Blaming government for GBV a ‘convenient’ narrative, says dept 

Government cannot be blamed for the persistent scourge of gender-based violence (GBV), the Department of Women, Youth and Persons with Disabilities has protested, charging that this was a convenient narrative.

The Citizen has reported how women suffer in silence as government pays lip service to the terror, with criticisms that the 16 Days of Activism for No Violence Against Women and Children activism has failed to protect women.

ALSO READ: GBV: Women suffer in silence as SA government pays lip service to the terror

Advocacy groups have lamented that results indicate policies and programmes aimed at protecting women were simply reserved for podiums and never implemented.

Societal issue

The department’s Shalen Gajadhar disagreed, saying one of the major achievements was the raised awareness around GBV, which she said had been a “private” issue for a long time.

“[Gender-based violence and femicide] was considered a private matter or a domestic matter. We had to move the issue into the public consciousness.

“We then had to convince South Africans GBVF is everyone’s issue. GBVF is not a government issue alone. It may be a convenient narrative to blame government for GBVF, however, government, in the main, intervenes when a case of GBVF has already taken place,” he said.

Gajadhar said unless GBVF was rendered a societal problem, it will remain a losing battle, no matter how many resources government pours into combatting the epidemic.

ALSO READ: GBV: Being a woman in South Africa is a struggle

He said the department has spearheaded the development of the National Strategic Plan [NSP] on GBVF, and coordinating the End GBVF Collective, which brings together government and civil society, as well as development partners

Gajadhar said they also developed tracking and monitoring tools for the implementation of the NSP on GBVF.

“…[W]e are concerned with institutionalising and professionalising our understanding and response to GBVF through the design and resourcing of programmes engineered to respond to GBVF, particularly at community level,” he said.

Tip of the iceberg

Gajadhar agreed that staggering figures of gender-based violence in the country barely scratched the surface of the extent of the scourge.

He explained that stigmatisation, mistrust in the system of reporting and achieving justice, trauma, as well as feelings of self-doubt contributed to women not coming forward to not report their abuse.

ALSO READ: Ramaphosa: ‘Men are the perpetrators of GBV and they need to change’

Gajadhar, however, said the increase in figures could also suggest improvement in raising awareness to GBVF, reporting mechanisms and support mechanisms in communities that support survivors in reporting their abuse. 

“Detailed research is needed to understand under-reporting and barriers to reporting like secondary victimisation, loss of trust in justice system, lack of support in assisting survivors in reporting GBVF,” he said.

DNA backlog

Gajadhar said the department is also working with the SA Police Services’ (Saps) Family Violence, Child Protection and Sexual Offences Unit and Forensic Services Units in tracking progress in clearing DNA backlogs, speeding up processes in analysing samples, establishing new laboratories, and accrediting private labs to assist.

He added that whilst the police were working on addressing the backlog on DNA sample processing to finalise rape cases, they were concerned that this allowed perpetrators to walk free.

ALSO READ: DNA backlog prevents victims from getting closure, says expert

The 16 Days of Activism Campaign is an international United Nations-endorsed initiative observed annually from 25 November (International Day of No Violence against Women) to 10 December (International Human Rights Day).

The period was designated by the UN General Assembly to raise public awareness on gender-based violence in line with resolution 54/134 of 17 December 1999.

This year’s international anti-GBV campaign kicked off after crime statistics revealing that 855 women were killed and 9 516 raped in South Africa between April and June this year alone.

NOW READ: 16 Days of Activism: ‘Our constitution protects criminals more than law-abiding citizens’

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