Fight to combat GBVF is a societal one

Thursday, October 21, 2021

Justice and Constitutional Development Deputy Minister John Jeffery says the fight against gender- based violence and femicide (GBVF) is not one that government can win alone.

He was speaking during the presentation of Social Change Assistance Trust's (SCAT) research into GBVF.

The research aimed to identify and understand how community based advice organisations are dealing with GBVF and its impact in rural areas.

Jeffery highlighted that government has taken strides through legislation and other measures to fight the scourge but, communities also need to become involved.

“Over the past two years, South Africa has had to ask itself some tough questions in relation to GBV. Our country has some of the most advanced legislation in the world in dealing with GBV matters, so why are levels of GBV so high? What can be done to improve under-reporting?

“We cannot rely on legislation only in trying to combat and prevent GBVF – communities, civil society and religious institutions all have a role to play,” the Deputy Minister said on Wednesday.

Jeffery emphasised that addressing the root cause of GBV lies in engaging men and fighting the patriarchal systems that still exist.

“We have to talk to men and boys, because men have been the dominant perpetrators of GBVF. Men are often the problem – and therefore men have to be part of the solution.

“Studies have shown that patriarchal value systems are still prevalent in South African families and communities. Some men believe that male dominance and male entitlement is the norm. Some men believe that domestic violence is a private matter that happens behind closed doors and is therefore acceptable. These are the attitudes that we must change,” Jeffrey said.

He said the recognition of the need for dialogue has led to the department establishing “Under the Tree Dialogues” in communities.

“The aim is…to vigorously engage with men and boys to change the toxic attitudes and beliefs around masculinity and patriarchy that lead to violence against women and children.

“This is also where our schools, our religious institutions and our communities have a fundamental role to play and if a particular [community based advice organisation] identifies a need for such a dialogue to take place in a specific area or community, [they] should feel free to engage with us in order to make these dialogues a reality.”

Jeffery listed some key interventions that government has installed to fight GBVF and to “offer enhanced services and protection” to the survivors and victims of GBV. These include:

  • Three anti-GBV Bills which were recently passed by Parliament to strengthen the response to GBV and to offer further protection to survivors of GBV.
  • The establishment of Sexual Offences Courts, which offer victim-support services.
  • The use of in-camera testifying services for children, persons with mental disabilities, and all traumatised victims.
  • The approval of regulations, which set out a catalogue of support services and resources that must constitute a section 55A Sexual Offences Court. These services include court support, court preparation, emotional containment, trauma debriefing, counselling, private testifying service, intermediary services and information services.

Victims and survivors of GBVF can call the Gender-Based Violence Command Centre toll-free on 0800 428 428 for assistance or send a “please call me” at *120*7867# with a request that a social worker contact them or they can also sms the word “help” to 31531. -

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