Gender-based violence a great shame for SA

Monday, November 25, 2019

President Cyril Ramaphosa says the crisis of violence against women and children is a great shame on the nation and goes against African values and everything the country stands for.

“We grew up being taught that as men and boys we must respect women and protect children. We were taught to never, ever raise your hand against a woman … but we have lost our way. Our communities are in the grip of violence against those we are suppose to protect,” President Ramaphosa said.

The President made the remarks at an event to mark the official commencement of the 16 Days of Activism for no Violence Against Women and Children campaign, held in Lephalale, Limpopo, on Monday.

This year’s 16 Days of Activism will be observed under the theme “Enough is Enough: 365 days to end Gender-Based Violence and femicide (GBVF)".

The President said the national campaign is aimed at raising awareness around the rights of women and girls, but also at changing the attitudes of men and boys.

“Far too many men and boys believe women are inferior, that they are the property of their husbands and fathers, and worse yet, that women and girls ‘deserve’ to be raped because of how they dress, the places they visit, and the friends they keep,” President Ramaphosa said.

He said the campaign will complement a wider 365-day, year-round education, awareness and prevention campaign that government will roll out in partnership with civil society.

He reiterated that violence against women is not a problem of women, “it is a problem of men”.

“Our message to those who abuse women has been abundantly clear: there is no place in our society for you. It is to the good and decent men and boys out there, who would not even dream of hurting, disrespecting or abusing a woman that I direct my message today,” the President said.

Government’s response to GBVF

Two months ago, President Ramaphosa announced an Emergency Action Plan that has seen R1.6 billion of government funding reprioritised towards programmes to tackle gender-based violence.

The plan focuses on improving access to justice for survivors, prevention campaigns to change attitudes and behaviour, measures to strengthen the criminal justice system, and the creation of economic opportunities for women who are vulnerable to abuse.

President Ramaphosa reported that since the plan was rolled out, he has been receiving regular weekly updates on government’s progress.

He said key aspects of the plan are being implemented and government is on schedule to meet the six month target.

Amongst the progress made include the opening of a new Sexual Offences Court, which was opened in September in Limpopo in Sibasa, and eleven regional courts across all provinces have been identified for upgrade. 

New CCTV systems that allow survivors to testify in privacy have also been upgraded at 38 regional courts.

“The Thuthuzela Care Centres are being expanded, with three new centres planned. Of the four in Limpopo, only two are fully operational, and we will be working with the NPA (National Prosecution Authority) to ensure they are all capacitated.

“An audit of the country’s 281 designated health facilities is underway to prepare some to adopt the Thuthuzela model. Provinces are identifying underutilised buildings that can be refurbished and used as shelters. Four properties in Pretoria have already been refurbished and will open as shelters in the first week of December,” President Ramaphosa highlighted.

Furthermore, last Friday, government launched a 100-day rapid results approach in Eastern Cape to speed up case turnaround times.

The President said the 100-day rapid results approach will be piloted at a number of courts with significant backlogs in the North West, Eastern Cape and here in Limpopo.

Government is also working to reduce the gender-based violence case backlogs at forensic laboratories and is developing a tracking mechanism that will be rolled out in January next year.

Call centres to deal with complaints against SAPS

“National and provincial 24-hour call centres to deal with complaints against SAPS and legal officers in matters of gender-based violence are up and running and we have achieved our target of attending to all complaints within seven days.

“A project to reopen unresolved murder and sexual offences cases has already begun in the Eastern Cape and will soon be operational nationally. The SAPS has allocated 312 new recruits currently undergoing basic training to the Family Violence, Child Protection and Sexual Offences Units.

“Nearly 4 500 SAPS members have also received training on the provision of survivor-centered services. To date 7 000 rape evidence collection kits have been distributed to police stations countrywide and Limpopo received 700 kits in the first week of this month.

Personnel shortages at health facilities

Meanwhile, President Ramaphosa said government is working to address personnel shortages at health care facilities, and the Department of Health is currently conducting an audit of forensic health nurses in Limpopo and Mpumalanga.

He said government employees who work with children and mentally disabled persons are also being vetted against the National Register of Sex Offenders.

To date, the President said, over 1 200 officials have been vetted, including prosecutors and members of the SAPS.

“To ensure that those found guilty of gender-based violence receive punishment proportionate to the seriousness of their crimes, we are in the process of reforming existing laws around bail and sentencing,” the President said. –