The concept of law as it is known, ought to adapt to the changing requirements and needs of the society that it seeks to regulate. It would definitely be a disservice if this did not occur. This is primarily the reason why laws are amended, so as to cater for changed circumstances and/or developments in society.
The Domestic Violence Amendment Bill  (the Bill) was promulgated within the same reasoning as the above, to amend the Domestic Violence Act 116 of 1998 (the Act). In this article we will discuss the changes that will be brought about by the Amendment Bill, should it be assented to and become law.
Firstly, the Bill makes provision for online registration of complaints. In an era ravaged by a contagious pandemic, and where the use of technology has increased immensely, our view is that this is a huge step in the correct direction. The statistics hold that many incidences of domestic violence go unreported owing to various factors that include, where the abuser deliberately prevents the victim from reporting the abuse. Making provision for online registration and submission of complaints enables the victims to do so in privacy and convenience.
Secondly, the definition of domestic violence will be widened, to cover sexual harassment, related person abuse, spiritual abuse, elder abuse, coercive behavior, controlling behavior, exposing a child to domestic violence and entering into the workplace of the complainant without their consent.
The Bill seeks further, thirdly, to amend the definition of economic abuse in Section 1 of the Act, by removal of the word ‘unreasonable.’ This is definitely progressive in that the qualification of ‘reasonable’ deprivation is outrightly farfetched especially when the complainant is afforded an entitlement by law to that which they are being deprived of. For example, there can be no reasonable justification for deprivation of education, let alone household necessities that actually are at the core of human survival.
The most controversial amendment however, fourth, is one which proposes that where an adult person becomes aware of domestic violence abuse against a child, disabled person or an elderly person, they must report it to the authorities failure of which it will be a criminal offence. Our opinion on this proposition is that while the purpose is well founded, practically it does not embrace the dynamics of reality.
Firstly, it takes away the choice from the hands of the victim to report the abuse, and places it in the hands of a third party. This is retrogressive in that it may actually result in unintended consequences that were not anticipated in the first place.
One of the reasons brought forward why many domestic violence incidents go unreported is that due to the close-range relationship between the abuser and the complainant, some victims do not report the abuse due to fear that the abuser will do much worse in retaliation. Therefore, some victims might opt to report only after securing alternative accommodation away from the abuser, and so having a third party to report the abuse takes away a forestall of these considerations.
There are several amendments that the Bill seeks to enact and overall, the Bill is a step in the right direction as it has sought to adapt domestic violence regulation to the changing requirements of society.
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