Domestic abuse guidelines for courts

Kamogelo Seekoei

Kamogelo Seekoei

Domestic violence is the most common and pervasive human rights abuse in South Africa.

This was heard during the launch of domestic violence guidelines for magistrates in Midrand last week.

Domestic abuse violates some of the most fundamental rights such as the rights to freedom, life, dignity and personal security.

Because of this, magistrates decided to compile guidelines to help them deal with domestic violence in the courts.

The guidelines will make it possible for magistrates around the country to uniformly deal with domestic violence, whether physical, psychological or economic.

"The main aim of the guidelines is to ensure uniform implementation of the law," said Renuka Subban, chief magistrate in Verulam, and member of the lower court management committee. She said the guidelines were not there to alter the law but to make magistrates aware of the real issues.

"Even if someone wants a protection order during the night, all of us should know that we must be available to issue it," Subban said.

The guidelines stipulate that magistrates should deal with applications for protection orders with necessary briskness.

The document says magistrates should also consider how potentially lethal domestic violence can be. It also gives direction on how to deal with bail applications and hearing issues.

Minister of Justice and Constitutional Development, Bridget Mabandla, unveiled a plaque that read: "We the magistracy commit to uphold the guiding principles developed in the guidelines on domestic violence."

Chief magistrates, regional court presidents and cluster heads read the pledge and recommitted themselves to serving the public with honour.