Abuse victims to tell their stories

By Gabi Khumalo.

 

Victims and survivors of gender-based violence have joined a national campaign in which they are encouraged to tell their own stories as part of government’s efforts to understand the root causes of women abuse.

President Jacob Zuma launched the National Dialogues on Violence Against Women and Children on 25 November. It aims to understand the causes, prevalence and impact of violence against women and children, and to discuss appropriate solutions.

The dialogues were launched during an event held at Lebowakgomo Civic Centre in Limpopo to mark the start of this year’s 16 Days of Activism for No Violence Against Women and Children campaign.

The 16 Days of Activism was observed under the theme: “Count Me In: Together Moving a Non-Violent South Africa Forward”.

Convened by the Department of Women, the dialogues provide an opportunity to understand social, cultural and religious practices and laws that perpetuate violence against women and children.

The dialogues will also critically assess persistent shortcomings and gaps in the current legislation, policies, institutional mechanisms and programmes aimed at addressing the scourge of violence.

They will be hosted in every province throughout the year in the form of workshops scheduled through municipal districts. There will be a number of dialogues in order to reach out to many community members.

“The dialogues will provide an opportunity for government to assess its own law enforcement and social support machinery, in order to enhance support for women and children,” President Zuma said at the time.

The dialogues sessions will also include men’s organisations, but the sessions will be held separately to allow women to participate more freely.

Minister for Women Susan Shabangu says, through the dialogues, government hopes to make sure that it gets to the root cause of women abuse in the country.

“Let’s go much deeper in ensuring that we create a society that is peaceful, and bring back the hope about tomorrow for women.”

Commission for Gender Equality head Mbuyiselo Botha says the commission supports the launch of the dialogues.

Botha says the commission will participate in the dialogues by engaging with men in a bid to help end the abuse.

“Dialogues are very important and critical in ensuring that communities are given back their own powers as to what are the challenges, where are the gaps, and how are they going to be filled.

“We think that after all these processes, what is going to be more critical and important in moving forward is that, Minister Shabangu and her department ensure that there is visible practical sustainable actions taken as the result of these processes,” says Botha.

Government’s response to gender-based violence

Government has notably taken an integrated approach in the fight against gender based violence.

Officials say they have identified factors such as bail, sentencing, victim empowerment, capacity building and extending access to courts as crucial interventions in the fight to end violence against women.

Some of the policy and legislative initiatives to combat violence include the Child Protection Unit which was later expanded to become the Family Violence, Child Protection and Sexual Offences Units (FCS).

The FCS was established to ensure that women and children are protected from further trauma and secondary victimisation.

South Africa also introduced the first specialised Sexual Offences Court as a pilot project aimed at improving the adjudication of sexual offences at the Wynberg Regional Court in Cape Town, before being introduced in other parts of the country.

Government also established Inter-Ministerial Committees on violence against women to investigate the root causes of violence against women and to develop national plans to prevent and respond to the scourge in a coordinated manner. – SAnews.gov.za