With three women dying at the hands of their partners every day in South Africa, turning the tide on a national crisis of gender-based violence will take more than slogans and summits, and cannot be fully effective without data and performance monitoring to measure the impact of government interventions.
While the budget speech delivered last month mentioned a national strategic plan to “stop the carnage” by September 2019 and welcomed the move to activate “budget support and planning for interventions” addressing Gender-Based Violence (GBV) and femicide, there is a risk of failure unless mechanisms to track the true extent of the problem and the effectiveness of the strategies are in place.
It is not clear how an effective strategy will be developed in the absence of indices and data to contribute to a national monitoring framework with performance indicators to monitor trends, incidence of GBV and measure the impact of interventions. Institutions and resources already existing should be better deployed, coordinated and monitored, rather than creating new and overlapping institutions.
Pointing to the failure to implement resolutions of previous gender summits, the creation of a web of institutional mechanisms, which, if not properly established, will only lead to duplication and overlapping of roles, and ineffective use of resources, culminating in a repetition of the same mistakes.
Gender-based violence affects the very fabric of our society. It is of utmost importance that we establish both policy and institutional responses to measure and effectively reduce the incidence of GBV. It is not simply a phenomenon that occurs at home, it leaves traces across society and costs the nation dearly through a loss of productivity, a rise in absenteeism, and social grant dependence.
Further reliance on the state for health care support, policing and judicial resources, social protection, and insurance places greater demands on already limited state resources. The loss suffered by individual women and children is immeasurable, and not something anyone should be forced to suffer in a civilised society.
Violence against women and children had heightened over the past decade, with South Africa’s femicide rate now five times higher than the global average, and more than one in five women experiencing physical violence, worsening to one in three in low-income areas. The Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation (CSVR) had found that South Africa had the world’s highest rate of rape, estimated at 138 rapes per 100,000 women in 2017.
The statistics point towards a government and society crippled by an inability to protect women and, especially concerning, children. We clearly need to develop more than just reactive slogans and media responses to the incidence of such systemic violations and tragedies. The emphasis should rather be on monitoring the effectiveness and impact of interventions.
More than 10 institutions made up a comprehensive “national gender machinery” to promote gender equality and prevent gender-based violence, including parliamentary committees and structures, the Ministry of Women, Youth and Persons with Disabilities, and the justice cluster.
In December 2018, the President established a 30-member team of experts to assess the status of women in the country, reviewing what the government has done to change the quality of life of women. Improved co-ordination and collaboration between the Ministry of Women, the Commission for Gender Equality, and other gender-related institutions (including this newly appointed task team) will reduce duplication and overlapping of roles.
Resources should be allocated to finance a team of statisticians and researchers within the Department of Women, Youth and Persons with Disabilities working in collaboration with the Auditor General, the Department of Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation, Statistics SA, and the Commission for Gender Equality, to ensure that targets are effectively monitored and that performance is evaluated with measurable indicators.
Ensuring the effectiveness of implementing the decisions of the 2018 GBV Summit include: A national gender monitoring framework be developed and implemented by the Ministry for Women, Youth and Persons with Disabilities in liaison with Statistics South Africa, to gather data on budget expenditure and allocation of resources. The Department of Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation (DPME) in the Presidency should oversee this process, and assist in strengthening the role of the Department of Women, Youth and Persons with Disabilities in meeting gender equality obligations and combating GBV.
A GBV index should be developed, together with the appropriate tools and government mechanisms, to measure the incidence of violence and the success of targeted interventions at both a macro- and micro level. Measuring the effectiveness of key institutions should be done by the state, preferably by the DPME, the department’s location in the Presidency indicating the importance and urgency of the issue.
Information available to the National Treasury on the allocation of expenditure on women and women-owned companies, needs to be collated into provincial and sectoral levels to determine trends within economic nodes. In order to address non-reporting, the Auditor General should require gender-related performance indicators for all departments in local and district municipalities, and should encourage voluntary corporate disclosure using similar indicators.
The South African Police Service should record the prevalence of GBV and violence against women as a stand-alone crime category in order to measure the true extent of GBV.