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VICTIMS OF SCHOOL-BASED VIOLENCE AFFORDED PROTECTION UNDER DOMESTIC VIOLENCE ACT

16 APRIL 2012

Protection to victims of domestic violence has been extended significantly by the granting of a protection order to a learner at a school in Gauteng against her teacher.

Last week, a magistrate granted a final protection order to the learner who alleged that her teacher harassed, intimidated and physically and sexually abused her. The learner reported an alleged rape to the police late last year. The Gauteng Department of Education has placed the teacher on precautionary suspension. Since then, the teacher has attempted through harassment and intimidation to force the learner and her family not to pursue the case against him.

The magistrate held that the definition of “domestic relationship” in the Domestic Violence Act extends beyond the traditional relationship between husband and wife or parent and child and includes a relationship between a teacher and a learner. He accepted SECTION27’s argument that a teacher assumes parental responsibility for learners at the school at which he teaches. This relationship constitutes a domestic relationship and therefore the victim of any domestic violence as defined in the Domestic Violence Act would be entitled to a protection order against the perpetrator of such domestic violence.

This unprecedented decision is in keeping with the tenor and principles of the Domestic Violence Act, the Children’s Act, the Constitution and the protection of children against violence in international law. This is an important step in bringing legal assistance and protection to the hundreds of learners who are sexually abused by their teachers in this country and allows them to defend their rights without fear of intimidation or harassment.

The police, the Gauteng Department of Education and the South African Council for Educators are currently investigating the teacher concerned.

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