Thursday, November 1, 2018

Centurion; Pretoria: 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.

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.

Speaking at the event, President Ramaphosa said that Government needs to examine the possibility of introducing a national registry for protection orders.

The President said sometimes survivors of violence have to flee their homes to other parts of the country and it becomes difficult to obtain copies of those orders without going through the whole process again.

The two-day summit, which kicked off on Thursday at St Georges Hotel in Centurion, is in response to continued high levels of violence and femicide against women and children.

President Ramaphosa appointed his Special Advisor to work with the Department of Justice to lead the process of convening the Summit.

The President reiterated government’s commitment to bring down the figures of violence against women and children.

According to Stats SA, 138 per 100 000 women were raped last year, the highest rate in the world.

“We cannot, and we will not, rest until we have brought those figures down to zero. We are aiming for a femicide rate of zero per 100 000.

“We want to reach a point where no woman, child or man has to experience the violence, violation and trauma of rape. There is no acceptable level of gender-based violence (GBV). We want to eradicate it,” the President said.

He condemned victim blaming in cases of violence and rape against women and children.

“The language we use too often places the responsibility on the victim to not be raped or hit, instead of placing the blame where it belongs – on the perpetrator.

“This expression of patriarchy makes it even harder for survivors of gender-based violence to seek justice,” President Ramaphosa said.

He called on all South Africans to become champions of the fight against gender-based violence and femicide.

“This is a societal problem that requires multi-faceted, society wide responses,” the President said.

Government intervenes on matters of GBV

In response to the marches that were held in August, government has responded to two specific demands that were raised.

These demands include conducting a review of national plans to end GBV and the development of a National Action Plan on GBV.

“Together with civil society organisations, we have undertaken a review of our Programme of Action (POA) on Violence against Women and Children, and plan to launch the revised POA 2019–2023 during the 16 Days of Activism,” the President said.

He said the Thuthuzela Care Centres, aimed at responding to incidents of violent sexual acts against women and children, are an effective intervention by government.

“We must develop concrete proposals on how we can strengthen the operations of these centres,” he said.

The centres are aimed at reducing secondary victimisation, improve conviction rates and reduce the cycle time for finalisation of cases.

“We agree with the demand that we must continuously ensure that lay counsellors at these centres undergo ongoing training to deal with the needs of victims of violence,” he said.

Speaker of the National Assembly Baleka Mbete has called for the 267 constituency offices which are in communities to play a role in assisting women with their challenges.

“The country needs a change of mind-set and culture. [We need to do away] with the thinking that violence is a sign of love. We must fight the culture of GBV,” Mbete said.

She proposed that the Department of Arts and Culture initiate a campaign for young people with messages that will create awareness on issues of GBV.

“We need to produce large numbers of appropriately skilled civil servants to be deployed in strategic positions across the state. We need the right people who have the right mind-set and understanding of what this battle is about [GBV],” Mbete said. – SAnews.gov.za

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