Gauteng has recorded many incidents of Gender-Based Violence and femicide since the Covid-19 lockdown began in March this year and have seen a continuous rise to date. Women and children have been subjected to the worst form of abuse perpetrated by callous men. Most acts of gender-based violence are committed by men against women, and the man perpetrating the violence is often known by the woman, such as a partner or family member.
Gender-Based Violence is a persistent worldwide problem, occurring in every culture in all societies. The underlying problem seems to be that many societies consider it a ‘private’ affair and therefore ‘acceptable’. In the Ready to Govern document of the African National Congress (ANC) it declared that: “Women should be able to walk in the streets freely without fear of assault and should be able to feel safe and free from violence in their own homes”.
Women no longer face the triple challenges of inequality, unemployment and poverty. They face quadruple challenges, the fourth challenge being gender-based violence. As the government, we need to acclimatize to categorizing the socio-economic challenges facing women to include gender-based violence. That way we will be seized with the task of ensuring that our women are safe in their homes, at work and on the streets.
The National Development Plan clearly states that “All vulnerable groups including women, children and rural communities should enjoy equal protection and their fear of crime should be eradicated through effective coordinated responses of the police, business, community and civil society.”
As the nation continues to battle the invisible Covid-19 pandemic, a highly visible epidemic of gender-based violence and femicide continues to threaten the lives of our women and children. Gauteng recorded one of the most horrendous incidents of killings of women and children in recent times. Since the Covid-19 lockdown started we have seen cases of GBV spiralling out of control, as if there is a concerted campaign against women. During the Covid-19 Lockdown Level 5, reported cases were at 1205 while during this Level 3 810 cases were reported respectively.
The past two weeks have been the worst days; every day news were about women who have been killed and their bodies dumped in the veld or found hanged. This scourge continues to accelerate despite President Cyril Ramaphosa declaring femicide a national crisis in September 2019.
The gruesome killings of Tshegofatso Pule in Roodepoort and Sanelisiwe Mfaba in Dobsonville, Soweto respectively caused an outrage and debate in society on the impact of gender-based violence. Tshegofatso Pule (28) who was murdered while eight months pregnant was found stabbed multiple times and hanged in a tree near Florida Lake while Sanelisiwe Mfaba was also found murdered and her body dumped near Sasol Garage in Dobsonville.
I am delighted that the perpetrators have since been arrested by the police and will face the full might of law. Gender based violence cannot continue unabated. These incidents depict the continuous challenges women continue to face in the hands of their loved ones. In Orange Farm, a 3-year-old girl was found dead and her body stuffed in a washing basket. These are just some few of the many incidents the province has experienced in recent times.
We applaud Tshegofatso Pule’s uncle, Tumisang Katake who represented Sandile Mantsoe the convicted murderer of Karabo Mokoena, for declaring that he will never again represent a man who has killed or raped. We wish to call upon more Lawyers to join Tshego’s uncle and refrain from representing rapists and killers of women and children.
We further wish to call upon parents of girl children to stop negotiating when the girl has been sexually molested. They must stop accepting imbuzi (goat) or money under the auspices of apologizing. You are permanently destroying the lives of your girl children.
As women of this beautiful province, we have marched, we have reclaimed the nights, we have picketed at courts, we have done all we can and doing this in calling for Justice for women. We wish to applaud the police for speedily arresting the perpetrators and are now asking the Criminal Justice Sector to do its work. First they must not grant bail to these perpetrators, and later ensure that they give hefty sentences that will deter other perpetrators from committing acts of gender-based violence.
The Gauteng Department of Community Safety is charged with the responsibility of championing the fight against GBV. The department is working with all the Departments in the Province to ensure that Victims and Survivors of GBV are assisted.
Premier David Makhura, when delivering the SOPA on the 25th February 2020 announced The Gauteng GBV plan which will give effect to the President’s Emergency Response Action Plan (ERAP) on Gender-Based Violence and Femicide.
Various departments have also contributed in the development of the 5 Pillars of the Response Plan as adopted from the National Emergency Plan and they are as follows;
· Prevention of Gender-based Violence
· Provide care, support and healing for victims of GBV
· Enhance the legal and policy framework
· Strengthen the criminal justice system
· Economic empowerment of women
The plan also includes the setting up a focal point panel of gender activists, which will be located in the Office of the Premier, and part of its responsibility will be to coordinate government, civil society and private sector interventions against gender-based violence and femicide. This clearly demonstrate our unwavering commitment in dealing decisively with the scourge of gender-based violence.
The Gauteng Provincial Government has worked hard to address various forms of violence, including GBV, in an effort to create a safe and secure environment for victims of abuse. Ikhaya Lethemba, a provincial one-stop victim-empowerment centre run by the Gauteng Department of Community Safety, is one such intervention to ensure a range of professional support services such as pyscho-social services and medico-legal services and many more for victims of domestic and sexual violence. The centre continues to be a sanctuary to the victims of Gender-Based Violence.
Lastly, we urge community members and organised formations to work with the law enforcement agencies by reporting all incidents of Gender Based Violence cases to the Crime Stop Hotline on 0860 010 0111 or send anonymous SMS to Crime Line at 32211, or call the Gender Based Violence Command Centre at 0800 428 428. Gender-Based Violence must not be allowed to prevail under our watch. Enough is Enough!
Hlulani Mashaba is the assistant director of media relations at the Gauteng Department of Community Safety.
The Saturday Star
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