2007 Archive

South Africa Grappling with a Plague of Domestic Violence

In April, Boalt Lecturer Nancy Lemon '80 traveled to Cape Town, South Africa to address the Western Cape Network for Violence against Women.

Lemon's presentation focused on legal techniques surrounding domestic violence cases in South Africa. Domestic violence and battered women are issues she has focused on for the last 28 years in her work.

"I discussed the nuts and bolts of experts, controversies, and direct examination techniques," Lemon says. She says that the use of expert witnesses and consultants in domestic violence cases is a relatively new idea in South Africa.

Lemon also discussed South Africa's 1998 Domestic Violence Act. She outlined several of the Act's virtues, "many of which are more advanced that similar statutes in the United States." She also suggested ways that it could be improved.

For example, the act provides for the automatic issuance of an arrest warrant whenever a protective order is issued. But this creates a bottleneck of orders that are not served soon enough for court hearings. Lemon says this system could be improved if any adult, rather than just the sheriff or the police, could serve an order on a respondent.

The speech was arranged by the U.S. consulate in South Africa. Attendees included staff from the consulate, police officers, attorneys, hotline workers, counselors, and local employers. Local businesses are working on awareness and intervention strategies because they suffer from high absentee rates due to domestic violence.

"One local clothing manufacturer now has an onsite social worker and therapist,""Lemon says. "They're also permitting line workers to attend training which helps them recognize signs of violence among their peers."

"This is another example of ways we in the U.S. can learn from South Africans," Lemon says.