File picture: Skyler Reid/Independent Newspapers.

JOHANNESBURG - The only way to fight gender-based violence is through "professionalising" the South African Police Service (SAPS), the Democratic Alliance said on Sunday.

In a statement marking the start of the annual 16 Days of Activism for No Violence Against Women and Children on Sunday, DA spokeswoman Stefani Ueckermann said gender-based violence was increasing, while Gauteng was experiencing a high number of crimes against women and children.

"The safety of our women and children is under threat, as it is reported on daily basis that women and children are being victimised. Women and children are vulnerable but not enough is being done by the Gauteng department of community safety and social development to ensure their safety and security," she said.

In most cases the victims were hesitant to report domestic violence to the SAPS, as they had lost faith in the ability of SAPS to effectively deal with domestic violence. A study released by the Commission for Gender Equality earlier this month revealed that police stations surveyed across three provinces did not have clear, coherent, and well-defined long-term programmes of action to tackle domestic violence within their areas of jurisdiction.

The study also found that while most police stations surveyed had a victim support centre (VSC), these centres did not have enough staff and in some cases only had one volunteer staff member, she said.

"The DA believes that the only way to fight gender-based violence is through professionalising our police service. We need police officers that are specifically trained to deal with gender-based violence and who have thorough knowledge of the legislative frameworks on gender rights and the rights of child victims of crimes.

"We call on communities to speak out on issues of gender-based violence as this social ill has a negative impact on the well-being of all our people. The DA will also be running a petition calling for the fixing of the SAPS through professionalising the police service to ensure that they are adequately trained to deal with victims of rape and other sensitive crimes," Ueckermann said.

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African News Agency (ANA)