ECONOMIC ABUSE AND THE LAW

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Economic exploitation can have far-reaching consequences. The Domestic Abuse Act 116/1998 includes economic abuse and has the potential to bring about real change for victims and survivors. Economic exploitation may also be prosecuted as controlling or coercive behaviour. The Domestic Violence Act 116/1998 is the law that deals with domestic violence in South Africa. This law exists to give people who are experiencing domestic violence the best possible protection that the law can, and it commits the government to stopping domestic violence.

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Note: The Domestic Violence Amendment Act 14/2021 has been legislated but is not yet in force. With the amendments certain definitions have been extended and new definition have been included; further provide for the manner in which acts of domestic violence and matters related thereto, must be dealt with; further regulate protection orders in response to acts of domestic violence; amend provisions of certain laws; and provide for matters connected therewith.

Domestic Violence Act 116/1998

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ā€˜economic abuseā€™ includes-

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(a) the unreasonable deprivation of economic or financial resources to which a complainant is entitled under law or which the complainant requires out of necessity, including household necessities for the complainant, and mortgage bond repayments or payment of rent in respect of the shared residence;

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(b) the unreasonable disposal of household effects or other property in which the complainant has an interest;

ā€˜domestic violenceā€™ means-

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(a) physical abuse;

(b) sexual abuse;

(c) emotional, verbal and psychological abuse;

(d) economic abuse;

(e) intimidation;

(f) harassment;

(g) stalking;

(h) damage to property;

(i) entry into the complainantā€™s residence without consent, where the parties do not share the same residence; or

(j) any other controlling or abusive behaviour towards a complainant,

where such conduct harms, or may cause imminent harm to, the safety, health or

wellbeing of the complainant;

ā€˜coercive behaviourā€™ is not clearly defined
ā€˜controlling behaviourā€™ is not clearly defined

Domestic Violence Amendment Act 14/2021

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ā€˜economic abuseā€™ includesā€”

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(a) the deprivation of economic or financial resources to which a complainant is entitled under law or which the complainant requires out of necessity, including education expenses, household necessities for the complainant, and mortgage bond repayments or payment of rent in respect of the shared residence or accommodation;

(b) the disposal of household effects or other property in which the complainant has an interest without the complainantā€™s permission;

(c) the use of financial resources of a complainant, without the complainantā€™s permission; or

(d) the coercing of the complainant toā€”

(i) relinquish control over assets or income; or

(ii) sign a legal document that would enable the complainantā€™s finances to be managed by another person;

ā€˜domestic violenceā€™ meansā€”

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(a) physical abuse;

(b) sexual abuse;

(c) emotional, verbal [and] or psychological abuse;

(d) economic abuse;

(e) intimidation;

(f) harassment;

(fA) sexual harassment;

(fB) related person abuse;

(g) [stalking] spiritual abuse;

(h) damage to property;

(hA) elder abuse;

(hB) coercive behaviour;

(hC) controlling behaviour;

(hD)to expose a child to domestic violence;

(i) entry into the complainantā€™sā€”

(i) permanent or temporary residence without their consent, where the parties do not share the same residence; or

(ii) workplace or place of study, without their consent, where the parties do not share the same workplace or place of study; or

(j) any other behaviour of an intimidating, threatening, abusive, degrading, offensive or humiliating nature towards a complainant,

where such conduct harms, inspires the reasonable belief that harm may be caused to the complainant;

ā€˜coercive behaviourā€™ means to compel or force a complainant to abstain from doing anything that they have a lawful right to do, or to do anything that they have a lawful right to abstain from doing;
ā€˜controlling behaviourā€™ means behaviour towards a complainant that has the effect of making the complainant dependent on, or subservient to,

the respondent and includesā€”

(a) isolating them from sources of support;

(b) exploiting their resources or capacities for personal gain;

(c) depriving them of the means needed for independence, resistance or escape; or

(d) regulating their everyday behaviour;

Economic exploitation can have far-reaching consequences. The Domestic Abuse Act 116/1998 includes economic abuse and has the potential to bring about real change for victims and survivors.