South Africa is still home to high levels of violence against its women and children, despite a world-renowned Constitution and a legislative overhaul that safeguards women and children’s rights.
The recent Vlakfontein scandal where three women and four children were found murdered and buried in their house is evidence that our country is not safe for women and children.
It’s worrisome that women felt more unsafe than men walking alone in neighbourhoods during the day and when it is dark. Violence in our society is often the symptom of deeper social problems which we have to confront as a nation.
The government spends millions of rand in an effort to curb and remove this heinous act from the society, but it continues to manifest and threaten us.
Police statistics indicate that the murder rate of women in South Africa has increased by 16% in the past five years and the number of reported child rapes in the same period has gone up by about 3000 from 15000 to just over 18000. Statistics show there were more than 20000 murders during the 2017/18 period and 20% of these were women and children.
South Africa is an angry nation. We come from a long history of one group of people wanting to dominate and even destroy others. For more than 360 years, we have been on the giving and/or receiving end of segregation, slavery, lack of tolerance and even hatred towards one another.
However, there is no amount of justification that can be used to perpetuate violence against people who are harmless and can barely defend themselves.
We should demonstrate zero tolerance against gender-based violence in our streets now. Our anger dumbs us down; our hostility numbs our empathy. It must stop. We must find a better way of ending the menace of violence.
While the campaigns are effective for advocacy and awareness raising purposes, there is a general consensus that in order to prevent and root out Violence Against Women and Children, it needs a concerted effort that goes way beyond the 16 days.
Our legislation should stipulate that citizens should report any signs of gender-based violence or they are an accomplice.
The 16 Days of Activism for No Violence Against Women and Children campaign challenges all South Africans to declare a truce on violence against women and children and, ultimately, to make it a permanent one. At the same time, we need concerted efforts to combat alcohol and substance abuse; perceived as major contributors to violence.
Femicide is on the rise in South Africa, with Statistics South Africa reporting that the murder rate for women increased by 117% between 2015 and 2016/17.
We call for stringent measures against gender-based violence. This inhuman act must be severely punishable. The government calls for severe consequences against abusers to break the bondages of violence. It seems to me that our beloved country has become an angry country.
The year 2018 marks 64 years since the signing of the Women’s Charter on April 17, 1954 in Joburg; 24 years of freedom and democracy and 20 years of the 16 Days of Activism Campaign. Together, we need to stand up against violence especially against women and children.
Lawrence Mashabela is with the Gauteng Department of Social Development.