South African Government

Let's grow South Africa together

Legislation and policies

Human rights
Sexual offences
Domestic violence
Human trafficking




The following instruments of legislation are relevant to the successful functioning of the DoJ&CD:

New legislation

Legislation that was finalised during the 2017/18 financial year included the following:

  • The Protected Disclosures Amendment Act, 2017 (Act 5 of 2017), which was assented to in August 2017 and aims to give greater protection to whistle-blowers in the workplace by extending the application of the Protected Disclosures Act beyond the traditional employer and employee relationship. It also criminalises deliberate false disclosures.
  • The Courts of Law Amendment Act, 2017 (Act 7 of 2017) protects the poor from actions of unscrupulous persons in the debt-collection industry. By aligning the 1944 Magistrates’ Courts Act with the requirements of a Constitutional Court judgment affecting emolument attachment orders (EAOs), the Courts of Law Amendment Act seeks to ensure that presiding officers considering issuing an EAO take account of factors such as the size of a debt, the circumstances in which it arose, available alternative recovery options, a judgment debtor’s income; the rights and needs of vulnerable people and children likely to be affected by an EAO and how much of the debtor’s income is required to meet basic living expenses and those of his/her dependents.

Legislation that was under consideration by the end of the 2017/18 financial year included the Traditional Courts Bill, the Prevention and Combating of Hate Crimes and Hate Speech Bill and the Cybercrimes and Cyber Security Bill.

New Bills

The National Council of Provinces considered and passed a total of 11 Bills in May 2019. One of the crucial Bills passed was the Performers’ Protection Amendment Bill, which seeks, among others, to strengthen protection of the intellectual property of performers and to ensure that performers reap the benefits of their artistic work. For example, the Bill provides for royalties or equitable remuneration to be payable when a performance is sold or rented out. The rest of the Bills, which will be sent to the President for assent, are the:

Six international agreements were approved in terms of section 231(2) of the Constitution. This section says that certain international agreements bind the Republic only after they have been approved by resolution in both the National Assembly and the National Council of Provinces.. The agreements approved are:

Human rights

The Bill of Rights is the cornerstone of South Africa’s democracy. It enshrines the rights of all people in South Africa and affirms the democratic values of human dignity, equality and freedom. While every person is entitled to these rights, they also have a responsibility to respect them.

The Bill of Rights binds the legislature, the executive, judiciary and all organs of State.

The rights contained in the Bill of Rights are subject to the limitations contained in or referred to in Section 36 of the Constitution, or elsewhere in the Bill of Rights.

They apply to all laws, administrative decisions taken and acts performed during the period in which the Constitution is in force. In terms of the Constitution, every person has basic human rights such as:

  • equality before the law and equal protection and benefit of the law
  • freedom from unfair discrimination
  • the right to life
  • the right to human dignity
  • the right to freedom and security.

Sexual offences

The Criminal Law (Sexual Offences and Related Matters) Amendment Act, 2007 (Act 32 of 2007) [PDF], provides a legal framework to support an integrated approach to the management of sexual offences, thereby aiming to reduce secondary trauma to victims of such crimes.

National Register for Sex Offenders

The department has developed the NRSO, which was deployed in 195 courts. The NRSO was established by an Act of Parliament in 2007.

It is a record of names of those found guilty of sexual offences against children and people with a mental disability.

The NRSO gives employers in the public or private sectors such as schools, crèches and hospitals the right to check that the person being hired is fit to work with children or mentally disabled people.

Information on whether a person is on the list is available on request, along with the relevant motivation, before any confirmation or information is released.


The main objective of the Maintenance Act, 1998 (Act 99 of 1998), is to facilitate the securing of maintenance money from parents and/or other persons able to maintain maintenance beneficiaries, mainly children, who have a right to maintenance.

Parents and/or guardians must maintain children in the proportion in which they can afford. Therefore, both parents and/or sets of families need to take responsibility for the maintenance of the child or children concerned.

The Maintenance Amendment Act, 2015 (Act 9 of 2015) further ensures that maintenance systems are effective, putting the following measures in place, among others:

  • A beneficiary will be able to claim maintenance where they work and not only where they live. This will make it easier for beneficiaries to go to the maintenance court during working hours.
  • If the person from whom maintenance is sought cannot be located, despite all reasonable efforts, the court can grant an order directing electronic communication service providers to provide the court with contact information.
  • Maintenance courts must complete their enquiries as speedily as possible. The views of the person who is obliged to pay maintenance must be sought.
  • If a person has defaulted on paying maintenance, their personal details will be submitted to all credit bureaus. This will prevent maintenance defaulters from continuing to receive credit while owing maintenance. They will effectively be blacklisted.

From the 369 maintenance courts nationwide, the department registers about 200 000 new maintenance complaints a year. To reduce the maintenance queues at courts, the department installed technology to process payments through electronic financial transfers to replace the card-based manual system. The courts are also increasingly making orders for payments to be deposited directly into the accounts of beneficiaries.

The Guardian’s Fund is a fund created to hold and administer funds which are paid to the Master of the High Court on behalf of various persons known or unknown, for example, minors, persons incapable of managing their own affairs, unborn heirs, missing or absent persons or persons having an interest in the moneys of a usufructuary, fiduciary or fideicommissary nature. Each Master of the High Court has its own Guardian’s Fund. Through the Guardian’s Fund, the department contributes substantially to poverty alleviation.

Over the medium term, the DoJ&CD aims to ensure an enhanced and integrated family law service by:

  • increasing the percentage of maintenance matters finalised with in 90 days from the date of proper services of process from 50% in 2016/17 to 60% 2019/20
  • increasing the percentage of family advocate reports filed with in six months from the date of opening matters, from 50% in 2016/17 to 60% in 2019/20.

Domestic violence

The rigorous steps the Justice, Crime Prevention and Security (JCPS) Cluster is taking to root out gender-based violence is the adoption of zero tolerance towards rape, violation of the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people and other forms of violence towards women and children.

The Ndabezitha Project with the NPA trains traditional leaders and clerks of the court in domestic violence matters in rural areas. This includes the development of a safety tool and intersectoral statistical tool by the NPA and the DoJ&CD.

The department engaged in research methodology called the 10-Year Review of Implementation of the Domestic Violence Act of 1998 aimed at taking stock of all initiatives and projects in courts and the CJS to address the reduction and prevention of domestic violence.

The Protection from Harassment Act, 2011 (Act 17 of 2011), is the first specific legislation to address sexual harassment in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) region. The essence of the Act is to provide a quick, easy and affordable civil remedy in the form of a protection order for incidences of stalking. The legislation arose out of a SALRC investigation into the legal framework governing stalking and domestic violence.

A key component of the Act is that it seeks to cover all forms of stalking, not just that involving people engaged in a relationship.

A protection order can be issued instructing the harasser to cease harassment.

The Act sets out how a complainant is to apply for a protection order and the procedure to be followed in granting one. The legislation also provides for the issuing of an interim protection order without the knowledge of the respondent, given certain conditions.

A victim of cyberstalking can apply to a court for an interim protection order even when the identity of the alleged stalker is unknown. The law will also empower the police to investigate a stalker to identify the perpetrator even a victim launches an application for a protection order.

Human trafficking

Human trafficking has become a focus of attention in the country following the introduction of the new visa requirements for children travelling through South Africa’s ports of entry in June 2015.

The Prevention and Combating of Trafficking in Persons Act, 2013 (Act 7 of 2013) defines trafficking to include the recruitment, transportation, sale or harbour of people by means of force, deceit, the abuse of vulnerability and the abuse of power for exploitation. The Act addresses the scourge of trafficking in persons holistically and comprehensively.

Besides creating the main offence of trafficking in persons, the legislation creates offences such as debt bondage; the possession, destruction and tampering with travel documents and using the services of victims of trafficking all of which facilitate innocent persons becoming victims of this modern-day form of slavery.

The legislation gives effect to South Africa’s international obligations in terms of UN Protocol.

South Africa fully recognises the existence of human trafficking and smuggling activities. These crimes are mostly perpetuated by transnational syndicates, hence the calls from many states for regional and international cooperation as well as the introduction of aligned legislation and immigration procedures.

To address those challenges, UN member states require fair, responsible, ethical and efficient CJSs and crime-prevention strategies that contribute to sustainable economic and social development. It also imposes a responsibility on states to work together.

These scourges have also had a negative impact on the people of South Africa, and government therefore fully supports the UN’s promotion of the objectives relating to the continued and focused national and international prevention and combating of these crimes.

In South Africa, migration and human trafficking remain to be the result of a complex set of interrelated push-and-pull factors. On the “push” side factors such as poverty, a lack of opportunities, dislocations from family and community, gender, racial and ethnic inequalities and the break-up of families are all relevant. The “pull” factors include the promise of a better life, consumer aspirations and lack of information on the risks involved, established patterns of migration, porous borders and fewer constraints on travel.

As a result of these factors, South Africa has become a source, transit and destination country for trafficked and smuggled men, women and children. South African girls are trafficked or smuggled for the purposes of commercial sexual exploitation and domestic servitude, while boys are trafficked or smuggled for use in street vending, food service and agriculture.

The Prevention and Combating of Trafficking in Persons Act of 2013 deals comprehensively with human trafficking in all its various forms and in particular provides for the protection of and assistance to victims of trafficking.

Persons engaged with trafficking will be liable on conviction to a severe fine or imprisonment, including imprisonment for life or such imprisonment without the option of a fine or both.

Other existing laws being used to prosecute traffickers include the Children’s Act, 2005 (Act 38 of 2005), which provides for the criminalisation of the trafficking of children, while the Criminal Law Sexual Offences and Related Matters Amendment Act, 2007 (Act 32 of 2007), contains provisions that criminalise trafficking in persons for sexual purposes.

South Africa has also been successful in using the racketeering offences in the Prevention of Organised Crime Act of 1998 to deal with criminal organisations involved in trafficking.

Under the common law, depending on the circumstances of each case, persons suspected of trafficking could be charged with kidnapping, common assault, assault with intent to do grievous bodily harm, extortion, attempted murder and murder.

Those involved in acts of trafficking in persons may be prosecuted using other acts that include the Immigration Act, 2002 (Act 13 of 2002), the Basic Conditions of Employment Act, 1997 (Act 75 of 1997), the Intimidation Act, 1982 (Act 72 of 1982), the Domestic Violence Act of 1998, and the Films and Publications Act, 1996 (Act 65 of 1996).