South Africa takes a stand against violence and abuse

24 November 2014

With the theme “Count me in”, 16 Days of Activism for No Violence against Women and Children Campaign will be officially launched by President Jacob Zuma in Reiger Park, Ekurhuleni, on 25 November.

The international campaign runs from 25 November to 10 December, to raise awareness of the negative impact that violence has on women, children and society. However, South Africa is expanding 16 Days into a year-long, intensified programme that will ensure men and boys are part of the solution.

National and provincial dialogues will extend beyond 16 Days, driven by the Department of Women. These will involve multidisciplinary and inter-departmental teams, and will be a platform for all South Africans to engage in identifying interventions responsive to their experiences.

There will be a National Prayer Day for women and children from all walks including, sex workers, abused women and children on 6 December, with official activities taking place at Johannesburg Stadium. On 10 December, there will be a Presidential Men’s Dialogue at the Presidential Guesthouse at the Union Buildings, and the Department of Social Development will host a Human Trafficking Indaba.

This year, the theme of 16 Days is: “Count Me In. Together moving a non-violent South Africa forward”. It is the 16th year of the campaign, and will also reflect on 20 years of democracy in South Africa and 60 years of the Women’s Charter.

Speaking about the campaign in parliament on Friday, 21 November, Susan Shabangu, the minister in The Presidency for women, said: “Imagine living in a society where we no longer read or hear about the abuse that women and children often suffer at the hands of heartless perpetrators.”

Parliament hosted a Joint Sitting of the National Assembly and the National Council of Provinces to debate 16 Days. It began with the lighting of the torch of peace in the morning and the signing of a pledge by Members of Parliament.

“One of the achievements of the campaign over the years has been the bringing together of all sectors of society, including civil society organisations to speak in one voice against this scourge – ‘many voices one message’ – which then spoke to fighting this scourge of violence for 365 days,” Shabangu said. Despite the high level of awareness of 16 Days, gender violence remained a cause for concern. Domestic violence continued to be a deadly crime, a social menace, and a costly public health and economic problem.

“The brutal killing of women and children despite laws having been instituted to criminalise brutal behaviour and to improve the safety of women and children, shows that there is a need to move from policy to action and provide stronger focus than ever on prevention and early intervention to support women and children against this scourge.”

She said that government research institutions such as the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research “have the responsibility to conduct victimology research in order to assist in early detection and prevention”. While it was the primary responsibility of the government to provide strong leadership and a co-ordinated and integrated approach to tackling gender violence, Shabangu said that reducing violence against women and children was a shared responsibility across society. It could not be achieved by the government alone.

16 Days aims to provide a platform to engage all stakeholders across race, gender, age and other divides to commit to collectively fight gender violence and child abuse, and to relook at strategies to eradicate it. “This calls for national cohesion. This is not a programme for a particular grouping, but a national call because it deals with our integrity,” she said.

Unite4Mandela

On Saturday, 22 November, more than 25 000 people gathered at the Union Buildings in Pretoria for the Nelson Mandela Sports and Cultural Day, known as Unite4Mandela. Speaking on the day, Shabangu urged all South Africans to commit themselves to creating a non-violent nation. “We need to unite against violence of women and children. we need to all be active and be counted in a fight against abuse of women and children during this 16 Days of Activism.”

She pleaded with men to pledge that they would not abuse and violate the rights of women and children, and encouraged men to provide financially for their families. She also urged people not to discriminate against and violate the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender/transsexual and intersex people.

Most participants on the day were South Africans, but there were runners, cyclists and walkers from abroad, including Ethiopia and the Netherlands. Sports and Recreation Minister Fikile Mbalula reiterated Shabangu’s words, saying it was time to put an end to the abuse of women and children. “Only boys abuse women. Real men do not abuse.”

Races on the day included a 5km, a 9.4km and a 27km run, and a 67km cycle.

Culture of respect

Meanwhile in the Western Cape, the Create a Culture of Respect campaign was launched on Monday, 24 November by the provincial minister of cultural affairs and sport, Dr Nomafrench Mbombo, and local celebrities. The minister, celebrities and sports stars signed a pledge to fight the abuse of women and children in their various fields. It is planned that the celebrities and sports stars will use their influence in each field to effect change and speak to people across the province. The province said the initiative aimed to ensure that the protection of women and children went beyond the 16 days of this campaign.

A number of pertinent days are included during 16 Days: International day of No Violence Against Women on 25 November, World Aids Day on 1 December, International Day of Persons with Disabilities on 3 December, and International Human Rights Day on 10 December.

Various laws protect the rights of women and children against violence, the most prominent of which are the Domestic Violence, the Children’s and the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences and Related Matters) acts. Other laws protect the interests of women and children; among them are the Maintenance, the Recognition of Customary Marriages, and the Promotion of Equality and Prevention of Unfair Discrimination acts.

Helplines for abused people:

  • Gender-based Violence Helpline: 0800 428 428 or *120*7867 from any cellphone
  • Childline: 0800 055 555
  • SAPS Crime Stop: 08600 10111
  • Aids Helpline: 0800 012 322 or 011 725 6710

Helplines for abusers who want to stop their behaviour:

  • Gender-based Violence Helpline: 0800 428 428 or *120*7867 from any cellphone
  • Stop Gender-based Violence Helpline: 0800 003 081
  • Suicide Helpline: 0800 567 567

SAinfo Reporter and SANews