In September 2012, Ms. M. and her partner became embroiled in a verbal argument that very quickly spiralled out of control. It escalated when he threw the warm hotplate stove at her. In the same year, Ms. S. reported her husband for hitting her in the face with a teacup.
In many households in South Africa, these acts of domestic violence are common but the item used to commit the violent act is, more often than not, a common household appliance. Although not intended to be a weapon, in the hands of perpetrators it easily becomes one.
Both of the women were able to institute criminal proceedings against the perpetrators for assault. But, within the current legal framework the police could not charge the perpetrators with the use of a dangerous weapon. On 2 January 2014 the Dangerous Weapons Act, 15 of 2013, will come into effect and will hopefully provide police and prosecutors with the power to charge perpetrators with possession and use of a dangerous weapon, together with charges of assault.
The Act defines a dangerous weapon as “any object, other than a firearm, capable of causing death or inflicting serious bodily harm, if it were used for an unlawful purpose”. Survivors of domestic violence need to be aware of the fact that, where an object has been used during an act of domestic violence and where they have suffered serious bodily harm or were threatened with serious bodily harm, the additional charge can be added.
Let us all ensure that as 16 Days of Activism against Gender Based Violence comes to an end, we are all aware of our rights and the laws enacted to protect us.
By: Charlene May
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