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On 9 October 2020, Research ICT Africa (RIA) made a submission to the Portfolio Committee on Justice and Correctional Services in response to proposed amendments to the Domestic Violence Act, which were gazetted in August 2020. The submission was made jointly with the Association for Progressive Communications (APC), ALT Advisory and the Feministing While African (FWA) network.
In the submission, we agree with the Portfolio Committee that practical challenges, gaps and anomalies have manifested since the Domestic Violence Act was put into operation in 1999. We highlight the increased prevalence of violence aided, abetted or aggravated by various ICTs and urge the Portfolio Committee to reflect these emerging and developing challenges to ensure victims and survivors of domestic violence, both on- and offline, are afforded the maximum protection from domestic abuse that the law can provide.
Other recommendations we make in our submission include the need to:
Take a broader view to understanding the role(s) of technology and digital intermediaries in supporting or mitigating the impacts of domestic violence in diverse contexts in South Africa (e.g. for people with more or less connectivity or people with more or less digital literacy skills).
Support more research efforts to provide a proper understanding not only the factors that may make some South Africans in particular more vulnerable to harm from online risks, but also the supporting environments available or unavailable to help them deal with such potential exposure to online risk.
Collect more data to understand the prevalence and incidence of domestic violence that is committed, abetted or aggravated, in part or fully, by the use of ICTs like the Internet by reviewing existing research and evidence and where data is not available to commission data collection before legislating on the issue.
Provide disaggregated gender and domestic violence data to include the use of ICTs in the perpetuation of violence, including specific data on violence against gender and sexual minorities.
Gather the input of various stakeholders – including through consultations with relevant communities, like feminist and civil society organisations and communities – before developing this Bill further.
Read the full submission here.