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Despite many government interventions, in partnership with civil society and various other categories of stakeholders, gender-based violence (GBV) and femicides continue to be amongst the biggest challenges facing the post-apartheid South Africa. This also includes the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, gender diverse, intersex, queer, asexual and questioning (LGBTIQA+) communities. Most disturbing about this reality is that all the current GBV and femicides’ statistics available on the public domain are purely based on reported cases – the figures are likely far much higher as many cases go unreported.
A by-product of GBV, which the greater part of society is growingly coming to recognise, is its impact on the mental wellness of victims. As we grow increasingly aware of the mental health phenomenon, we are starting to see the connection between GBV and poor mental health conditions such as anxiety, depression, substance abuse, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). And more studies are emerging, proving that these conditions significantly increase the risk of attempted or completed suicide amongst women. Put differently, women and members of the LGBTIQA+ community who experience mental health challenges as a result of GBV are far more likely to have suicidal thoughts – or surrender to such thoughts.
Girls are not spared when it comes to GBV. The Gauteng Health Department recently recorded that over 23 000 teenage pregnancies between April 2020 and March 2021, with 934 being girls aged between 10 and 14. It is important to correctly label the pre-teens and early teenagers who become pregnant: they are victims. Pre- teens are victims of sexual assault because they are children who cannot give consent. There is also a need to look closely into mid-teens’ first encounter with sexual intercourse being out of coercion and force.
The Legislature and other oversight bodies continue intensifying scrutiny work to hold accountable those entrusted with the responsibility of providing services to women and girls. However, such efforts are not enough without citizens and communities playing their part through active citizenry. Every community member has the responsibility to ensure that Women, Children, and the LGBTIQA+ community enjoy their Constitutional right to life, as well as all the freedoms that everyone else enjoys. When we raise the alarm and report the violation of these rights we are choosing to be active citizens; we are part of the solution.
Issued by Gauteng Provincial Legislature