‘Little value attached’ to protection orders

Cape Town’s Saartjie Baartman Centre for Women and Children is all too often a “last resort” for women whose protection orders are not being followed.

That’s according to the centre’s paralegal advisor‚ Charmaine Morris‚ who said the orders are “put in place for a very real and valid reason‚ yet all too often there is little value attached” to them.

Part of the problem is that law enforcement officials are not equipped to deal with protection orders.

“They don’t know what it is‚ nor what purpose it serves‚” said Morris.

But‚ exacerbating the problem is that women often aren’t educated about their rights or empowered enough to ensure the orders are enforced.

“Women are not informed of their rights when they lodge a complaint with the police; they do not know that they may open a criminal case against the perpetrator‚ they are not provided with information on shelters and are not offered medical assistance if injured‚” Morris explained.

This‚ she added‚ often leads to victims of domestic violence feeling “their plight has fallen on deaf ears‚ with some reported incidences of abuse being ignored by the police”.

Morris was‚ however‚ careful not to make a blanket criticism of law enforcement officials‚ and said‚ “there are some remarkable people working in the police force and they are doing their best under very trying circumstances‚ we need to acknowledge those people too”.

“Unfortunately however‚ some cases fall through the cracks and that’s when lives are in danger; these cases‚ more often than not‚ end in tragedy.”

Those matters that do make it to court are often stymied by delays and postponements.

“Over and above raising concerns around safety‚ there are financial implications here too – clients need to take time off work‚ they need to secure baby sitters and cover the associated transport costs of getting to court‚” Morris said.

The Saartjie Baartman Centre‚ which is based in Manenberg on the Cape Flats‚ an area with exceptionally high incidences of domestic violence‚ deals with up to 15 new cases daily.

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