23 June 2008
The Department of Justice and Constitutional Development has launched a set of guidelines that will be used to assist magistrates on how to effectively deal with cases involving victims of domestic violence.
Addressing members of the media at the official launch in Midrand last week, Justice Minister Brigitte Mabandla said that domestic violence would not be tolerated since it went against the government’s views with regard to protecting women and children.
“This is another step forward in ensuring that the rights of victims of domestic violence are affirmed and protected,” she said, adding that the guidelines would improve services to the majority of people who had their right to dignity, freedom and security striped away by perpetrators.
“The guidelines will provide a better and more reliable analysis of the domestic violence act of 1998 from the perspective of independence of the magistrates,” she said.
Minimum standards, holistic service
Mabandla said she was approached by the Promotion of the Right of Vulnerable Groups to approve the development of the guidelines by members of the lower court management committee, a forum comprising of all regional courts presidents and chief magistrates in South Africa.
The guidelines will help implement the principles contained in various policy documents in relation to victims of crime which have been developed and launched such as the minimum standards for victims of crime.
Mabandla said she had further urged magistrates to do everything in their power to ensure a therapeutic and holistic service.
“These guidelines offer you to have ease of cross referencing their application of the domestic violence against guidelines developed by your peers,” she said. “This is an indication of the commitment and dedication to servicing communities with certainty of application of the law.”
Family and Gender Service committee chairperson Renuka Subban said the committee was of the view that the guide would be a handy reference material and would be widely used.
She said while the majority of people in rural areas might not be aware of the legislation, some were, but were reluctant to ask for help because they were scared of losing the perpetrator, who was usually the breadwinner in the family.
“We hope that appropriate training for magistrates, peer learning as well as our guide will ensure that victims of domestic violence are afforded protection as guaranteed by our Constitution,” Subban said.