Gender-based violence (GBV) is a global phenomenon deeply rooted in gender inequality, and continues to be one of the most notable human rights violations prevalent in every society and worldwide. GBV is violence directed against a person because of their gender, both women and men experience gender-based violence but the majority of victims are women and girls.
South Africa is rated among the highest in the world in terms of inequality and sexual violence for women. Cultural and societal norms greatly influence human behaviour, and as such, can also influence violent behaviour. Violence against women is regarded as a normal attitude or remains hidden or tacitly condoned, therefore men demonstrate their masculine dominant role and supremacy over their women with especially the rural women facing all types of violation in their life. It is evident that men use their power to intimidate women, and believe that they have the right to abuse women and children
Recently, there has been a marked increase in the rate of GBV including femicide country wide; and Institutions of Higher Learning are no exception. The latest is the attack of the University of Cape Town student Uyinene Mrwetyana, who was tortured, raped and murdered by the post office worker outside University grounds and this incident shook the South African society. Her body was burnt and buried in the township; and this confirmed that GBV and femicide are a broader national problem in South Africa. This has led to many people and civil society organizations protesting country wide calling for an end to the violence.
The modern xenophobic attacks towards our brothers and sisters are also not acceptable. It is through this violence that innocent lives have been lost, an end has been put to a bright future.
Rape, targeting young adolescents and women is a serious problem; which also has a significant negative impact to the South African economy. Not only is this a barricade to economic growth, but those who are subjected to this kind of violence are destroyed as a people and are haunted by these horrific experiences. Some are not able to rise above the incidents and are therefore destroyed for life.
South Africa is a signatory to a number of international treaties on GBV, and strong legislative framework, for example the Sexual Offences Act (2007) and the Domestic Violence Act (DVA) (1998). To add on that, South Africa has the most progressive Constitution in the world regarding gender equality, yet the country is the epicentre of some of the most gruesome and brutal cases of violence against women and children. It is the obligation of the state to protect and promote all human rights of all citizens, therefore, due diligence must be exercised to prevent violence against women and children, to investigate its occurrence and to punish the perpetrators. Doing so will provide protection to women and children, who are the main victims, and will ensure that they enjoy their human rights and freedom.
For us to address GBV, a multi-faceted approach and commitment is to be followed. We need long term coordinated efforts from all the stakeholders; and this includes law enforcement agencies, civil society, the government, private individuals, non-governmental organisations, justice system, departments of health and of education. In addition, men and boys should be actively engaged in campaigns and the planning of programmes aimed at changing the negative attitudes and behaviours that perpetuate violence, and the platform should be utilised to bring about sustained social and cultural change.
GBV is everybody’s business, we therefore need to do our best to engage everyone to promote a violence free society whereby all the mentioned structures in our society aim to promote equality, stability and peace.
By Dr Moreoagae Randa
Dr Moreoagae Randa is a Lecturer in the SMU Nursing Science Department
She writes in her personal capacity