Time for an emergency plan to end gender violence

Date: January 1, 1970
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Johannesburg, 24 Nov: There is urgent need for a National Action Plan to end gender violence. This is the key finding of the Gender Justice Barometer 2005, an audit by Gender Links (GL) of commitments made during last year?s Sixteen Days of Activism campaign being launched today on the first day of the Cyber Dialogues. In this first of a series of accountability forums senior government and NGO officials will take a soul searching look at why gender violence continues to rise.

Latest police statistics show that while there has been a general decrease in contact crimes (such as murder and common assault) rape and indecent assault (the category under which most cases of domestic violence lurk) have increased by 4 percent and 8 percent respectively. With 55,000 reported cases of rape (and it is acknowledged that these are likely to be about a quarter of actual cases) on average a woman is raped at least every ten minutes in South Africa.
Positive developments cited by the audit include the fact that the courts have continued to send out strong messages that gender violence is not acceptable and that the state will be held accountable for upholding the rights of women. More men are taking a vocal stance against gender violence. The reach of public awareness campaigns keeps mounting: this year the cyber dialogues will redraw the map of Southern Africa by running in six languages that cut across artificial colonial boundaries.
Yet, nine years after the South African Law Commission produced a discussion paper on the Sexual Offences Bill, it has still not been passed. While experiments abound in providing one stop facilities that would cater for the legal, psychological and health needs of women, including immediate access to Post Exposure Prophylaxis (PEP) to counter the possibility of contracting HIV, only five percent of those who need such integrated facilities have access to them.
Ten times more special Sexual Offences Courts than what is currently available are needed to ensure that every case of sexual offence is heard by such courts which have a 63 percent conviction rate, compared to seven percent in ordinary courts.  
Foreign donors are pulling out their support for shelters, arguing that this should be a South African government responsibility. As a result of the slow and inadequate response by the Department of Social Development several of these are threatened with closure. While government and civil society work together well around the Sixteen Day campaign, the Anti Rape Strategy devised by the government cluster responsible for crime has yet to be been canvassed with NGO partners.
The GL audit concludes that what is needed is an emergency action plan to end gender violence, with an across-the-board co-ordinating structure, targets, responsibilities, timeframes and a score card by which to measure progress this time next year.  
(The audit will be launched at 11 am on Thursday 24 November. For more information phone Susan Tolmay on 083 519 8959.  For more information on the Cyber dialogues, the audit, and the proposed National Action Plan go to www.genderlinks.org.za)

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