AFRICA/SOUTH AFRICA - Catholic Church says draft of new Firearms Control Act must give greater attention to protecting women from domestic violence

Wednesday, 25 February 2004

Pretoria (Fides Service) - The Parliamentary Liaison Office of the Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference SACBC, that has several times expressed concern about the delay in the finalisation of the regulations, is now encouraged by the finalisation of the supplementary legislation that is currently before the Portfolio Committee on Safety and Security.
Key to the legislation has been the introduction of competency certificates for people applying for a firearm licence. The Parliamentary Liaison Office strongly supports this section of the Act because it will assist the police in assessing the suitability of a person to possess a firearm. In South Africa with its high levels of interpersonal violence, the presence of firearms only serves to escalate pre- existing tensions and, in many instances, has proved to be fatal.
However, the Parliamentary Liaison Office is concerned that in the current version of the regulations, the question that will be asked of applicants is whether they have been divorced or separated in the last two years and if there were written complaint made about them regarding violence.
A recent study on femicide has shown that where a woman is killed by a spouse or intimate partner there were only written complaints in 3% of the cases. There is reason to fear that many women, who through the cycle of abuse, or through fear for their lives and those of their children, will not make any written complaint about their partners.
The Parliamentary Liaison Office thus urges the Committee to re-assess this clause and suggests that the application form has the question: “Have you been separated or divorced in the last two years?” without riders. The situation can be followed up by the Designated Firearms Officer in the subsequent interviews required by the law.
The Parliamentary Liaison Office continues to support the government’s attempts to implement the Firearms Control Act and commends the Portfolio Committee on the work that they have done in this area. The provisions of the Firearms Control Act will serve the community through a “positive desire to nourish life in the world rather than to minister to death”. (source SACBC media office) (L.M.) (Agenzia Fides 25/2/2004, righe 29 parole 379)