A unified faith-based response to end GBV

The government has called on civil society and faith-based organisations to join the fight against gender-based violence, says the writer. File Picture: Ayanda Ndamane / Independent Newspapers

The government has called on civil society and faith-based organisations to join the fight against gender-based violence, says the writer. File Picture: Ayanda Ndamane / Independent Newspapers

Published Nov 13, 2023


By Joyce Maluleke

Under the banner of the Faith Action to End GBVF Collective, faith-based organisations and individuals are working to free our country from gender injustice and gender-based violence. Through a unified faith-based response, efforts are being made to educate and equip faith communities to understand the causes and impact of gender-based violence and femicide so that communities themselves can act to bring change.

These efforts align with commitments in the South African National Strategic Plan against Gender-Based Violence and Femicide (NSP-GBVF) which is our nation’s overarching response to the scourge of GBVF. Pillar 2 of the NSP-GBVF highlights the important role the faith sector has in the struggle against GBVF. As a key stakeholder, it calls on the sector to leverage its standing in communities and moral teachings towards social norm change.

The abuse and violence perpetuated against women and children is often at the hands of those closest to them. While this abuse usually happens at home behind closed doors, it leaves a path of devastation across our society, shattered lives, and a cycle of fear.

In tackling the scourge of gender-based violence and femicide (GBVF), different faith groupings have joined forces in a concerted effort to address violence perpetuated against women and other vulnerable sectors of our society.

In intensifying the sector’s efforts against the bane of gender-based violence and femicide, the Faith Action to End GBVF Collective has embarked on a campaign to mobilise different faith organisations in a symbolic commitment. In a planned summit on gender-based violence and femicide in November, religious leaders and organisations are being called on to sign a public statement of commitment to strengthen prevention and response efforts to end GBVF. This is a clarion call to all organisations and individuals in the faith sector to use their strong societal influence to galvanise our communities in the struggle against GBVF and provide them with much-needed social support for victims.

Importantly, violence against women is an attitudinal and behavioural issue that cannot be tackled only through the justice system. Religious leaders, as the moral compass of our nation, are uniquely positioned to effect change in behaviour and social norms.

Through their teachings of equality, dignity, mutual respect, love, and service for the common good, faith groupings can assist in getting rid of the harmful gender stereotypes that are often used to justify violence against women.

While the faith sector has been a credible partner in the struggle against GBVF, there is much more that it can do, especially when the sacred texts are misinterpreted to contradict the principles of religious organisations or used to foster a climate of male dominance that creates the grounds for GBVF to thrive.

While it is important for the faith sector to boldly speak out against GBVF, their words must also translate into concrete actions, particularly when it comes to dismantling patriarchal religious practices. Religious organisations play an important role in striving towards a transformed society and places of worship where all are safe, respected, and able to fulfil their potential.

Moreover, with faith organisations well integrated within our communities, they can play an instrumental role in helping women affected by abuse find their voice, encourage victims of violence and abuse to get help, and ensure that we hold perpetrators to account.

In encouraging victims to speak out, we empower them to take control of their lives and open the door to receiving the necessary counselling and support. They can also play a role in encouraging every South African to take a stand and report the perpetrators of these vile acts.

Those who perpetrate acts of violence and abuse have no place in our communities. Take action today and report them to your nearest police station, call the toll-free Crime Stop number: 086 00 10111, or contact the GBV command centre: 0800 428 428.

In helping strengthen spiritual healing and restorative justice, the faith sector can help victims of GBVF recover and integrate back into society. Our leaning on a higher power, religious guidance, and spiritual values have always encouraged South Africans through difficult times.

The Faith Action to End GBVF Collective’s call on the faith sector to use its influence is invaluable in promoting a powerful positive force in renewing our hope of a better tomorrow, harnessing our shared values to support one another, and changing behaviours in the struggle against GBVF.

*Advocate Maluleke is Director-General in the Department of Women, Youth, and Persons with Disabilities.

**The views expressed do not necessarily reflect the views of Independent Media or IOL