SA: All lives matter, put GBV prevention at the centre

SA: All lives matter, put GBV prevention at the centre

Date: September 12, 2019
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By Kubi Rama

Johannesburg, 12 September: Over the last while I, like many South Africans, have been reeling under the deluge of Gender-Based Violence (GBV) everywhere in our country. A gender activist for over 25 years, I did not know what to say or do. I vacillated between anger, powerlessness, fear, grief and then finally resolve. On the basis of this resolve there are few important points I would like to make.

First, some context. Everyday South Africans wake up to the news that more women and children have been brutalised or murdered. In the last two weeks Uyinene Mrwetyana was killed by 42-year-old employee at the Clareinch post office in Cape Town where his employer knew for the last year that he had a criminal record; Dylan Neethling (age seven) killed by his father; Shirley Nomonde killed by her boyfriend; Nicolas Ninow pleads guilty in the Gauteng High Court for violently raping a 7 year old; Natasha Conabeer is kidnapped, raped, drugged, dropped off unconscious at home and dies; Sbu Mpungose killed his three children and his stepdaughter.

This is what is known, there are so many cases that we do not hear about. The list is endless. South Africa cannot allow this to continue, for citizens to be hurt and to die. As citizens have a right to safety, security and protection from harm. How can we stop GBV before it starts?

The most important missing link in current narrative is around drivers and prevention of GBV. Gender Links conducted research on the extent (experience and perpetration), drivers, effects, responses and prevention of GBV in four provinces of South Africa and six Southern African countries including Botswana, Lesotho, Mauritius, Seychelles, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

The GBV Indicators Research Project found that over three quarters (77%) of women in Limpopo; 51% of women in Gauteng; 45% of women in the Western Cape and 36% of women in KwaZulu Natal report experiencing some form of violence (emotional, economic, physical or sexual) at least once in their lifetime both within and outside their intimate relationships. A higher proportion of men in Gauteng (78%) and KwaZulu Natal (41%) than women admitted to perpetrating violence against women in their lifetime. A lower proportion of men, compared to the proportion of women in Limpopo (48%) and Western Cape (35%) admitted to perpetrating some form of violence against women.

At the moment there is a massive focus on physical violence, femicide, non-partner GBV and murder. Given the overwhelming number of women and children who are dying at the hands of their abusers this is understandable. However, we need to keep other forms of violence, hidden violence in the public sphere. Without exception, the highest proportion of violence in all countries was emotional.

The key driver of GBV is gender inequality. The notion that men have power over women is at the core of GBV. This is ignored in our responses to the crisis we are dealing with. As a nation we need to change gender relations. GBV is a symptom of gender inequality.

The further work is needed to understand the drivers of GBV. The Gender Links GBV Indicators Research Project showed that a complex set of individual factors drive GBV. Alcohol use, drug use and child abuse exacerbate GBV perpetration. The most significant of these is either witnessing or being subject to violence as a child. We need to understand childhood experiences of violence as a key driver of GBV and how we can address childhood violence.

The President of South Africa addressed the nation and made reference to strengthened responses to GBV. Amongst others the President committed to update the register of GBV offenders and to go to Parliament to amend the law to make the register public.

The Department of Justice will review unresolved cases with a view to re-opening them and getting justice for the survivors. Further the President stated that emergency response teams will be strengthened at community. Systemic weaknesses within the justice system and police will be addressed.

The latest news is the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) aired an incorrect version of President Cyril Ramaphosa’s address to the nation last week. The corporation has described the transmission of the wrong clip as ‘sabotage’. The Government’s response to the GBV crisis is reactive and not enough Mr President. Whether or not there was sabotage at the SABC does not detract from the message.

A few other key concerns. There is no such thing as “rape culture” and “culture of violence”. There is rape and there is violence. Let us not use these terms legitimising crime, rape and violence are crimes, it is not acceptable in any culture, tradition or religion.

Now for perhaps the most difficult part of this article. No-one should experience violence or die from it. There are women and children all over South Africa who are experiencing violence or have died through violence. We need to ensure all their names and stories are known to all of us.

Everyone has a right to justice. Every life matters. The media is critical in this regard. We cannot prioritise some GBV stories over others. GBV must not be reported as an event. In-depth, critical reporting is required at every point.

KPMG estimates that it costs the country over R28 billion per annum, amounting to 1% of the GDP. The cost of GBV is too high for the country, for families and for individuals. The time to end GBV is now.

So, where to from here? We need the South African Government to declare a state of emergency NOW. No more platitudes from government, make the justice system work for women. Strengthen bail conditions for perpetrators of GBV. Make the police service part of the solution. Finalise the GBV Council and provide the requisite budget for the council to implement the four pillars: response, care and support; economic power; communication and prevention.

In addition, line departments within government such as education and those dealing with economic development need to review their strategies. Amongst others, there must be initiatives to integrate gender equality and the prevention of GBV in education curricula and sites. Women’s economic development, particularly those who are in the non-formal economy or unemployed must be a priority.

Citizens of South Africa, women and children are dying everyday through GBV. The President of South Africa must lead the charge for gender equality. There is need for a comprehensive awareness raising and attitude changing campaign that government leads by example.

I completely understand the anger we are feeling right now. While the primary responsibility for keeping citizens safe lies with government it is incumbent on all of us to contribute to this goal. Preventing GBV is everyone’s responsibility, we cannot look on while GBV runs rampant in our communities.  We have to ask ourselves what can we do to prevent GBV?

Kubi Rama is the Gender Links Advisor. This article is part of the Gender Links News Service.




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