in September 2020 but has yet to be signed into law by the President. There are various positive and helpful amendments presented in the bill. The Bill will come into operation on a date fixed by the President through the proclamation in the Gazette.

The concept and definition of domestic violence has been broadened extensively in the Bill. It now includes spiritual abuse, elder abuse, coercive behaviours, controlling behaviour, and exposing or subjecting children to behaviour listed in the domestic violence definitions clause. It also makes provision for conduct that harms, or inspires the reasonable belief that harm may be caused to the Complainant or a related person.

Some of the amendments in the Bill are summarised below:

Elder abuse, sexual harassment, and spiritual abuse has now been defined

Elder abuse refers to abusive behaviour in a relationship with an older person and can include financial abuse, physical abuse, emotional abuse, as well as controlling behaviours like social isolation or intentional and unintentional neglect.

It unfortunately happens frequently that parents invite their children to live with them and after a short while elder abuse commences. The Bill aims to provide the necessary protection to the elderly.

‘Sexual harassment’ is a separate section under ‘Sexual abuse’ and inter alia means:

  1. Unwelcome sexual attention from a person who knows or ought to reasonably know that such attention is unwelcome;

  2. Unwelcome suggestions, gestures messages and remarks;

  3. Implied and expressed promises or reward for complying with a sexually oriented request.

There have also been various court cases recently where pastors, priests, and other religious leaders have been charged with inter alia, rape and or sexual assault and invariably it happens that over a period of time there has been the use of spiritual or beliefs and practices to control and dominate a person. An interdict can now be obtained as soon as there has been spiritual abuse.

Duty to report commission of domestic violence.

It is an offence should a person fail to report his / her knowledge that an act of domestic violence has been committed against a child, person with a disability or an elderly person.

Arrest by peace officer

A peace officer may, without a warrant, arrest any person at the scene of an incident of domestic violence, and may enter the premises where an element of violence has allegedly been committed during an incident of domestic violence without a warrant.

Positive duty on those in the health care and education sector.

The Bill places a positive duty on those in the health and education sector to screen, counsel, and provide emergency medical treatment to a victim.

Online application and service

An application may be brought by submitting an online affidavit as prescribed, and may be brought outside ordinary court hours if the court has a reasonable belief that the complainant may suffer harm.

The interim protection order may be served by the clerk of the Court electronically.

This article is a general information sheet and should not be used or relied on as legal or other professional advice. No liability can be accepted for any errors or omissions nor for any loss or damage arising from reliance upon any information herein. Always contact your adviser for specific and detailed advice. Errors and omissions excepted (E&OE)