File picture - for illustration purposes only
File picture - for illustration purposes only

Damning report on violence against women

By Moses Mudzwiti Time of article published Dec 11, 2015

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Johannesburg – The United Nations special rapporteur on the causes of violence against women in South Africa, Dubravka Šimonovic, has revealed that such behaviour was “almost accepted as normal” in the country.

In her report released on Friday, Šimonovic said the scars from the violence of apartheid, which still resonate in the country’s social fabric, dominated by deeply entrenched patriarchal attitudes make violence against women and children an almost accepted phenomenon.

However, Šimonovic said her visit to shelters and a detention centre for migrants, where she met with individual victims of gender-based violence, revealed stories which made her believe that the women were actually “victors not survivors of violence” because of their focus on empowerment and the way forward.

The special rapporteur compiled her report after an eight day visit to South Africa.

Šimonovic, who is from Croatia, was appointed as special rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences by the UN Human Rights Council in June 2015. She is charged with recommending measures, ways and means – at the national, regional and international levels – to eliminate violence against women and its causes, and to remedy its consequences.

During the visit the UN special rapporteur met with government authorities, civil society representatives and other stakeholders in Pretoria, in the informal settlement of Diepsloot, various places in Johannesburg, Cape Town and East London.

Šimonovic commended measures taken by the SA government through its Constitution, which guarantees all South Africans the right to human rights.

The special rapporteur said she was encouraged by South Africa’s laws such as the domestic violence and sexual offenses Act, which tackle violence and discrimination against women, but she warned implementation was “the biggest challenge”.

Šimonovic recommended the establishment of a Femicide Watch, which would release a report every year on November 25, detailing the number of gender related killings per year, desegregated by age and sex of the perpetrators as well as the relationship between perpetrator and victim, among other aspects.

“There is an urgent need, to focus on prevention. In order to do so there is need to investigate research and understand the complex dynamics of gender base violence in South Africa,” said Šimonovic.

“All parts of society, in particular disadvantage groups need to be well informed on their rights on all steps of the process from reporting the crime to the prosecution and adjudication of their case.”

A final and more comprehensive report will be released in June 2016.

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