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Acting Against Domestic Violence (From Justice Gained? Crime and Crime Control in South Africa's Transition, P 140-162, 2004, Bill Dixon and Elrena Van Der Spuy, eds. -- See NCJ-206437)

NCJ Number
Dee Smythe; Penny Parenzee
Date Published
23 pages
This chapter considers the background and passage of domestic-violence legislation in South Africa over the past decade, along with the barriers that have inhibited its effective implementation.
The discussion is based largely on research conducted by the Consortium on Violence Against Women, which examined the implementation of South Africa's Domestic Violence Act over the last 3 years. Focusing on the criminal justice system during 2000, researchers collected data from over 660 applications for protection orders within 3 magisterial districts; interviews were conducted with approximately 60 criminal justice personnel. These data were complemented by observational analysis of court procedure. During 2001, the authors conducted an additional exploratory study that examined the constraints faced by farming communities in accessing the criminal justice system and using the provisions of the Domestic Violence Act. Alternative intervention strategies currently available for dealing with domestic violence were also explored by the authors. Overall, the research into the implementation of the act shows the structural dependency of marginalized women on the men in their lives, as well as the concomitant and potentially exorbitant cost to women of using the Domestic Violence Act. In South Africa, where the majority of women are poor and vulnerable, priority must be given to the provision of immediate support to battered women and their children in the form of accessible temporary accommodation, adequate and easily available welfare grants, and interim schooling. This must be accompanied by the broader imperative to improve women's relative social, economic, and political status. This requires, at the very least, improved access to housing and to forms of employment that develop women's skills and pay a living wage. As currently implemented, the Domestic Violence Act is only a symbolic commitment to protect women from domestic violence. The challenge remains to address those barriers that obstruct the effective implementation of measures and resources that will facilitate women being able to leave abusive intimate relationships. 49 references and 39 notes