By Natasha Joseph

It's time for the government, courts and police to stop blaming a lack of resources for non-delivery and start focusing on improving services for victims of gender-based violence, says a national women's rights organisation.

Delphine Serumaga, the director of People Opposed to Women Abuse, says that issues of "under-resourcing" must be addressed, as this is "an old excuse" and is "no longer valid".

Serumaga was among the speakers at a Human Sciences Research Council round table event to mark this year's 16 Days of Activism campaign.

Asked whether it was true that police stations and courts in traditionally disadvantaged areas remained under-resourced, leading to poor ser-vices for rape survivors and victims of domestic violence, Serumaga said: "Even in urban areas (service delivery) is not working.

"Why aren't issues of under-resourcing being addressed in national budgets and so on? It's an old excuse, it's no longer valid."

Fiona Nicholson, the director of Thohoyandou Victim Empowerment Centre in Limpopo, said the problem of under-resourced police stations was "not just a question of money".

"What about human resources? What about training?" Nicholson said.

She said service delivery did appear to be worse in historically disadvantaged areas.

"In areas where people are already disempowered, they don't speak out (about poor service delivery). People must demand services and the (actualisation of) their rights."

Both she and Serumaga called for "behavioural changes" at "an individual level", saying that no amount of training could make people take service delivery seriously if they did not want to.

Meanwhile, police in the Western Cape say that women who feel their gender-based violence complaints have been handled in "an insensitive manner" at police stations should report this without delay to the relevant station commissioner.

"All (South African Police Service) members are trained to handle and to deal with all aspects of policing, and this includes crimes against women and children," said police spokesperson Andre Traut.

"Besides the basic training of SAPS members, courses are frequently presented to ensure that our members are well informed of new developments.

"Besides the training, station commissioners and commanders are responsible to ensure that members under their command are acquainted with the law (regarding gender-based violence)," Traut said.

"If any person feels that their case was handled in an insensitive manner, it should be reported without any delay to the station commissioner of that police station, so that we can investigate the allegation and reprimand the offender."

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