Since transformation in 1994 – as a result and influence of the country’s women’s movement and some committed parliamentarians - the democratic government has developed and introduced key legislation and policies to address the high levels of domestic violence against women. South Africa has attempted to follow international trends in this regard, aiming at developing coordinated policy and practice responses and integrated service delivery to the victims of violence.

The key piece of legislation passed by the South African government to address the domestic violence issue is the Domestic Violence Act 116 of 1998. The purpose of the Act is to afford the victims of domestic violence the maximum protection from domestic abuse that the law can provide; and to introduce measures which seek to ensure that the relevant organs of state give full effect to the provisions of this Act, and thereby to convey that the State is committed to the elimination of domestic violence.

On par with the criminal justice approach, the South African civil society and hundreds of NGOs and CBOs have in the past ten years developed and implemented a number of interventions ranging from public awareness and education campaigns to provision of counseling, legal services and sheltering for survivors of domestic violence.

The success of government and civil society interventions to prevent domestic violence is contested. One of the main reasons is the fact that reliable statistics around the prevalence of domestic violence in the country are not available. Hence, little is know about the impact of public awareness campaigns and the criminal justice system interventions in terms of decreasing – or even increasing – the levels of domestic violence.

Despite the lack of statistics, the consensus among different stakeholders is that South Africa is still facing high levels of domestic violence and that this violence is affecting mainly women, from a wide range of socio-economic and cultural backgrounds.

Some of the themes to be addressed by the conference include:

  • Assessing the South African government implementation of the Domestic Violence Act (role of different actors involved in the implementation of the Act, such as the SAPS and the health sector) and provision of services for victims of domestic violence.
  • Examining the interface between domestic violence and HIV/Aids in the country.
  • Beyond the legislative response: assessing the interventions aimed at promoting the cultural changes needed to prevent domestic violence.
  • Examining the involvement of men organisations in prevention and responses to domestic violence.
  • Analysing recent developments around domestic violence interventions: restorative justice in domestic violence cases, innovative public education campaigns, etc.
  • Reviewing of civil society responses to domestic violence: challenges faced by NGOs and CBOs working in the field of domestic violence in developing countries.

Conference follow-up (December – July 2009)

  • Transcription and documentation of discussion sessions
  • Production of journal
  • Dissemination of conference documentation
  • Follow-up evaluation of conference and journal
  • Writing-up of final narrative and financial reports.