16 Days of Activism: 'The criminal justice system fails GBV survivors'
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Cape Town - As the 16 Days of Activism for No Violence Against Women and Children Campaign commences, People Opposing Women Abuse (Powa) will be stepping up to the challenge with ongoing support for abused women and children.
Powa criticised the criminal justice system and said that various actors – including the police, investigating officers, magistrates, prosecutors, judges and others – often fail gender-based violences (GBV) survivors.
By doing so, they compromise the justice and security survivors deserve and perpetuate beliefs that perpetrators can get away with abusing women.
The organisation said that many GBV survivors don’t get adequate assistance when reporting GBV cases at police stations.
“In some domestic violence cases, police tell the survivor that it is a family matter and that she should go home and sort it out with her partner instead of dealing with the matter properly.
“In cases of grievous bodily harm or rape, police should arrest perpetrators, but often don’t,” said Thandiwe McCloy.
“There also needs to be bigger punishment for law-enforcement officials who violate regulations for their own personal benefits, for example, by accepting bribes from perpetrators,” said McCloy.
Powa said high rates of unemployment are still creating challenges for women. This means that women struggle to leave abusive partners because they are financially dependent on them.
The cause of high rates of GBV is determined by the fact that South Africans have normalised violence and regard this as a suitable way to resolve conflict.
The belief that men have the right to more power than women has also been characterised as a reason for the high rates of GBV.
“There is a strong relationship between alcohol and gender-based violence. Alcohol abuse perpetuates gender-based violence. There is evidence that heavy drinking or frequent drinking by males, who are mostly perpetrators of gender-based violence, increases the risk of violence,” she said.
McCloy added that the reason why women fail to report their abusers often comes down to fear, shame, not knowing where to get help or low self-esteem.
Under their current #EndDomesticSilence campaign, Powa will be providing skills development opportunities, counselling, shelter and legal services to GBV survivors.