Levels of gender-based violence still unacceptably high

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Pretoria - Despite the fact that many countries have developed national legislation to address the scourge of violence against women and children, the levels of gender-based violence are still unacceptably high.

This was highlighted by Social Development Minister Bathabile Dlamini in her address during a roundtable discussion on “the importance of primary prevention of Gender-Based Violence in the United Nations”.

Dlamini is part of a South African delegation attending the 57th United Nations Commission on the Status of Women (UNCSW) taking place in New York

The two-week session, attended by government delegations from other UN member states, will see governments reporting to the UN on work that has been done in their respective countries to prevent gender-based violence.

Dlamini noted that during the 48th UNCSW, the UN member-countries committed to working towards a concerted effort to tackle the root causes of violence against women and children. However, the UN estimates still show high levels of gender-based violence, with figures showing that one in three women are beaten or raped during her lifetime.

Noting interventions by South African government to fight the scourge of gender-based violence, Dlamini highlighted that post-1994, government has taken considerable administrative and legislative processes to address the root causes of violence in general, and gender-based violence in particular. 

One of the key instruments that government introduced post-1994 was the National Crime Prevention Strategy of 1996 which addresses the issue of gender-based violence through four core areas of intervention, namely: prevention, protection, prosecution, and victim empowerment.

The strategy recognises the complexity of the crime situation and highlights that some of the causes of violence crimes against women and children are deep-rooted as they relate to the history and socio economic realities of society and therefore cannot be addressed through policy or legislation alone.

Dlamini noted that South Africa's violent history of oppression and the struggle for liberation has left us with a "culture of violence", which has come to be regarded as a legitimate means of resolving social, political and even domestic conflicts at family and community levels.

“For this reason, the strategy advocates for primary prevention anchored on awareness and education, as well as mobilisation and participation of civil society in efforts to address this challenge.

“This is key if we are to transform the social norms and cultural practices that perpetuate violence. This is also key if we are to achieve changes in individual, interpersonal, community and wider societal behaviours and practices,” Dlamini told the commission.

She added that the preventive agenda was also anchored on promoting social inclusion because poverty and inequality are major drivers of violence not only in South Africa, but also across the globe.

For this reason, she continued, government has also prioritised the provision of basic social services, including social grants and expansion of educational opportunities, especially for vulnerable groups.

“Our prevention strategy is also characterised by the establishment of multi-sectoral partnership such as the recent establishment of the National Council on Gender-Based Violence and the high level Inter-Ministerial Committee on the causes of violence against women and children.”

She commended the work of community including the work of South African civil society organisations such as Sonke Gender Justice Network, and government leaders in initiating and implementing prevention programmes on gender equality, masculinity and male involvement in prevention programmes.  

As part of the country’s preventive agenda, government is undertaking concerted efforts to combat the scourge of alcohol and substance abuse, which are also the key drivers of violence against women and children.

“We have recently started with the National Youth Camp, with the hope that we may educate our youth on such matters as social responsibility, love for one’s country, human rights, and other intrinsic values that should make them more responsible citizens of our country and of the global community.

“Violence against women and children is unacceptable in any form and under any circumstances.  To this end, our Government remains committed to preventing violence from occurring at the first place and holding the perpetrators accountable for their actions, while at the same time helping them to change their behaviour.

“Our prevention programmes are premised on a more coordinated and integrated approach by Government and civil society organisations,” she reported.

She said she believed that there is increased preparedness at both country and global level to act against violence towards women and children.

“Primary prevention must be at the core of this commitment and action, with an emphasis on educating and engaging the community to positively change norms, attitudes and behaviours that perpetuate violence.” – SAnews.gov.za