Picture: Jacques Nelles

On 24 May 2024, President Cyril Ramaphosa signed into law the National Council on Gender-Based Violence and Femicide Bill (the GBVF Bill). The establishment of the National Council was one of the resolutions of the first Presidential Summit on Gender Based Violence and Femicide convened in 2018.

The GBVF Bill recognises gender- based violence and femicide (GBVF) as a serious social evil that affects the most vulnerable members of society. The Bill gives effect to Chapter 1 and 2 of the Constitution, which uphold human dignity, equality, life, security of persons and freedom and the advancement of human rights.

The purpose of the Bill is to provide a legislative framework for the establishment of the GBVF Council, which will act through its Board. The Board is responsible for providing strategic leadership on the elimination of GBVF in South Africa. The Board is also responsible for coordinating a multi-sectoral and inter- sectoral approach towards the implementation of the national strategy that addresses GBVF at a national, provincial and local level. Importantly, the implementation of the Bill will provide for reporting mechanisms to facilitate the effective performance monitoring, evaluation and corrective action in the prevention of, and response to, GBVF in South Africa. Essentially this means that the approach to fighting the scourge of GBVF will be more focused and coordinated.

The Board will consist of no more than 15 members, comprising seven representatives from civil society and the private sector and one representative from each of the following organs of state:

  • Department of Women, Youth and Persons with Disabilities;
  • Department of Justice and Constitutional Development;
  • Department of Social Development;
  • Department of Health;
  • Department of Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs;
  • Department of Basic Education;
  • The South African Police Service; and
  • The National Prosecuting Authority.

The members from civil society and the private sector must be appointed by the President. The appointment must be from a list of people recommended by the National Assembly by way of resolution with a supporting vote of a majority of the members of the Assembly.

The Board is required to develop an action plan within six months after its establishment for the implementation of the national strategy on GBVF. It is also required to coordinate measures for education and training concerning the prevention and combatting of GBVF, to establish partnerships with relevant stakeholders, and facilitate the prioritisation of anti-GBVF programmes.

The Board is required to report to the Minister of Women, Youth and Persons with disabilities at least four times a year on its activities, the performance of its functions and the achievement of its objectives. The Minister must table this report in Parliament as required. It is important to note that the Board is required to review its action plan every five years.

The enactment of the Bill is a long awaited and a very important step towards eliminating and combatting GBVF in South Africa. The rates of GBVF are unacceptably high and South Africa is in serious need of a structured mechanism to address this scourge. The enactment of this Bill is welcome and we are hopeful that it will have a positive impact on society.

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