Johannesburg shelters call for the meaningful protection of safe spaces in the Victim Support Services Bill1 min read
Johannesburg – On 7 October 2020, two Johannesburg-based shelters who work to provide care, support, and a safe space for victims and survivors of gender-based violence (GBV) and their children, filed submissions to the Minister of Social Development on the Victim Support Services Bill (VSS Bill).
The object of the VSS Bill is to provide a framework within which victim support services must be provided to victims of violent crime. The Bill seeks to prevent secondary victimisation of people by providing protection, response, care and support and re-integration programmes. It further seeks to protect the rights of victims and direct that all service providers dealing with a victim treat such victim with dignity and respect.
While both shelters appreciate the need for oversight, standards and safeguards, they expressed concerned that the Bill creates an overly administrative burden which lacks certainty. The effects will be most adversely felt by strained, often under-funded victim and survivor support facilities, which are likely not to have the resources and/or ability to fulfil the onerous criteria for registration.
In these circumstances, their primary concern is that the VSS Bill will have the unintended consequence of placing affected persons in more vulnerable positions, thereby undermining the above-mentioned laudable objectives of the VSS Bill. Additionally, the shelters noted concerns that the VSS Bill does not appropriately capture the cooperative nature of the process of victims and survivor support. It was submitted that the Bill focuses on regulation, compliance and punishment, rather than co-operation, capacity building and training.
Beyond these overarching considerations, the shelters made several submissions on specific provisions of the Bill, including (i) various definitional components of the Bill; (ii) the provisions relating to registration of victim and survivor support facilities, (iii) the misguided inclusion of a criminal penalty for non-compliance with the part of the Bill; and (iv) the provisions relating to the monitoring of the facilities.
Ultimately, the shelters called on the Minister to extend certain definitions, and recraft certain provisions of the VSS Bill in order to ensure that the Bill reflects a more nuanced understanding of the varying types of support, and support facilities particularly for those who are victims and survivors of GBV. The submission list several recommendations that seek to support the Minister in her further consideration of the VSS Bill.
Through these submissions the shelters sought to highlight various practical considerations that may impact the ability of shelters, such as theirs, to provide safe spaces that facilitate meaningful empowerment and reintegration for those who have experienced some of the most awful affronts to their dignity.
The submissions were prepared with the assistance of Power Singh Inc.
Attorney, Power Singh Inc.
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