Minister reaches out to survivors of domestic violence

Survivors of gender-based violence at Simunye Women’s Shelter in Gauteng told the Minister of Justice and Correctional Services, Advocate Michael Masutha, that they want police to be adequately trained on how to deal with cases of domestic violence when victims approach their stations.

This was revealed on, 22 August, at Westonaria, when the minister visited the shelter to engage in a dialogue with abused women. The aim was to solicit views on the best possible interventions to provide a victim-centric justice system that is quick, responsive and effective.

The dialogue is the start of a process by the Department to explore more impactful ways of providing court-based support services to all survivors of gender-based violence accommodated at the shelters.

During discussions, it emerged that that women would like the justice system to provide an on-going update on cases of abuse so that victims are aware of the latest developments such as when a perpetrator is granted bail or when the case is being dismissed.

Suggestions were also sought, including the fact that the system compels perpetrators to support abused women financially after they move out of their home. This is because places such as shelters are left with the burden to care for victims without any financial assistance.

Chief Director: Promotion of the Rights of Vulnerable Groups, Ms Praise Kambula, applauded the courage shown by abused women in escaping and speaking out about their ordeal.

“I urge you to use this dialogue to voice out your opinions to the minister about the changes you want to see in the justice system so that solutions are found to assist you and other victims going forward,” she encouraged.

Dr Zubeda Dangor, Head of the Executive at the National Shelter Movement of South African recommended that the justice system ensures that courts process matters with minimal postponement and that the police must ensures the enforcement of protection orders for the safety of women.
After listening to all the suggestions, Minister Masutha committed to find solutions to problems that women face and that “every opinion voiced out will be considered.”

“My colleagues and I will go back to our offices and deliberate on how we are going to respond to the challenges that face the vulnerable. A lot has been said about the system which is unjust, and by coming here to listen to you, we want to restore your faith in the criminal justice system through your inputs,” he said.

Ms Portia Ngubeni, who is an abuse survivor and also told her story during the dialogue, said the session was touching and educational. “We had the opportunity to voice out our unaddressed issues to the minister which is a rare opportunity. I hope what we said today will not be pushed aside but will be taken into consideration and implemented,” she said.

During the dialogue, there was a screening of documentary from abused women at the Saartjie Baartman shelter who told their experiences and how they escaped their cycle of abuse.

All the women’s inputs were noted down by the minister and will be carefully scrutinised to see how the department can assist in changing the justice system to be more victim friendly.

By Nana Mzila


Published: 29 Aug 2016