Domestic Violence Against Men: The myth, the truth and the legend

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Clement Dankuru - June 2, 2022

Introduction

Domestic violence against men is a phenomenon that is not easy to spot. Any time you hear conversations addressing domestic violence it is about women and children, and rarely about men.

Society the juggernaut, is infuriatingly statuesque and often refuses to understand that men are not excluded from the long adverse arm of domestic abuse. This effigy defines men as strong and  able to take the punch; The echoes of laughter and smears often heard through the corridors of society alluding to the standing that a man could never suffer domestic abuse.  

This article will look at whether the Domestic Violence Act 116 of 1998 offers men the same protection afforded to women and children.

Gender-Based Violence in South Africa

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees defines gender-based violence as harmful acts directed at an individual based on their gender. Gender-Based Violence is a profound human rights violation with major social and developmental impacts for survivors of violence, as well as their families, communities and society more broadly. When one mentions gender-based violence, the first thought is violence against women and children. It rarely comes to mind that violence against men has a place on the table. South Africa, like any other society, is not exempted from the plague of gender-based violence. The term gender-based violence is not limited to women.

Domestic Violence Act

Domestic Violence in terms of the Domestic Violence Act 116 of 1998 is defined as:

  • Any form of abuse which includes physical, sexual, emotional, psychological or economic harassment
  • Damage to property
  • Stalking
  • Entry into a person’s property without their consent
  • Any other abusive or controlling behaviour where such conduct causes harm or may cause harm to your health, safety, or well-being.

The preamble to the Domestic Violence Act places much emphasis on affording protection to those most vulnerable in society, being women and children. The literal interpretation of this section of the preamble would suggest that protection is offered to women and children to the exclusion of men. However, the preamble mentions specific and crucial points that rebut this argument. First, it states that it regards the Constitution of South Africa, particularly the right to equality and freedom and security of the person. This right is granted to all persons male or female. Secondly, the preamble emphasises that the Act’s purpose is to afford victims of domestic violence the maximum protection from domestic abuse that the law can provide. It should be noted that it does not single out women or children. 

Effective Purpose of the Act in Society

The priority of society should be to ensure that this beautiful piece of legislation simply works. This means to guard against abuse of the Act with the same vigour as promoting the reporting of every act of domestic violence.

Do the remedies in the Domestic Violence Act exclude men?

No, the practical application for a protection order in terms of the Act confirms that no one irrespective of gender, is excluded from the scope of protection under the Act. It is only required that there is a domestic relationship between the parties.

What are the consequences if a complainant misleads the court in an attempt to abuse the Act in furtherance of personal priorities?

The nature of the application for a protection order places an extreme obligation on the former to uphold absolute good faith when approaching the court with allegations under this banner.

Unfortunately, false accusations of domestic violence are often levelled which yields detrimental consequences on people’s lives.  Form 3 of the application of a protection order warns complainants against lying when they complete Form 2. In the distasteful event a complainant misleads the court in an attempt to abuse the Act, he or she can be charged with perjury. Perjury is a criminal offence of willfully telling an untruth or making a misrepresentation under oath. The Domestic Violence Act provides that the court may make an order as to costs against any party if it is satisfied that such party has acted frivolously, vexatiously or unreasonably.  Is there no reference to a term of imprisonment?

Conclusion

Although the preamble of the Domestic Violence Act specifically mentions women and children and emphasises International Conventions that address ending violence against women and children, men are afforded the same protection under the act.

Clement Dankuru

Clement Dankuru

Senior Associate Attorney

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