gender-based violence statistics highlight failures of plans to address the scourge

As South Africa engages in the last week of the global 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence campaign, a R1.6 billion budget allocation has done little to stem the tide of violent crimes against women and children.

Commitments at presidential summits on gender-based violence and femicide (GBVF) in 2018 and 2022, including the budget allocated to roll out the national Emergency Response Action Plan (ERAP) in 2019, have missed their targets and "crucial interventions have never materialised," said Dr Nthabiseng Moleko, senior lecturer in managerial economics and statistics at Stellenbosch Business School.

"South African Police Service (SAPS) quarterly crime statistics repeatedly confirm that our nation has amongst the worst levels of rape, murder and sexual offences in the world," she said.

Crime statistics for July-September 2023 estimate 100 rapes and 78 women killed daily, she said, with 5 945 murders, 13 090 sexual offences and 10 516 rapes committed in the three months.[i]

"Barely two weeks ago the nation was horrified by the brutal stabbing of a CPUT student by her husband in full view of other students in the residence. Were it not for the intervention of the other students, the outcome was intended to be death.

"That same week, the alleged rape of three girls under the age of 10 in a Butterworth hostel was being investigated by the Eastern Cape Department of Education. What we see is a further violation of sexual rights, and this is not uncommon in a nation where 1 in 4 girls under the age of 20 give birth to children, some even below the age of 13, according to the World Health Organisation," Dr Moleko said.

Meanwhile, the ERAP with its R1.6 billion budget allocation had failed to achieve almost two-thirds (64%) of its targets and partially achieved only 15%, according to a 2022 assessment by the Commission for Gender Equality.

Dr Moleko, a former deputy chair of the Commission, said interventions that had failed to materialise included clearing the backlog of DNA samples requiring testing so that GBV, femicide and sexual offense cases could be cleared.

The processing of GBVF-related cases required "drastic input" into DNA analysis equipment and competencies to increase the output rate of testing forensic samples but this had not happened.

"Cases are still delayed, victims rights to justice are deferred and perpetrators remain free to do as they please."

"The harshness in our courts results in victims being further subjected to secondary victimisation through our legislative and procedural framework in police stations, courts and even hospitals, which further worsens the vulnerabilities of those already suffering," Dr Moleko said.

Ahead of the follow-up summit on GBVF in 2022, provincial summits were held to assess whether interventions post the 2018 summit had been successful in reducing rape and violence against women and children.

"It was difficult to find any measures with proven impact and success, and we also saw a general inability of the existing policy and institutional framework to respond with agility and speed to provide recourse for victims."

Governments austerity measures, announced in both the February Budget this year and the Medium-Term Budget Policy Statement in October, will further cut financial support to NGOs, despite these being key providers of critical support to victims in the absence of the state.

At the same time, the GBV Council which is intended to oversee and hold the state accountable to its commitments, has yet to be established.

Another non-achievement Dr Moleko highlighted was the inability of the state to prioritise interventions intended to facilitate economic opportunities for vulnerable groups. Gender-responsive budgeting and a target of 40% of government procurement being awarded to women-owned businesses were "non-starters", she said.

"The impact is that vulnerable women who stay in relationships for economic survival are likely to remain in those abusive relationships. With the current cost of living crisis, combined with the adverse impact of loadshedding on the provision of economic opportunities, we are likely to see an increase in dependency levels."

Dr Moleko questioned whether SAPS and the justice system were ready for the impact of decriminalising prostitution, given the already high levels of sexual and violent crime.

"We are on the precipice of yet another own goal, where amid a society where citizens are unsafe and victims of sexual and violent crimes are yet to receive justice, our own government supports the further exploitation of women. All evidence points to an inability to prevent, prohibit and even eliminate the continued subjugation of women and children.

"Exploitation and violence within the sex industry is proven; the degradation of human rights and the inextricable link between this industry and the criminal underworld including human trafficking. In a country where poverty, unequal power relations, patriarchy and normalisation of violence against women and children is the norm, how can we be unleashing this further violence?"

If GBVF is to be effectively addressed, Dr Moleko argues that the justice system must be properly resourced with expertise, and officials must be held accountable against measurable indicators.

"A change in the hearts of those implementing the systems and procedures to care for and serve the people who are victims. Compassion and a desire to see justice implemented by a meritocracy and integrity filled courts, SAPS and public sector bureaucrats.

"The nation is in need of healing and counsel, justice and economic opportunities, reparation and, for perpetrators, imprisonment," she said.

Dr Moleko said that while government could implement structures, task teams and committees, functional families and communities were at the heart of combatting violence against women and children.

"As with the nucleus of an atom that holds everything together in chemistry, so the structure and functioning of a society is reliant on families that build communities. The government can set policies, but the structures and atoms, the nucleus that holds a nation together ' families ' have been destroyed. The rebuilding of families that have suffered the desolation of many generations is required. I hope that every community, like the parts of a cell, will begin to address the dysfunction in our families aggressively. The extent of the damage we have experienced as a nation requires healing that is beyond charters and articles in any legislation."


Organisation : Jigsaw Pr