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«Self-defence as a ground of justification in cases of battered women who kill their abusive partners CANDIDATE’S DECLARATION: I declare that ...»

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“Self-defence as a Ground of Justification in Cases of Battered Women Who Kill Their Abusive Partners”


D Singh




Professor S Lotter


The dissertation outlines a comprehensive background to the endemic scourge of domestic violence, with further consideration being given to an understanding of domestic violence and the recognised characteristics of an abuser and the victim of intimate violence. The study focuses on the heterosexual domestic relationship and is restricted to a situational construct of the aggressor being the male partner in the relationship. The study reflects on inter alia the socio-economic and psycho-social dynamics that are pertinent in an abusive domestic relationship and the impact of these factors on the conduct of the abuser and the victim. This assessment is considered to be an important base for the further research as it clearly positions the circumstances of the victim of the abuse. The study then proceeds with an in-depth examination of the law of self-defence in South Africa with a specific emphasis on the application and understanding of the law and the situations under which the act of killing the abuser may be justified under the law. A comparative study is conducted with the U.S.A, Canada and Australia and the legal lessons that would be relevant for the South African law are highlighted. The importance and impact of expert evidence in cases involving battered women who kill their abusive partners is stressed; given that the lived reality of a battered woman is often not well understood by the ordinary person, which include members of the judiciary. The test of the battered woman syndrome is specifically interrogated as a comparative standard for the conduct of the battered woman and rejected. The research emphasises the importance of understanding the action of the battered woman against the standard of a reasonable person in the circumstances of the accused. Finally, the dissertation positively concludes on possible application of self-defence as a justification in cases of battered women who kill their abusive partners.


domestic violence • intimate partner violence • battered woman syndrome • intimate partner homicide • self-defence • imminent danger • inevitability of harm • lived reality/circumstances of the victim of violence • expert evidence and domestic violence •

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