On the 17th of June, President Cyril Ramaphosa took to our screens and declared that “another pandemic is raging in our country- the killing of women and children by the men of our country”. A powerful message that has been stated by women in South Africa for years.
Gender-Based Violence (GBV), specifically Violence Against Women (VAW), in South Africa is a present and consistent threat to women, yet our media, communities and government responses do not reflect this. The Justice Desk is therefore echoing the call of thousands of women across South Africa; that Gender-Based Violence and Femicide (GBVF) needs to be on the country’s agenda 365 days a year.
To defeat this national pandemic of GBVF, we require a significant increase in the allocation of resources to non-governmental and community-based organisations, in order for them to develop and implement along with local law enforcement agencies. This will undoubtedly result in a multi-faceted approach towards community based-education on GBV. These organisations must be assisted by the government as part of the national plan to address the issue of GBVF.
The rates of GBV, specifically VAW at the hands of men in South Africa, has infiltrated all aspects of the lived experiences of womxn. It is present in the school, home, community and public sectors. As a country, we have been slow to respond to this epidemic, and current attempts at addressing GBV have been haphazard at the least, and uncoordinated at best. A core focus is on policy change yet GBV organisations on the ground are underfunded, understaffed and have to reduce operations or turn women and children away due to a lack of resources.
Women are not safe in public spaces, in government buildings, in their schools or even in their own homes. It is our moral and legal obligation as all sectors of society, including civil society, government bodies, business sectors, and the non-profit and non-governmental sectors to hold our systems, leaders and male perpetrators of violence accountable. We can no longer allow our country’s inadequate, under-resourced and ill-equipped frameworks to fail our women and children.
We call for the following:
(1) The Emergency Response Action Plan’s 5 key intervention area’s target-reach to be strengthened and updates to be made available to the public monthly;
(2) The strengthening of the nation-wide response to School Related Gender-Based Violence (SRGBV) through the implementation of child protection policies, protocol and regular, practical training in schools for parents, students, teachers and staff to mobilise and address cases effectively and appropriately. It is also vital that confidential and well-equipped school counselling systems are available in all schools.
(3) A revision of the current school-based curriculum to strengthen individual understanding of the law, reporting and human rights.
(4) A structure to lead, coordinate and to hold the government responsible for their inaction; in order to ensure the correct handling of the prosecution of perpetrators of GBVF in the school, home, workplace and community.
(5) The allocation of government resources to non-governmental and community-based GBVF organisations.
While policy and legislative change is necessary and welcomed, actual change at the community level is needed and it requires a multisector approach that holds men accountable.
The Justice Desk is an award-winning Human Rights Organisation which operates in South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe. We empower local people to understand and defend their Human Rights, in order to build safer communities for all.