#WomensMonth: Violence Against Women Has Become A ‘Pandemic’. 7/8/2017

Published by IOL

Sonke Gender Justice senior strategic adviser Bafana Khumalo said violence against women was increasing every year and they got reports of women being turned away at police stations when they wanted to report violence against them. Picture: Chris Collingridge/INL

Violence against women has reached pandemic proportions and Women’s Day or Sixteen Days of Activism are doing nothing to curb it.

Gender activists and researchers are deploring violence against women ahead of Women’s Day on Wednesday, partly blaming a lack of political will and leadership for the increase in the scourge.

“Women’s Month is not making a big difference and is not enough. The mentality and attitude we have on Women’s Day and Sixteen Days of Activism must also be visible every day because more can be done to raise awareness. Government is sadly lacking. We have great laws but no implementation and the judiciary has a backlog of cases and does not treat victims with sensitivity,” said Dr Elisabet le Roux, research director at the Unit for Religion and Development Research at Stellenbosch University.

Sonke Gender Justice senior strategic adviser Bafana Khumalo said violence against women was increasing every year and they got reports of women being turned away at police stations when they wanted to report violence against them.

Shaheema McLeod, director at the Saartjie Baartman Centre, said the rates of violence against women “remain alarmingly and unacceptably high”.

“This isn’t a problem that should get our attention (on) only 16 days or be spoken about in one month out of 12. It’s a crisis all year round. A culture of gender-based violence prevails, resulting in poor support structures, low conviction rates and even lower numbers of victims confident enough in the legal system to come forward.”

Research Chair for Historical Trauma and Transformation at the University of Stellenbosch Professor Pamela Gobodo Madikizela said perpetrators were getting younger.

“We have also observed the ages in gender-based violence cases and profiles. It’s becoming younger, it makes you sit up and question what is really going on in our country. In Fish Hoek a 19-year-old raped and killed a women way older than him. Social constructions of manhood also play a role in driving gender-based violence.

“When a boy starts behaving badly, instead of dealing with the root of the problem they are sent to the mountain as they will return as a man. This doesn’t help as the majority become worse because they are men now and have the power to do what they want.”

She said celebrating Women’s Month was of historical importance.

“Celebrating Women’s Month is done every year and, yes, it is important as the brave women in 1956 marched and left a mark.

During this anniversary we need to ask ourselves: Do campaigns like 16 Days of Activism and Women’s Day contribute to the prevention of violence against women? Yes, we are given the platform to raise awareness but do they curb the actual incidents?

“Marches and pickets that are done every week are not going to do it. We need to ask ourselves: Why can’t the pickets and marches we do today leave a mark like the 1956 march?”