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Tag Archive: Cape Town Lawyer

Tackling gender-based violence – the “second pandemic”

President Ramaphosa extends Alert Level 3 and announces new measures to combat “second pandemic” of GBV and femicide

The President’s speech on 11 January, coming just two weeks after he announced a return to Alert Level 3, albeit “adjusted”, harboured few surprises. Some might have hoped for an end to the alcohol ban, but it was highly unlikely. While there is no correlation between consumption of alcohol and transmission of COVID-19 (other than perhaps disinhibition leading to failure to keep one’s distance from others), the point behind the ban is to reduce instances of alcohol-related trauma filling up hospitals. And it has done this. Our public health system is fragile at the best of times. It is under tremendous strain from COVID-19 and the current wave of infections. If we can remove one source of pressure on our hospitals and health care workers it may mean lives are saved. So while we may grumble about the curfew and the booze ban, they are there for a reason. 

Other restrictions of the adjusted Alert Level 3

The evening curfew was unchanged at 21.00, but brought forward in the morning to end at 05.00, presumably to facilitate commuters as the nation returns to work after the festive season. Other measures introduced include land border closures, to stem the waves of people returning to South Africa after visiting relations in neighbouring countries over the holidays. The congestion at border crossings is a concern in terms of spreading the virus. Land ports of entry will be closed until 15 February. However, the following may return home: 

  • South African nationals
  • Permanent residents
  • Persons with a long-term residence visa
  • Spouses with a visa 
  • Children with visas
  • Persons with a work visa
  • Holders of a business visa

There are other exceptions able to cross the border, too numerous to list here. For full details see the Disaster Management Act Amendment of Regulations.

Gender-based violence – the “second pandemic”

At SD Law we’ve campaigned actively against gender-based violence, including coercive control and emotional abuse. The rate of rape, femicide and domestic violence in South Africa is shameful. Therefore, we welcome measures announced by the President to curb this “second pandemic”.

Civil society has long been working tirelessly to combat gender-based violence, but it’s clear that more needs to be done and a concerted effort by Government is necessary. Taxi drivers and taxi marshals are to be sensitised on gender awareness, gender norms, toxic masculinity and GBV, with the aim of changing behaviour. Faith-based organisations are working together to sensitise religious leaders on patriarchy and GBV. This is essential as our institutions are the guardians and perpetrators of patriarchal and misogynistic norms, reinforcing discriminatory and oppressive treatment of women and girls. Men feel validated in their gender primacy when it is upheld and even encouraged by church and community leaders. These leaders are to be trained to accompany survivors of GBV, from reporting the crime to linkage to care and through the court process.

We would argue that more needs to done in schools, sports clubs, and other places where boys and young men convene. Toxic masculinity begins in boyhood. We must tackle adult male behaviour but we mustn’t wait for the current generation of boys to grow up before we engage with them. We also need to socialise girls to not accept, tolerate or expect certain types of behaviours from boys and men. However, we welcome these initiatives and encourage our government to go further still.

Women’s economic empowerment is to be prioritised, including training for business women so they can access public procurement opportunities. Finally, South Africa is ratifying the International Labour Organisation’s (ILO) Convention 190, which sets out a global standard for the protection of women at work.

Shining a spotlight on inequality

South Africa is a nation of huge inequality. This is not news. But here and around the world, COVID-19 has highlighted just how extreme systemic socio-economic inequalities are. From access to health care to green spaces to the digital divide to employment, poor, disadvantaged and vulnerable people have fared much worse in the pandemic. Women and migrants are among the worst affected.

As we see the glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel, in the form of the vaccination programme, our wish for South Africa is that we emerge from this pandemic with greater awareness of the glaring inequality that divides our country, and a renewed commitment to building a fairer, more equitable society for all. President Ramaphosa asked us to act with a common purpose to defeat the virus and rebuild our lives and our nation. However, we believe that recovery means more than this. We have an opportunity to “build back better”. We must seize it.

If you’ve been affected by GBV or any of the issues in this article

SD Law is a Cape Town law firm with deep experience of helping women escape abusive men and find peace in a new life. We will connect you to relevant support services and make sure you and your children are safe. At SD Law, we understand how deeply distressing gender-based violence can be, and we will handle your case with discretion, empathy and compassion. Contact Simon on 086 099 5146 or email sdippenaar@sdlaw.co.za for a confidential discussion. 

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Nicole Kidman vows to speak out against abuse after Big Little Lies role

Actor says playing role of abused wife gave her new insight and hardened her stance on the issue

This is a shocking statistic: “…for every three months that lockdowns continue, an additional 15 million women around the world are expected to be affected by violence”. Nicole Kidman speaks out against gender-based violence after playing an abused wife.

Reprinted from the Guardian, by Alexandra Topping – 2020-12-22

Nicole Kidman plays an abused wife in Big Little Lies

Nicole Kidman in Big Little Lies. ‘I felt very exposed and vulnerable and deeply humiliated at times as I told her story.’ Photograph: AP

Nicole Kidman has spoken about how playing the role of an abused wife in the hit TV show Big Little Lies gave her an insight into the plight of those suffering domestic abuse and hardened her resolve to use her voice to raise awareness.

Writing exclusively for the Guardian in her role as UN Women Goodwill Ambassador, she said playing the role of Celeste, a lawyer who is emotionally and physically abused by her husband, strengthened her stance on the issue.

“I felt very exposed and vulnerable and deeply humiliated as I told her story – even though playing that character is nothing compared to what women in abusive relationships actually face every single day,” she wrote.

“But then I would recall the stories of strength and resilience of the survivors and activists I had met, and that pushed me to lend my voice to those who do not have a platform to share their own.”

The actor called on individuals to take personal responsibility for helping victims of the “shadow pandemic” of domestic abuse, reaching out to friends they may be concerned about. She encouraged people to use their own social media channels to spread awareness of “the women and girls who […] have to shelter at home to stay safe from Covid-19, when home itself is not a safe place,” adding that for every three months that lockdowns continue, an additional 15 million women around the world are expected to be affected by violence.

“Your voice counts,” she wrote. “Learn about abuse and the ways you can help through the services and resources available. Reach out if you are concerned about a friend who may be experiencing violence or feels unsafe. Use your social media channels or community spaces to raise awareness. .”

One in five offences – more than a quarter of a million – recorded by police during and immediately after the first national lockdown in England and Wales involved domestic abuse, according to the Office for National Statistics.

Kidman noted there had been a rise in all types of violence against women and girls including street harassment, cyberbullying, and an uptick in forced marriage as increased financial burdens lead families to remove girls from school.

“Violence against women and girls was already widespread before the pandemic.,” she wrote. “Whether it will outlive it, or not, it’s on us all.”

If you have been affected by these issues

SD Law is a Cape Town law firm of family lawyers deeply committed to the fight against gender-based / domestic violence. If you are affected by these issues, either directly or indirectly, contact Simon on 086 099 5146 or email sdippenaar@sdlaw.co.za today. We offer online consultations. We’ll call you back, to schedule a meeting at a time that suits you, on the platform of your choosing.

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Supreme Court of Appeal officially recognises Muslim marriages

Reprinted from iol.com, by Norman Cloete – 2020-12-19

Muslim marriages officially recognised
Picture Noor Slamdien/African News Agency

In what has been hailed a landmark victory for the recognition of Muslim marriages, the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) ruled that the Marriage Act 25 of 1961 and the Divorce Act 70 of 1979, are inconsistent with the Constitution.

The SCA has given the president and the Cabinet, together with Parliament to remedy the “defects” by either amending existing legislation, or passing new legislation within 24 months, in order to ensure the recognition of Muslim marriages as valid marriages.

It was declared that Section 6 of the Divorce Act is also inconsistent with with the same sub-sections of the Constitution and that it fails to provide for mechanisms to protect the rights of minor or dependent children of Muslim marriages.

The court found that under the old marriage and divorce acts, children of a Muslim marriage are particularly prejudiced at the time of dissolution of the Muslim marriage.

The SCA ruled, children from Muslim marriages should be afforded the same rights and protection as children from other marriages.

In its judgement, the highest court in the land said: “It is declared that section 7(3) of the Divorce Act is inconsistent with sub-sections 9, 10, and 34 of the Constitution insofar as it fails to provide for the redistribution of assets, on the dissolution of a Muslim marriage, when such redistribution would be just. It is declared that section 9(1) of the Divorce Act is inconsistent with sub-sections 9, 10 and 34 of the Constitution insofar as it fails to make provision for the forfeiture of the patrimonial benefits of a Muslim marriage at the time of its dissolution in the same or similar terms as it does in respect of other marriages”.

The common law definition of marriage was also declared to be inconsistent with the Constitution and invalid to the extent that it excludes Muslim marriages. When the new laws come into effect, it will declare that a union, validly concluded as a marriage in terms of sharia law can also be dissolved under that same law.

Under the new law, Muslim marriages shall be treated as if they are out of community of property, except where there are agreements to the contrary, and all the provisions of the Divorce Act will apply.

The law will also apply in the case of a husband who is a spouse in more than one Muslim marriage, depending on the agreement entered into between the spouses. The Department of Home Affairs and the Department of Justice & Constitutional Development will, when the new laws come into effect, publish a summary of the orders in newspapers and on radio stations to announce the changes.

There currently are no policies and procedures in place to determine disputes arising from the validity of Muslim marriages and the validity of divorces granted by any person or association according to the tenets of sharia law.

The appeal against the Marriage and Divorce Acts were brought by several respondents who have been advocating for the recognition of shariah marriages and include the Muslim Judicial Council, The Commission for Gender Equality, the United Ulama Council of South Africa and The Women’s Legal Centre Trust.

Some links added by SD Law

Cape Town Family Lawyers can help

SD Law is a Cape Town law firm of experienced divorce attorneys, with offices in Johannesburg and Durban. What does a family lawyer do? If you need advice about legislation on Sharia marriages or divorce, our divorce lawyers can help. Call family lawyer Simon on 086 099 5146 or email  sdippenaar@sdlaw.co.za and we will look at your case in detail and advise you on the best way forward.

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24-hour gender-based violence hotline to launch

Reprinted from capetownetc.com, by Kirsten Jacobs – 2020-11-24
South Africa is currently facing two pandemics: COVID-19 and femicide. Over the years, more and more women have become victims of gender-based violence (GBV). A new hotline hopes to help these women survive.

The National Shelter Movement of South Africa (NSMSA) will soon launch its own 24-hour toll-free shelter helpline – the first helpline dedicated only to issues of domestic and intimate partner violence. This helpline is created in the hopes of getting more women to the safety of shelters, away from their abusers.

The National Shelter Helpline for abused women and their children will go live during the 16 Days of Activism campaign, on December 2.

According to NSMSA’s Zubeda Dangor: “South Africa’s femicide rate is one of the highest in the world, and for many of these women, domestic violence was already part of the equation. In a recent speech, President Ramaphosa also highlighted that more than half of our country’s women have experienced violence at the hands of their partner. With the Shelter Helpline, we hope to play an even more significant role in helping women escape abusive domestic situations.”

NSMSA – an umbrella body representing nearly one hundred shelters for victims of abuse and their children, throughout the country – has been championing for shelters for more than a decade. A critical intervention in domestic violence, ultimately preventing more femicides, one of the NGO’s key issues continues to be the lack of funding and support, particularly from government.

“Daily, we receive calls, WhatsApp messages or are contacted through our website, Facebook and Twitter accounts by women urgently needing assistance with domestic violence issues. Up to now, this has had to work,” added Dangor.

“But now, with the support of the Ford Foundation, the National Shelter Movement is able to launch our own shelter helpline. Not only will we draw from our very specific knowledge and experience, but will also tap into our very credible network of partners, to ensure women in domestic violence situations receive the assistance they need to get to safety and begin their journey to recovery. Women in SA will now have a dedicated support team working around the clock, ready to help ensure they get to the safety of a shelter.”

Dangor says the helpline will assist with a host of issues, from getting advice about dealing with the South African Police Services (SAPS) when reporting crimes of domestic abuse to assistance with obtaining protection orders, to finding a nearby shelter.

Heading-up the project is the NSMSA’s Advocate Bernadine Bachar. She says, “Our goal is to ensure that every call from a woman in danger, must be answered. While the government has provided a GBV helpline of its own, this is not specific to domestic or intimate partner violence.

“On top of that, we have had many complaints – especially during the lockdown, when gender-based violence seemed to intensify – that many women found the service to be inefficient. They either did not get the help they needed quickly enough, or in some cases, not at all.”

The Shelter Helpline will be run by three social workers with substantial experience with shelters for abused women and a thorough understanding of the problems they face when trying to escape a domestic abuse situation.

If you have been affected by gender-based violence

SD Law is a law firm in Cape Town of family attorneys with deep experience of helping women escape abusive men and find peace and dignity in a new life. We can serve a protection order on an abusive partner and help you initiate divorce proceedings, if appropriate. We will connect you to relevant support services and make sure you and your children are safe. At Cape Town Divorce Attorneys, we understand how deeply distressing gender-based violence can be, and we will handle your case with discretion, empathy and compassion. Contact Simon on 086 099 5146 or email sdippenaar@sdlaw.co.za for a confidential discussion. We can call you back on a safe number.

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Children’s Amendment Bill

South Africa has some of the most progressive children’s legislation in the world. The Amendment Bill before Parliament strengthens protective measures for children even further and aims to close gaps in the child protection system. This article provides a summary of the additional controls being introduced. Some of the amendments concern terminology, to align the original Act with current family and child law practice, including the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. Some of the changes are more significant.

Unmarried fathers

The Bill makes further provision for the rights of unmarried fathers. Originally, an unmarried father enjoyed full parental responsibilities and rights if he was living with the mother at the time of the birth in a permanent life partnership…or… consented to be identified as the child’s father, contributed to the child’s upbringing for a reasonable period, and contributed to child maintenance expenses for a reasonable period.

Section 21, which covers unmarried fathers, has been amended to clarify that a father who is not married to the mother and who was living with her at any time between the child’s conception and birth automatically acquires full parental responsibilities and rights with regard to that child. A family advocate may issue a certificate confirming these parental responsibilities and rights.

Children in need of care and protection

Sections dealing with children in care or in need of protection have been tightened, and the interests of the child prioritised. A child who has been abandoned or orphaned and has no parent or other caregiver to care for them is considered a child “in need of care and protection”. This definition extends to “an unaccompanied migrant child from another country”, “a victim of trafficking”, or a child who “has been sold by a parent caregiver or guardian”. Furthermore, the Bill clarifies the application of the Children’s Act to all children in South Africa, including non-citizens. It extends the jurisdiction of the children’s court to include “guardianship of an orphaned or abandoned child” and an “unaccompanied or separated migrant child, or the child of an asylum seeker or refugee, as contemplated in the Refugees Act, 1998”.

The permitted duration for placing a child in temporary safe care has been amended. A child may not be placed in temporary safe care for more than 72 hours without a court order, or for more than six months at a time. If a child runs away from alternative care and is found and brought back within 48 hours, they will no longer appear before the children’s court. Instead, their social worker will assess the child and try to establish the reason for the escape. This acknowledges that some children find care homes very stressful and are not necessarily delinquent or unruly because they attempt to flee.

Child abduction

A new section has been added to the Children’s Act to expedite proceedings when a child has been abducted. This is to ensure that the interests of the child are represented and protected by eliminating delays in the judicial process. Children adapt and adjust quickly and, once adaptation to the new environment has occurred, it may not be in the child’s best interests to return home, even if the abduction was unlawful. On the day of the application for the return of a child, the Central Authority must bring the application to the attention of the judge president of the relevant division of the High Court for the appointment of a legal representative for the child.

Surrogacy

Changes to Chapter 19 of the Children’s Act, Surrogate Motherhood, are minor, but ensure that the health and age of both the commissioning parents and surrogate mother are considered by the court before the surrogacy can be confirmed.

Early childhood development 

Chapter Six of the Children’s Act deals with early childhood development, long recognised as critical in the development of a child’s cognitive, emotional, social and physical potential. The Bill amends the definition to include provision for children with disabilities. It also obliges the government to develop a comprehensive national strategy aimed at securing a properly resourced, coordinated, managed and inclusive early childhood development system. At provincial level MECs are responsible for ensuring their provincial strategies are inclusive and provide for children with disabilities and special needs. There must be a record maintained of registered early childhood development programmes in the province with specific mention of inclusive programmes. Furthermore, an MEC may prioritise funding for early childhood development programmes in rural, underserved, or poverty-declared wards, to ensure appropriate targeting of this vital service.

Adoption

Adoption is covered at length, with particular attention paid to inter-country adoption and the adoption of a child of a child.

In summary

The Bill runs to 102 clauses, many of which are “minor consequential amendments” for clarification. However, some of the amendments significantly enhance the protective environment for all children in South Africa, whether citizens or not. We welcome these changes, which are summarised below:

  • To provide for children’s right to privacy and protection of information
  • To further provide for the rights of unmarried fathers; to extend the children’s court jurisdiction
  • To further provide for funding of early childhood development programmes
  • To provide for the designation and functions for a Registrar of the National Child Protection Register
  • To further provide for the care of abandoned or orphaned children and additional matters that may be regulated
  • To further provide for rules relating to care and protection proceedings
  • To further provide for medical testing of children in need of care and protection or adoption
  • To provide for additional matters relating to children in alternative care
  • To further provide for matters relating to adoption and inter-country adoption
  • To further provide for the hearing of child abduction matters
  • To further provide for matters relating to surrogate motherhood
  • To provide for matters connected therewith

Get professional help with parenting issues

Cape Town law firm SD Law is an expert in family law. If you need help with child care and contact (custody and access) or a parenting plan, or if you have any questions about the Children’s Act and Amendment Bill, call Simon on 086 099 5146 or email sdippenaar@sdlaw.co.za. We’ve helped many families reach agreement on complex parenting issues.

Further reading:

This article first appeared on divorceattorneycapetown.co.za on 2020-11-12.

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Reeva Steenkamp was murdered. Shame on the BBC for forgetting

The issue of abusive men – reprinted from the Guardian. By Sonia Sodha – 2020-11-01

Once again, a male perpetrator of violence is painted as terribly misunderstood

Reeva Steenkamp - murdered by an abusive man

Reeva Steenkamp: shot to death through a bathroom door Photograph: Gallo Images/Getty Images

Her name was Reeva Steenkamp. She was a 29-year-old model who was the face of an anti-bullying campaign and was about to return to her old school to talk to girls about gender-based violence. She was adored by her family. But on Valentine’s Day 2013 she was murdered by her violent, controlling boyfriend. He shot her four times through the locked door of a bathroom in his home, where she was cowering, petrified.

Her future was stolen by a dangerous predator with a history of controlling and abusing women; a former girlfriend has said he used to lock her in his house with no food for hours at a time, call her parents many times a day to track her movements and physically abuse and threaten her to the extent that she feared for her life.

That is the story of Steenkamp’s horrific murder by the Paralympian Oscar Pistorius. But it seems our national broadcaster disagrees. Last week, the BBC began promoting a new four-part documentary series, The Trials of Oscar Pistorius. It launched a trailer that did not mention Steenkamp’s name, but instead featured Pistorius’s “remarkable” sporting achievements, praise from Nelson Mandela and his lie that “he didn’t do it”.

Accompanying this was a sickening BBC press release that boasted of a series telling the “extraordinary story” of “an international hero who inspired millions” until “he suddenly found himself at the centre of a murder investigation”. “According to Pistorius, the event was a tragic accident, but his troubled past and questionable testimony cast doubt on his innocence,” the BBC tells us. Amid the gushing, his murder conviction is not mentioned once. You could read it and think he got off.

Although the BBC has since removed the trailer, a slightly amended version of the offending press release remains on its website. But what on earth did it think it was doing buying a series directed by a man who says “he’s still flip-flopping” on Pistorius’s innocence and who reserves more criticism for the press for daring to report his history of domestic abuse than he does for the murderer himself?

This is nothing less than the BBC allowing itself to be used as the propaganda outfit of a convicted murderer. Staff are furious; sources tell me that more than 100 journalists have complained to management about the way in which the promotional material minimises violence against women.

Abusive men - Oscar Pistorius in court in Pretoria

Oscar Pistorius in court in Pretoria, South Africa in 2016. Photograph: KIM LUDBROOK / POOL/EPA

This is a dangerous mistake by the BBC that compounds the dominant narrative about men who murder their partners. So often, the stories that get told are of upstanding citizens, loving fathers and respected colleagues who, having been provoked, lose control and lash out in a moment of madness. The tragedy is theirs, not of the women they kill, who are so often cast as the spurned lover or unfaithful temptress.

The truth could not be more different. Professor Jane Monckton Smith, an expert on intimate partner homicide, reviewed 372 cases where men killed their partners. She found almost all these killings shared an eight-stage pattern that began with a pre-relationship history of stalking or abuse, which evolved into a relationship dominated by coercive control and an escalation in control tactics such as stalking or threatening suicide.

Popular culture can play an important role in helping us understand these patterns. One of the most powerful accounts of coercive control I’ve seen was the Channel 4 drama I Am Nicola, starring Vicky McClure. BBC Three recently launched a documentary aimed at young people, Is This Coercive Control? But this positive work is more than undone by broadcasters who see no issue in glamorising the murder of women if they see it as ratings-friendly.

Societal minimisation of “domestic” killings matters. First, it feeds into the justice system via the police, prosecutors, juries and judges. Take the killing of Claire Parry, 41, a highly qualified nurse who worked overtime during the pandemic, and a devoted mother to two children. In his sentencing remarks, Mr Justice Jacobs said he was sure that her killer, Timothy Brehmer, 41, deliberately took Parry by the neck in a way that caused severe injuries, then, after leaving her hanging out of her car unconscious, “did nothing to try to help”, pretending he did not realise she was in distress.

Brehmer, a police officer, was described at his trial by a former intimate partner and fellow police officer as exerting “coercive and controlling behaviour over women”. Yet the jury acquitted him of murder. He was jailed for 10 years after admitting manslaughter.

This case is the latest in a long line where male killers have succeeded in having murder charges reduced to manslaughter by arguing that they did not mean to cause serious harm or that they lost control after being provoked. The irony is, of course, that for abusive men, killing their partner is the ultimate assertion of control.

Second, the BBC narrative obscures the real story of these men: the warning signals, the real danger these women were in. Not all domestic abusers will become killers, but Monckton Smith’s research shows that the vast majority of men who kill their partners are abusers.

Two women a week are killed by their partners in England and Wales. Their lives could be saved if they, their loved ones and the police were more aware that coercive control does not just constitute psychological abuse at that time, but could be a red flag for what might happen. Yet the popular narrative perpetuates the idea that these murders are surprising and unpredictable, so there is little we can do to proactively keep women safe from dangerous predators.

Shame on the BBC for glorifying a convicted murderer who shot his girlfriend to death. Shame on it for putting her mother through the torture of watching a trailer about her murder that did not even bother to name her. Say her name. Tell her story. Women’s lives depend on it.

Some links added by SD Law.

If you have been affected by coercive control

SD Law is a law firm in Cape Town of family attorneys with deep experience of helping women escape abusive men and find peace and dignity in a new life. We can serve a protection order on a controlling partner and help you initiate divorce proceedings, if appropriate. We will connect you to relevant support services and make sure you and your children are safe. At Cape Town Divorce Attorneys, we understand how deeply distressing coercive control can be, and we will handle your case with discretion, empathy and compassion. Contact Simon on 086 099 5146 or email sdippenaar@sdlaw.co.za for a confidential discussion. We can call you back on a safe number.

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Rape prosecutors in England and Wales given new advice over dating apps

Nude selfies and use of such apps should not be taken as ‘blanket consent’, says CPS

Reprinted from the Guardian, by Caelainn Barr – 2020-10-19

Dating apps like Tinder have come out on top of conventional dating websites like Match.com, at least among those under 35. As users exchange intimate photos and messages before even meeting, what does this mean for the concept of consent? In England and Wales, the Crown Prosecution Service has made it clear that exchanging nude selfies does NOT equate to sexual consent, as this article from the Guardian explains.

nude selfies are not consent
The updated legal guidance for rape and sexual assault cases comes into effect on 1 November. Photograph: Eva Hambach/AFP/Getty Images

Prosecutors are to receive new guidance on common myths and stereotypes in rape and sexual assault cases, in an attempt to turn the tide on plummeting rape prosecutions in England and Wales.

Revamped advice from the Crown Prosecution Service will cover the use of dating apps and sending explicit photos, as well as the impact of trauma and striking the balance between privacy and a thorough investigation.

Prosecutors are to be told meeting people on hook-up sites and sending explicit photos should not be taken as “blanket consent” for sex, while details about how trauma can impact victims’ memories are to be addressed in greater detail

The guidance for prosecutors, which comes into effect on 1 November and is subject to a three-month consultation, contains updates on 39 rape myths and stereotypes including false statements such as “If you send sexual images or messages prior to meeting someone, then having sex is inevitable”, and “If you meet men online or through hook-up apps you want sex and should be ready to offer sex”.

Rape convictions in England and Wales have fallen to a record low. Prosecutions and convictions more than halved in the three years to 2019-20 despite an increase in reported rapes. Last year there were 1,439 convictions, although more than 55,000 rapes were recorded by police in England and Wales.

The guidance is an attempt to address conviction rates among 18- to 24-year-olds, which are among the lowest of any age group. In 2018 the Guardian revealed men aged 18-24 were consistently less likely to be found guilty than older men on trial.

Updated guidance to prosecutors
Updated guidance to prosecutors (left) is identical to that from the merits-based approach (right). Photograph: The Guardian

The guidance issued also reinstates elements of guidance outlining the “merits-based approach”, which were previously removed. The merits-based approach (MBA) means a prosecutor should treat evidence as if it will be heard by an unprejudiced jury, rather than the “bookmaker’s approach” where a prosecutor tries to second-guess a jury.

Women’s organisations have accused the CPS of quietly moving from a merits-based approach to a bookmaker’s approach, meaning they were less likely to bring a prosecution if they thought a jury could be prejudiced against a victim.

Updated guidance to prosecutors
The guidance contains updates on 39 rape myths and stereotypes. Photograph: The Guardian

A CPS spokesperson said: “Our approach to prosecuting rape has not changed. Our legal test for prosecution – the full code test – has never included a specific reference to a merits-based assessment because it is already an integral part of the evidential stage.”

Harriet Wistrich, director of the Centre for Women’s Justice said: “We welcome the introduction of new guidance which we hope will improve decision-making by police and prosecutors and begin to reverse the recent dramatic decline in the volume of prosecutions. We believe the decline was largely caused as a result of a retreat by the CPS from a robust approach informed by the ‘merits-based approach’ to decision-making.

“However, the guidance must be properly implemented, we have seen far too many decisions recently infected by the CPS risk-averse approach and a failure to follow existing guidance on rape myths and stereotypes, with the consequence that many victims have been denied justice and perpetrators have been left free to attack again.”

Earlier this year two charities, End Violence Against Women and the Centre for Women’s Justice, were granted a judicial review of how rape cases were being prosecuted by the CPS.

At issue is whether there has been a change in how the CPS prosecutes rape. The Guardian revealed the details of a training roadshow which took place in 2017, where prosecutors were advised that prosecution rates could be improved by taking the “weak cases out of the system”.

Siobhan Blake, rape lead at the CPS, said: “We share the public’s concern about the disparity between the number of rape and serious sexual offences reported and those cases getting to court, and are determined to make significant changes to improve that for survivors of these appalling crimes.

“Clear, up to date guidance is crucial to help our specialist prosecutors make fair and effective decisions and make sure that justice is delivered in every case for victims and alleged perpetrators.”

If you have been affected…

If you have been affected by any of the issues in this article, family attorneys SD Law have deep experience of helping women who experience abuse. If you have suffered sexual assault, and have been too scared to bring charges, we will support you through the process and help keep you safe. If you experience intimate partner violence, we can serve a protection order on your partner and  help you initiate divorce proceedings, if appropriate. We will connect you to relevant support services. Contact Simon on 086 099 5146 or email simon@sdlaw.co.za for a confidential discussion. We can call you back on a safe number.

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COVID-19 In South Africa: Socio-Economic Impact Assessment

We have covered the COVID-19 pandemic, as it relates to South Africa and the issues that concern South Africans, since the lockdown was first announced on March 27th. We have reported on gender-based violence, the alcohol ban, evictions, and the overall impact on economic prosperity. This report from UNDP on the socio-economic impact of COVID-19 provides a high-level analysis of what we can expect, as we slowly recover.

Reprinted from reliefweb.int, prepared by the United Nations Development Programme – 2020-08-24

socio-economic impact of covid-19 on south africaSouth Africa is the country with the fifth-highest number of cases COVID-19 in the world, and the highest number of cases on the African continent. © UNDP Africa/ Morris Moma

South Africa’s GDP will take at least five years to recover from COVID-19 impact, says UNDP study

Pretoria, 24 August 2020 – South Africa’s overall GDP is expected to decline by at least 5.1 and up to 7.9 percent in 2020 and recover slowly through 2024. This will lead to major setbacks in addressing poverty, unemployment and inequality, according to a new UNDP study on the socio-economic impact of COVID-19 in South Africa.

The study focuses on how COVID-19 will drive temporary and long-term changes in poverty levels in South Africa. The number of households below the poverty line increases as households fall from the lower middle class. Fifty-four percent of households that have been pushed out of permanent jobs to informal or temporary contracts as a coping mechanism for businesses affected by COVID-19, are likely to fall into poverty after the 6-months stimulus package is over. Thirty-four percent of households are likely to exit the middle class into vulnerability.

“Inequalities within and among nations are being exposed and exacerbated by COVID-19, as the poor and vulnerable are unable to protect themselves,” said UN Resident Coordinator Nardos Bekele-Tomas. “While Government social protection grants tend to target the poorest, this study posits that care and support needs to be provided to those at the borderline of the poverty line, such as the vulnerable middle class, to reduce their likelihood of slipping into poverty.”

Populations hit especially hard are already-impoverished female-headed households, persons with only primary education, persons without social assistance, black populations, and heads of households who have been pushed from permanent to informal employment.

The launch of “The Socio-Economic Impact Assessment of COVID-19 in South Africa” report brought together representatives from government, civil society, private sector and academia. South Africa’s Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Dr Dlamini-Zuma urged that the study should find its way into every district and municipality. She called for a skills revolution complemented by the adoption of a technology strategy and the delivery of a district developing model by promoting gender-responsive budgeting.

The personal testimony of Khumbulile Thabethe, a single parent with three children, was a stark reminder of how the virus impact hits hardest on the most vulnerable ones. “I’ve had to prioritize food over winter clothing for my three kids. Lockdown started in the warmer months and as we moved to the colder months, I could not cope,” she told the audience.

South Africa is the country with the fifth-highest number of cases COVID-19 in the world, and the highest number of cases on the African continent. The study further observes that economic sectors most disadvantaged by the COVID-19 outbreak include textiles, education services, catering and accommodations (including tourism), beverages, tobacco, glass products, and footwear. Small and medium enterprises are most negatively impacted.

Further reading:

Life: Working, pivoting and surviving under lockdown in SA

‘Calamitous’: domestic violence set to soar by 20% during global lockdown

Lockdown is hard on everyone

Women’s Day in a time of COVID-19

Ignoring effects of Covid-19 on women could cost $5tn, warns Melinda Gates

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Narcissistic abuse and how to deal with it – VIDEO

You may have heard of narcissistic abuse, but do you know how to identify it and deal with it? Hi, I’m Simon Dippenaar, and I’m a family lawyer who has dealt with this issue extensively. If you think you might be a victim of narcissistic abuse, here’s what you need to know.

Identifying narcissistic behaviour and its more extreme form, narcissistic personality disorder, can be difficult, especially because narcissists typically focus their attention on destroying your self-esteem. This often causes you to question whether your feelings and reactions are valid, and can even leave you doubting your sanity. But make no mistake, narcissistic personality disorder is real, and the repercussions of being on its receiving end can be severe.

A narcissist is often very charming and likeable at first. They know how to make you feel special. However, this initial impression often belies the fact that they are driven by self-interest, power and control. Their primary focus is themselves, and this makes itself apparent in their profound arrogance and their inability to empathise. 

Narcissists will do anything they can to avoid engaging with their own painful emotions. And this avoidance manifests in a number of different ways, including verbal abuse, manipulation and gaslighting, lying, withholding love and affection, constantly exercising control and love bombing.

Shaming, bullying, belittling, threatening and criticising those around them are regular tactics of narcissists. They tend to shift blame quickly, and are likely to make you feel embarrassed or afraid in an effort to protect themselves. Narcissists desperately crave external validation and admiration and will do whatever they can to avoid feeling bad about themselves.

They also make you doubt yourself and invalidate your experiences. This can cause you to feel disconnected from your own intuition, and bound by feelings of fear, responsibility and guilt. Narcissists are also likely to lie. These are not benign white lies. Instead, they’re serious, pathological lies that narcissists hide behind in order to maintain a firm grip over the power in their relationships.

Withholding love and affection, as well as money, sex and communication, further helps narcissists exercise control. This can make you feel neglected, which is especially problematic for children of narcissistic parents. It’s possible that neglected children will grow up to become narcissists themselves, since they’ve been taught from a young age that one’s individual needs are all that matter. Control is further exercised in the narcissist’s influence on what those around them wear and eat, who they interact with and what kind of work they do.

Of course, a relationship with a narcissist isn’t always difficult. Narcissists want people to adore them, and so there are often periods of happiness that are driven by large, over-the-top gestures called “love bombing”. This helps narcissists keep their partners coming back, but at some point the narcissist will always return to abusive behaviour.

If this sounds familiar, and you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship with a narcissist, help is available. Psychologists are equipped to deal with the mental and emotional ramifications of this sort of abuse and can help you to disentangle yourself from your narcissistic relationship. If you decide to step away entirely, which is usually the best approach, our team of divorce and family law experts are here to lend a hand. For a confidential appointment, please call me on +27 (0) 86 099 5146 and we can help you start afresh.

Further reading:

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Women’s Day in a time of COVID-19

What has COVID-19 shown us about women and leadership?

Women's Day in a time of COVID-19

Women’s Day in South Africa commemorates, as everyone knows, the historic march on the Union Buildings in 1956 by 20,000 women in protest against the discriminatory pass laws of the day. The march, which was entirely peaceful and included half an hour of standing in complete silence, was a compelling act of dissent against white male-dominated oppression. Women’s Day is meant to celebrate the power of this act and the influence this gesture had on the political climate of the day.

Yet, 64 years later, the narrative around Women’s Day has degenerated to a mealy-mouthed salute to the feminine aesthetic and a reinforcement of stereotypical female roles. Listening to a radio presenter going on about his wife this morning, and how wonderful she makes his life, I couldn’t help but wonder what her life is like, forever having to bolster his ego. Online Women’s Day messages are cringe-worthy: “Spring and women have much in common. They both are about flowering, revival, inspiration and beauty. Wish you to stay young, fresh and feminine 24/7. Happy Women’s Day!” “Dear and beloved women! I wish that this wonderful holiday reminds you of the joy of motherhood and of happiness in marriage. It’s Women’s Day today so let yourself enjoy being women in full!”

This portrayal of women is far removed from the force, eloquence and leadership demonstrated by those women in Pretoria in 1956, which got me to thinking about leadership, COVID-19, and the best examples of command and authority we’ve seen globally over the past few months. I don’t think I’ll upset anyone by saying Donald Trump doesn’t make the cut – not by a long shot. But which country has led the world in taking swift, decisive action to control the pandemic at an early stage? New Zealand, led by Jacinda Ardern.

Not all great leaders are women, but bad leaders tend to be men

Of course not all countries that have managed the crisis responsibly are led by women. That would be statistically unlikely as there are far fewer female than male leaders in the world today. And not all men are bad leaders. It would be just as sexist to say that as to claim that “all women are bad drivers”.

But it is notable that the worst cases of incompetent leadership involve men…Donald Trump, Boris Johnson, Jair Bolsanaro; and some of the best-handled countries are led by women…New Zealand, Germany, Scotland (in the case of COVID-19, the four countries of the UK are governed by their devolved governments, so Boris Johnson is only responsible for England. Scotland’s First Minister is Nicola Sturgeon, and there is strong consensus that Scotland has weathered the pandemic far better than England).

How to make it in a man’s world

If we look back to some of the pioneering women leaders of nations, such as Golda Meir, Margaret Thatcher, Indira Gandhi, Queen Elizabeth I, they were admired (if not liked) for being tough. They were “like men”. That was the only way for a woman to gain any purchase in a male-dominated political environment. Modern women in power are more likely to succeed by channelling their soft skills – their so-called feminine side. Many of the behaviours that make exceptional leaders are more typical of women than men. However, dominant male behaviours are more effective at getting people into leadership positions in the first place. According to Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic and Cindy Gallop, writing in the Harvard Business Review, “…gender differences in leadership effectiveness (what it takes to perform well) are out of sync with gender differences in leadership emergence (what it takes to make it to the top).” They say there are a number of leadership lessons men can learn from the average woman. Note…not just from Jacinda Ardern and Nicola Sturgeon, but from the average woman.

(Don’t) take it to the limit

Women (and I know this is a broad generalisation, but evidence bears it out) know their limitations. This does not mean women lack self-belief; rather it means they avoid the trap of over-confidence. Chamorro-Premuzic and Gallop say, “The only reason to be utterly devoid of self-doubt and insecurities is delusion.” Now who does that sound like? Women are better at putting the team ahead of themselves. Men’s leadership style is often narcissistic and self-centred. Women are more empathetic, and make a stronger emotional connection with their followers. Is this why New Zealanders were willing to endure a very hard lockdown (almost as hard as ours!) when the virus had barely touched their shores – Ardern had connected with them emotionally? Quite probably. Many of our friends in Scotland talked about “Nicola doing a good job”. Did anyone in England refer to “Boris”? Probably not, or not affectionately anyhow.

Female leaders are more likely to be humble than their male counterparts, as humility is intrinsically a feminine trait. Humility enables leaders to acknowledge mistakes, learn from experience, take others’ views into account, and be willing to change. It’s hard to avoid mention of Trump again. I can’t imagine him ever doing any of this.

Be a part of the generation that ends gender inequality

The theme for Women’s Month 2020 is “Generation Equality: Realising Women’s Rights for an Equal Future.” As she announced it, Minister for Women, Youth, and Persons with Disabilities, Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, called on South Africans to “Be a part of the generation that ends gender inequality”. That’s a big ask, not because it’s unachievable, but because it is vague. “Play your part in ending gender-based violence” is clear. It’s easy to identify actions that will reduce GBV. Ending gender inequality is harder, because inequality happens not only at a structural level but at an attitudinal one.

Men, learn from women

No one wanted COVID-19, and no one would wish it on the world again. But there are many lessons that can be learned from this pandemic and the way the world’s leaders have responded. One of them is the value of gender equality in leadership. When the history books are written about 2020, there will be very clear winners and losers in the COVID-19 stakes. And most of the winners have women leaders. Men need to learn different leadership approaches from women, rather than women being instructed to learn leadership tactics from men.

True gender equality will only come about when we dispose of stereotypes and acknowledge gender differences for what they can teach us. So-called soft skills, most commonly associated with women, might be the only thing that allows this world to survive.

Men and women are not identical – but they are equal. Happy Women’s Day everyone.

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