The object of the Bill is to provide a framework within which victim support services may be provided to victims of violent crime. It seeks to protect the rights of victims and direct that all service providers dealing with a victim treat such victim with dignity and respect regardless of their citizenship, race, gender, culture, religious and personal circumstances.
The Bill further seeks to ensure that a victim is assisted to access victim support service programmes and services from the Department and relevant service providers. It clarifies the roles and responsibilities of different service providers in the provision of victim empowerment services; mitigate secondary victimisation; make provisions for the relevant institutional arrangements.
It also provides for intersectoral programmes or support services that seeks to promote integrated service delivery for victim empowerment programme; for the registration of a facility; for accreditation of any programmes; for vetting of staff members; and minimum standards for the strengthening of security at service providers’ premises. It provides for the procedure for the registration, the period of validity of such registration and the renewal thereof. It also caters for suspension of registration and voluntary deregistration.
IN THE MEDIA
The VSS Bill is part of a critical legislative framework by Government in its endeavour to combat the scourge of crime, in particular gender-based and violent crimes. It, therefore, seeks to put the victim at the centre of the criminal justice system in order to ensure that the rights applicable to the perpetrator are also the rights entitled to the victim.
Currently the criminal justice system focuses more on the rights of an arrested person or accused person in line with section 35 of the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, whilst limited emphasis is placed on the rights of the victims. It also seeks to begin to bring to the attention of the courts the meaning of section 9 of the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, 1996 which provides that “everyone is equal before the law and has the right to equal protection and benefit of the law.” Victims of gender-based violence, therefore, require this protection and benefit of the law in the same manner it is extended to the perpetrators.
The Bill begins to recognise that victims experience secondary victimisation and therefore creates a prohibition against such. It provides that secondary victimisation is illegal and needs to be prevented at all times through our service provision.
The VSS Bill stipulates the various services to be provided to the victims vis-à-vis services channelled towards the accused. It delineates the services of various stakeholders according to their mandate and expertise. This includes the DSD psychosocial support services which are linked to the provision of sheltering services.
The VSS Bill advocates specifically for the legal representation of a victim. It calls for the State to endure the legal costs for the victim in cases whereby victims wish to sue the accused for damages. It also encourages providers of services to victims to be accredited to ensure that their services comply with the norms and standards as set by the Department of Social Development for all facilities. This will include ensuring that employees of facilities are vetted against existing registers for example the Child Protection Register (CPR) and the National Sexual Offences Register (NRSO) to protect victims.