Violence against women in South Africa: Constitutional Responses and Opportunities

Cambridge University Press
Publication Type:
Constitutional Triumphs, Constitutional Disappointments A Critical Assessment of the 1996 South African Constitution's Local and International Influence, 2018, pp. 141 - 173
Issue Date:
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Violence against women, present in every society in the world, is deeply embedded in South Africa’s past and is a central feature of the post-democratic society. The South African Constitution is path-breaking in acknowledging this reality by providing a right to be free from violence in public and private realms. Over the past two decades since democracy, advocacy groups have been successful in lobbying and working with government to secure new legislation in the areas of domestic violence and rape. Implementation of these laws has, however, been mixed or poor and recourse to the law is limited for many, if not most, victims of this violence. A number of significant decisions have emerged from the Constitutional Court in relation to these laws and regarding aspects of the common law relevant to violence against women. This chapter surveys the jurisprudence on violence against women in assessing the Court’s record in this area. While finding these decisions valuable in advancing the constitutional framework, the chapter suggests that fuller interpretation of the Constitution and more creative litigation and jurisprudence is necessary in contributing to the removal of the scourge of violence against South Africa’s women.
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