Gender-based violence: Stop talking, take action and hold those responsible to account

Issued by Nomvano Zibonda, MPL
DA Women’s Network Eastern Cape Provincial Chairperson

On Tuesday, I tabled a motion during the plenary in the Eastern Cape Legislature, calling on all public representatives in the province to take a pledge to commit that they will take steps to actively ensure safer communities for women, build a safer future for our children and be positive role models in our communities that respect and protect women and children.

We need to stop just talking about gender-based violence (GBV) and start taking action and holding those responsible of committing these violent offences against women and children to account.

This year’s theme for the annual 16 Days of Activism campaign, is “moving from awareness to accountability”.

It is clear that, to date, the steps taken to curb GBV in South Africa are failing miserably. The latest police crime statistics report revealed that 10 006 people were raped between April and June 2021.

A sample of 5 439 rape cases revealed that 3 766 of those incidents took place at the home of the victim or the home of the rapist, notably 487 rape cases were domestic violence related.

In dealing with the pandemic of GBV, a multi stakeholder approach is a necessity. There ought to be synergy between the community, the SAPS, the judiciary and legislative spheres of government, with leaders of the society in the front row.

It becomes difficult for community members to report cases when some of the perpetrators are the very individuals entrusted to protect them.

On 23 November 2021, the Acting Provincial Police Commissioner released a statement confirming that a police officer had allegedly raped a woman inside the police premises.

This perpetrator, who was in a position of power and entrusted to care for our citizens, did not only violate the young woman, but did so on police premises.

Law makers have a duty to draft and pass policies in the interest of society. The reality is that the current legislature does not impose harsh enough sentences to deter these offenders.

In the case where a girl was brutally murdered, her body then cut up and placed into suitcases, the perpetrator was sentenced to 25 years. This offender will one day walk free.

If we are to deal with this scourge we must challenge and reject the cultures and practises that perpetuate gender inequalities and ensure there are consequences for the abuse of women and children at a societal level.

Beyond sixteen days of campaigning, we need to put in place resources and capacitate all institutions to be able to address and end gender-based violence in our society.

The DA Eastern Cape Provincial Council, on 3 December, passed a motion that all its public representatives will take a pledge to fight GBV and hold governments accountable.

Where we govern, the fight against GBV will be intensified.