State of emergency needed to end gender violence

Date: December 10, 2010
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Johannesburg: 10 December: Gender Links (GL) has called on the government to declare a state of emergency in the fight to end gender violence. In a press release to mark the close of the Sixteen Days of Activism Against Gender Violence GL said that countless research studies now show that the problem is overwhelming and the response is insufficient, especially when measured against the target of halving gender violence by 2015 in the SADC Protocol on Gender and Development.

“If there were 60,000 reported cases a year of men being sexually assaulted and the actual number were ten times higher, every politician would be up in arms and a state of emergency long declared,” GL Executive Director Colleen Lowe Morna noted. “Sadly where the lives and bodies of women are concerned we find every excuse to look away, despite the government slogan to the contrary.”

The statement coincides with the release of GL’s political discourse analysis at Constitution Hill on Human Rights Day, the last day of the Sixteen Day campaign. The analysis of nearly 2000 speeches made by the President, cabinet, opposition leaders, members of parliament and MEC’s showed that only 1% of these focused on gender violence, and only 4% mentioned the scourge. President Jacob Zuma only referred to gender violence in 6% of his 118 speeches in the year reviewed.

At the start of the campaign on 25 November – International Day of No Violence Against Women- GL and the Medical Research Council released research showing that half the women in Gauteng province have experienced some form of violence in their lifetime (18% in the past year) and that three quarters of the men in the province admit to such behaviour.

“The campaign opened with the horror of an alleged rape at a school and closed with an alleged case of femicide perpetrated by a foreigner on South African soil,” Lowe-Morna noted. “Virtually every day of this campaign gender violence has been front page news, yet we seem no closer to meaningful solutions.”

The political discourse analysis report entitled “What’s on the political agenda?” shows that GBV is not only marginal to mainstream political discourse but has at times been fuelled by politicians. A case in point is the remark made by ANC Youth League leader Julius Malema that women who are raped do not ask for taxi money in the morning, taken to the Equality Court by Sonke Gender Justice, who will participate in the launch of the report Friday.

Malema is refusing to pay the R50 00O fine prescribed by the court. The ANC and ANC Youth League said they would not be able to participate in the closing debate, while the Democratic Alliance said it had shut its offices for the holidays.

The political discourse analysis shows that the majority of speeches on gender violence are made on commemorative days, with 91% of these during the Sixteen Days of Activism and on Women’s Day. The report says this shows that “the 365 Days of Action to End Gender Violence, launched in March 2007 and aimed at ensuring that the Sixteen Day campaign is sustained throughout the year, has not been taken to heart by the nation’s leaders.”

In the fight against HIV and AIDS, Lowe Morna noted, “we have learned that political will and leadership is vital. There is a direct correlation between countries that are experiencing a reduction in new infection rates and the existence of leadership from the front. That is sadly lacking where gender violence in concerned.”

On the positive side, GL noted that this year’s campaign witnessed several marginalised groups finding their voices in the campaign. These include sex workers; women traders; those who have been victimised because of their sexual orientation and reformed perpetrators. Survivors of gender violence are increasingly claiming their space in campaigns to end gender violence.

GL also welcomed the surge of energy from several councils across Southern Africa that are developing local action plans to end gender violence. As part of its closing activities GL is putting out a call for the Second Gender Justice and Local Government Awards and Summit to be held in March 2011. These include awards for institutional good practise and local leadership in the fight against gender violence (

The Summit will also feature the launch of the Gauteng Gender Violence Indicators Study incorporating the prevalence study and discourse analysis launched during the Sixteen Days of Activism Campaign. “Our message is that this is a year long, even a lifelong campaign,” Lowe-Morna said. “We hope that all provinces of South Africa, and all countries in the region will conduct comprehensive baseline studies like the one we are conducting in Gauteng so that we can measure what we have achieved by 2015.”

(To access the two studies mentioned in this press release go to the postings under 24 November and 10 December on The Gender Justice and Local Government Summit and Award call can also be found in this location. For more information on the Sixteen Days of Activism phone Loveness Nyakujarah-Jambaya on 011 622 2877).


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