Civil rights organisations and gender-based violence (GBV) activists have expressed relief as the National Assembly unanimously passed the “long overdue” National Council on Gender-Based Violence and Femicide Bill.
The Bill makes way for the establishment of the National Council that will consist of a board of no more than 13 members, who will be appointed with civil society participation to manage an approach to GBV and femicide that includes short, medium and long term priorities that are aligned with various national frameworks.
The Bill also calls for the National Strategic Plan to be developed and implemented within six months of the National Council being established with regular reports on the progress of its implementation to an inter-ministerial committee on GBV and femicide.
Thereafter, the plan must be reviewed every five years.
The Bill will now be sent to the National Council of Provinces for concurrence.
Mosaic, an organisation which aims to empower women and girl survivors of domestic violence and abuse, said they were relieved that finally the Bill has been passed.
Advocate Tarisai Mchuchu-MacMillan, executive director of Mosaic, said that in order to maximise the strategy's implementation, they had hoped that this would have occurred at the outset of the national strategic plan on gender-based violence and femicide (NSP GBVF).
“We have to accelerate and gain enough ground to ensure the pandemic of GBVF is eradicated in the same way we managed Covid-19 and other crises.The plan has been in place for three years now, government and civil society have been driving the strategic mandates and goals in the NSP GBVF without this machinery of the council that the Bill purports to put in place.
“We believe that this enactment will enable us to achieve some of the goals. However, we must also realise that passing a Bill and doing the work are two different things. Time must be extended to give implementation a fair chance, “ said Mchuchu-MacMillan.
She said the National Council must consist of honest people grounded in feminist values and capable of actually acting on those values.
‘’This means that it is an individual who understands that their position of power, while important, is at the service of the collective and must always be counterbalanced by questioning hierarchies and seek to incorporate the voices of people, women in all their identities, children, gender non-conforming persons.
“We also need people who understand economics and business, who will know how to engage with Treasury to ensure that NSP GBVF is cost and funded linking their efforts to other donors. Relationships across sectors are key, thus it must be people who are capable of building relationships on all levels of society,” Mchuchu-MacMillan added.
UCTs Children's Institute senior researcher Lucy Jamieson said violence against women and children was deeply intertwined, yet the National Strategic Plan on Gender-Based Violence does not fully address the needs of women with children or of children who experience GBV.
“We hope that the National Council will include representatives from the children sector who address this gap, and establish mechanisms to continue and deepen the conversation with children themselves,” she said.
Molo Songololo, which works to protect the rights of children, said their concern was that the language and focus of the strategic plan of action and the Bill was biased to GBVF related to women and marginalised children and men.
Molo Songololo director Patric Solomons said: “Recent consultations held by the national Department of Social development with children in different provinces indicate that children are not happy with the National Strategic Plan on GBVF.
“They say that ‘the plan does not have a specific stand-alone focal pillar and priority for children’ as proposed by the Children’s Sector Group at the latest GBVF Summit held in 2022.
They further stated that the GBVF NPA neglected to prioritise measures to prevent and combat GBVF against children and failed to address the unique needs and interests of boys and men; and is lost in the women focussed plan.
“The Bill further entrenches this bias towards women in its language and provisions for the establishment of the Council. It is notable that key government services providers that must also deal with the prevention and combating of GBVF, such as the Dept of Education, Dept of Correctional Services, Dept Employment and Labour, Dept Communication are ignored.”