Sunday, January 16

Violence against women and children in South Africa is a ‘second pandemic’

If the character of a nation can be judged by the way it treats women and children, then we are desperately falling short.

A week before the launch of the annual 16 Days of Activism for Non-Violence Against Women and Children, the latest crime statistics released by the South African Police Service (SAPS) show an increase in rape, domestic violence and , perhaps most worryingly, in child murders.

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In just three months, between July and September 2021, 9,556 people, most of them women, were raped. This is 7% more than in the previous reporting period.

Of the almost 73,000 cases of assault reported during this period, more than 13,000 were related to domestic violence. The child murder rate has increased by almost a third compared to the previous reporting period.

These statistics are embarrassing. We are in the grip of a relentless war being waged against the bodies of women and children that, despite our best efforts, shows no signs of abating.

We have said before that violence perpetrated by men against women is the second pandemic that our country must face, and how the Covid-19 pandemic can be overcome if we all work together.

As a government, we have a duty and a responsibility to dedicate the necessary resources to combat crimes of gender violence.

Since the launch of the National Strategic Plan to Combat Gender-Based Violence and Femicide (NSP) in 2020, there have been several interventions to respond to GBV. This includes far-reaching legislative reform, supporting survivors by supplying test kits at police stations and psychosocial services, establishing a GBVF Fund, and supporting the Thuthuzela and Khuseleka network of care centers. .

SAPS has indicated that we are making progress in reducing significant backlogs in DNA analysis, which is crucial to ensuring justice for survivors of sexual offenses. SAPS also operates 134 GBV offices in police stations across the country and is in the process of establishing more.

As work continues to implement all the pillars of the NSP, we must ask ourselves tough questions as a people.

When we look in the mirror, do we see the proud, resilient, peaceful, freedom-loving South Africans that we aspire to be?

Every year when November rolls around, we pledge to end violence against women and children. We participate in marches, attend mass mobilization events and wear badges adorned with powerful slogans such as “Sekwanele: Enough is Enough.”

But what we have observed over the years is that the majority of those who participate in the 16 Days of Activism are women and children, the most affected and concerned about GBV. This needs to change.

Gender-based violence is, after all, a problem of male violence. The rapists are predominantly male. It is mainly men who are the perpetrators of domestic violence.

Because men are the main perpetrators, it should be men who take the lead in reporting and reporting gender-based violence, in raising awareness, in peer education and in prevention efforts.

It must be the men in positions of authority in our educational system, whether as school principals, educators or teachers, who must make schools and places of higher education safe spaces for female and male students, and never ever abuse his position of authority to demand sexual favors.

Men should also be playing a more formative and present role in their families, particularly in raising their children to display a positive and healthy masculinity that is respectful of women and children.

Communities and community organizations must work with government to implement interventions that redefine masculinity so that we educate men with empathy, tolerance and respect.

Just as ending gender-based violence cannot be solely the responsibility of the state, women and children cannot have the responsibility to end the outrageous levels of violence and abuse they suffer.

South African men must play a greater role in preventing gender-based violence. They need to understand what constitutes gender-based violence, especially sexual violence.

The latest crime statistics show that nearly 4,000 people were raped in their home or the perpetrator’s, and in 400 reported rape cases, the victim and the perpetrator were in a relationship. This suggests that some men do not understand that sexual activity without explicit consent is a crime.

Men must respect their wives and girlfriends and understand that being in an intimate relationship is never a justification for domestic violence.

If each man brings two men together and all three agree to never rape a woman, never lay a hand on a woman, and hold each other accountable for this commitment, we can begin to seriously address gender-based violence in our country.

This year’s 16 Days of Activism campaign aims to move from awareness to accountability and create an environment for men to play a greater role in preventing GBV.

It is not enough to intervene once the perpetrators have entered the criminal justice system. We have to prevent gender-based violence before it happens.

I call on all South African men, young and old, city dwellers and rural dwellers, modernists and traditionalists, married and single, to be part of urgently needed prevention efforts at home and in our communities.

By refusing to tolerate violence against women and children, by not participating yourself, and by reporting such acts, you are setting an example for your peers, especially young people and children.

You will be sending a clear signal that neither kinship, friendship or loyalty can be an excuse not to defend the rights of women and children.

Let us work together as one to ensure that this year’s 16 Days of Activism campaign is meaningful, goes beyond mere words, and brings real change in the lives of the women and children of South Africa.

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