The Difference Between Domestic Protection Orders Vs. Harassment Orders In South Africa


When it comes to ensuring your safety and well-being in South Africa, there are legal measures you can take to protect yourself from domestic violence and harassment. Two standard forms of protection orders are available to individuals in South Africa: Domestic Protection Orders and Harassment Orders. Depending on your relationship with the perpetrator will depend on what kind of protection order you will need to apply for.

A Protection Order is a court-issued directive that commands an individual with whom one shares or has shared a domestic relationship to cease abusive behaviour. A Harassment Order mandates non-domestic individuals, such as neighbours, to stop engaging in harassment, offensive, or abusive conduct.

Before applying for a protection order, it would be best to explore the key differences between these two types, including an overview of the relevant acts and the circumstances that warrant an application, also a good thing to know is under what circumstances you can apply for an interim protection order, and when you might want to seek legal assistance.


Domestic Vs. Harassment Orders: What’s The Difference?

In many instances, people applying for a protection order do not know that there is a difference between those applicable to a domestic relationship and those applicable to someone with whom they do not share a domestic relationship. Often this can get confusing for the court officials who must provide you with the correct paperwork to complete your application.

Knowing a bit about the difference between the two types of orders can help make the process go that much quicker and give you a better understanding of what you are applying for.


Domestic Protection Orders

Domestic Protection Orders are specifically designed to protect individuals who are victims of domestic violence. These orders aim to preserve the safety and security of those in an intimate or family relationship with the perpetrator.

Domestic violence can take several forms, including physical, sexual, emotional, or economic abuse. Victims of domestic violence often find themselves trapped in a cycle of fear, powerlessness, and danger. Obtaining a Domestic Protection Order is crucial to breaking that cycle and reclaiming control over one’s life.


Harassment Orders

Harassment Orders, on the other hand, are intended to safeguard individuals subjected to persistent, unwanted behaviour that causes them distress, fear, or alarm. Harassment can occur in various contexts, including cyberbullying, stalking, unwanted communications, or any other form of behaviour that constitutes harassment.

Unlike Domestic Protection Orders, Harassment Orders are not limited to intimate or family relationships. They can be sought by anyone who is experiencing harassment, regardless of the nature of their relationship with the perpetrator.


Domestic Vs. Harassment Orders: Overview Of The Acts

Over the past three decades, the South African Government has dedicated significant efforts to establish effective mechanisms to safeguard vulnerable individuals from acts of violence, intimidation, and harassment. Two vital legislations in this cause include the Domestic Violence Act 116 of 1998 and the Protection from Harassment Act 17 of 2011.


Domestic Protection Orders

The Domestic Violence Act 116 of 1998 governs Domestic Protection Orders in South Africa. This act recognizes the pervasive nature of domestic violence and provides a legal framework for victims to seek protection and assistance.

It defines domestic violence broadly, encompassing physical, sexual, emotional, or economic abuse. The act outlines the procedures for obtaining a Domestic Protection Order, including the application process, the role of the courts, and the remedies available to victims.


Harassment Orders

Harassment Orders, on the other hand, are regulated by the Protection from Harassment Act 17 of 2011. This act protects individuals from various forms of harassment that may not necessarily be categorized as domestic violence.

It addresses issues such as stalking, cyber-harassment, and other behaviour that causes emotional or psychological harm. The Protection from Harassment Act provides victims with a legal recourse to prevent further harassment and seek necessary assistance. It highlights the importance of protecting individuals’ rights to safety, dignity, and privacy in the face of harassment.


Domestic Vs. Harassment Orders: What Circumstances Warrant An Application?

You might be experiencing some form of harassment, whether from a family member, roommate, neighbour, or anyone else giving you unwanted attention. In these instances, knowing under what circumstances an application for a Protection Order is warranted is always a good idea.

Domestic Protection Orders

If you are in an intimate or family relationship experiencing domestic violence, it is crucial to consider applying for a Domestic Protection Order. Domestic violence can manifest in physical, sexual, emotional, or economic forms, and if you feel unsafe or threatened in any way, seeking legal protection is essential.

Examples of circumstances that may warrant applying for a Domestic Protection Order include physical assault, sexual abuse, emotional manipulation, controlling behaviour, or financial exploitation within a domestic relationship.


Harassment Orders

Harassment Orders are suitable when facing persistent unwanted behaviour that causes distress or fear, but the relationship with the perpetrator may not necessarily be domestic or intimate. This behaviour can include stalking, cyberbullying, unwanted communications, or harassment that affects your well-being and safety.

It is important to note that harassment can occur online and offline, and seeking a Harassment Order can provide legal protection to prevent further harm and restore a sense of security.


Domestic Vs. Harassment Orders: Interim Protection Orders

Both Domestic Protection Orders and Harassment Orders allow for the possibility of obtaining an interim protection order. An interim protection order is a temporary order granted by a judge that provides immediate protection until a full hearing occurs.

A judge can grant an interim protection order straightaway when there is an immediate risk of harm or harassment. One thing to note here is that an interim protection or harassment order only comes into effect once it has been served upon the respondent.

Interim protection orders are crucial in situations where immediate action is needed to ensure the safety and well-being of the applicant. It is a good idea to consult with legal professionals specializing in domestic and harassment law to understand the process of obtaining an interim protection order and the necessary steps.

If you find yourself in a situation requiring legal protection, it is highly recommended to consult a reputable attorney specializing in domestic and harassment law. They can effectively guide you through the process, helping to ensure your safety and well-being throughout the legal proceedings.

If you require further information or legal advice regarding Domestic Protection Orders or Harassment Orders, please get in touch with Burnett Attorneys & Notaries. We are dedicated to helping individuals navigate these sensitive matters, providing expert guidance and representation to help you seek the protection you need.