GBV summit seeks to close gap between law and enforcement

Thursday, November 1, 2018

The National Summit against Gender Based Violence and Femicide opened on Thursday with serious discussions on what needs to be done to bridge the gap between legislation and its enforcement, to protect citizens.

According to the latest report released by Statistics South Africa on GBV, 70 813 women experienced sexual offences in 2016/17, compared to 31 665 in 2015/16.

Social Development Minister Susan Shabangu said the summit must be used as a springboard to find solutions to this staggering problem that creates an atmosphere of fear and anxiety for women and children.

“We still live in a country where women continue to be abused. We live in a country where even our homes are not safe. We talk about GBV, femicide and read in our newspapers every day about a woman who has been killed, raped or abused,” Shabangu said.

With myriad socio-economic challenges South Africa faces, Shabangu said she was at least heartened by the willingness of all sectors, including private and public, to work together to end violence against women and children.

“We are trying to find solutions as a country to address the scourge of violence against [women] children,” Shabangu said.

The summit follows the #TotalShutdown March on 1 August 2018, where participants presented a set of 24 demands to President Cyril Ramaphosa, which included that he convenes a Gender-Based Violence Summit.

The morning session of the summit started with various victims of GBV sharing their experiences.

Avela Faye, whose mother was violated by a family member, said South Africa has become a breeding ground for perpetrators who don’t fear the criminal justice system.

“Until today, the chances of running into my mother’s perpetrator every time I go home, on a scale of one to 10, are 10,” Faye said.

She called for the adoption of a policy to make it compulsory for prosecutors to lead investigations into GBV cases so they can provide guidance to the investigation team, and a system of gathering evidence in order to ensure that cases get to courts and that perpetrators are tried and convicted.

Director and founder of Ilitha Lobuntu, Mandisa Mulalani, challenged government to review national legislation, and practices and customs like “ukuthwala” (abduction for marriage).

Mulalani also emphasised that GBV was colour blind as it cut across all races.

Supreme Court of Appeal Judge Mandisa Maya said all role players, including police and the prosecutors, must combine their efforts in order to ensure justice for the victims of GBV crimes.

“Where the police did not carry out their constitutional duty and fail to investigate crimes properly, as it usually happens, the whole process collapses [and] the offender is then released back to society with the possibility of re-offending,” Maya said.

She admitted that the closure of sexual offences courts has led to an overburden on the current criminal justice system. –