Protecting victims of GBVF

GCOBISABy Gcobisa Soci

There is always a profound sense of shock and horror when an unspeakable tragedy has occurred and an innocent woman or child is murdered in a home. Often neighbours will remark that they heard the shouting and saw the battered faces, but were too scared to act. 

This is sadly a reality that happens all too often and the only way we will end it is to move beyond the shock and ensure that concrete actions are taken to end the scourge of gender-based violence and femicide (GBVF). It is the responsibility of all South Africans to end the culture of silence around gender-based violence and femicide and report perpetrators to the police. 

The complex nature of GBVF require interventions at every level of society as it is deeply rooted in social, economic, and cultural factors.  The government has introduced targeted interventions tailored to the needs of victims such as the three pieces of legislation signed into law, Thuthuzela Care Centres, GBV Command Centre, and so forth. The Criminal Law (Sexual Offences and RelatedA Matters) Amendment ct Amendment Act 13 of 2022, The Criminal and Related Matters Amendment Act 12 of 2022, and The Domestic Violence Amendment Act 14 of 2022 are key interventions of the National Strategic Plan on Gender Based Violence and Femicide. 

These interventions step up the national fight against the scourge of gender-based violence and femicide. They increase protection of victims of gender-based violence and femicide and further prevent perpetrators from escaping justice. They also increase accountability and provide for consequence management against those who do not comply. 

These three statutes and various other legislative and policy initiatives such as Sexual Offences Units and Sexual Offences Courts are assisting in the fight against sexual crimes. Similarly, Thuthuzela care centres established around the country assist rape survivors to lodge a case with the police, receive counselling and medical care in one facility.

But sadly as has been seen time after time, laws and interventions are often not enough. Combating GBVF requires an all of society approach, along with deeper reflection of things that have become the norm.  

Sometimes when GBVF occurs family members or others will put pressure on the survivor not to report the perpetrator or forgive the perpetrator. At times this could range from accepting apologies, gifts, money or other forms of compensation from perpetrators on behalf of vulnerable victims. Another common occurrence is the immoral and illegal act of justifying the actions of perpetrators based on their status in the community or if they are breadwinners.  

When sexual crimes go unreported or are covered up, perpetrators are emboldened and violence is enabled. Silence enables violence as most sexual crime perpetrators become repeat offenders who get away with murder. Act now and stop the cycle of violence and abuse. Speak up and break the chains of oppression.

The unequal gender relations in our country often lead to predatory behaviour by males who prey on vulnerable women and children, as well as and marginalised communities such as LGBTQI+, and people with disabilities.  Within communities, everyone knows the story of the “kindly uncle” who gives the next-door neighbour money for bread or other necessities in exchange for sexual favours. 

Unequal gender relations also sometimes manifest in marriages or relationships where the man wields all the economic power and exploits that position to manipulate or abuse.    

These are just but some of the daily events that shape and influence the lives of vulnerable women and children. The disturbing part is that these incidents have been normalised and that action is seldom taken to stop them. 

Since 1994, government has made the empowerment of women a priority and have created progressive laws that are dedicated to the development of women in our country.

These include the Gender Equality Law, which seeks to eliminate discrimination in employment, training and recruitment on the basis of gender and to promote the payment of equal remuneration to male and female employees who perform work of equal value.

We are also driving the economic inclusion of women through public procurement by setting aside at least 40 per cent of goods and services procured by public entities for women-owned businesses. 

The National Empowerment Fund accelerates the provision of funding to businesses owned by black women, while its iMbewu Fund supports black women entrepreneurs. We also have the SheTradeZA Hub, which helps women entrepreneurs increase their international competitiveness and connects them to national, regional and global markets. 

These are just some of the interventions that are helping to bring women into the economic mainstream, while also lessening their vulnerability to violence and abuse. However, the complex nature of GBVF requires all in society to play their part.

As a society and especially as men, we have to say enough is enough.  Men have the power to put an end to abuse, assault, rape and domestic violence against women, children, and other vulnerable groups.  Men and boys play a crucial role in the eradication of women and child abuse. We call on all fathers to instil the values of human dignity, equality and respect in young men and boys. Our young boys must be mentored and guided in their journey to adulthood so they value and respect women and children.

By instilling these values we can begin to imagine a future where women and children no longer have to live in fear.   We also have to realise that all of us must act if we are to stop the cycle of violence and abuse. The scourge of GBVF will only stop when we are all accountable for the safety and wellbeing of vulnerable persons. 

Silence is not an option for those who know of cases of domestic violence. Become part of the solution and report all incidents of rape and abuse of vulnerable groups, especially women, children, elderly, and persons with disabilities.

Report all cases of rape, sexual assault or any form of violence against a person who is vulnerable, a child, older person or person with a disability to a social worker, a local police station or call the toll-free Crime Stop number: 086 00 10111.

Encourage survivors of sexual violence to use the 24-Hour Gender-Based Violence Command Centre hotline 0800 428 428 to report any abuse.

Gcobisa Soci is Chief financial Officer at GCIS