President Cyril Ramaphosa said on Monday that just as ending gender-based violence (GBV) cannot be the State’s responsibility alone, the onus cannot be on women and children to end the shocking levels of violence and abuse against them.
Ramaphosa said violence perpetrated by men against women was the second pandemic that South Africa must confront, adding that, like the Covid-19 pandemic, it could be overcome if all citizens work together.
A week before the launch of the annual 16 Days of Activism for No Violence against Women and Children, the latest crime statistics released by the South African Police Service (SAPS) revealed an increase in rapes, domestic violence and child murders.
In just three months, between July and September 2021, 9 556 people, most of whom were women, were raped. This is 7% more than in the previous reporting period.
Of the nearly 73 000 assault cases reported during this period, more than 13 000 were domestic violence-related. The rate of child murders has climbed by nearly a third compared to the previous reporting period.
Ramaphosa said these statistics were shameful, saying South Africa was in the grip of a relentless war being waged on the bodies of women and children that, despite the country’s best efforts, it showed no signs of abating.
He said government had a duty and a responsibility to devote the necessary resources to combat crimes of gender-based violence.
He noted the SAPS’s statement that they were making progress in reducing the significant backlogs in DNA analysis, which was crucial to securing justice for survivors of sex crimes.
The SAPS also operates 134 GBV desks at police stations around the country and is in the process of establishing more.
MEN SHOULD TAKE LEAD
Ramaphosa noted that most of those who take part in the 16 Days of Activism are women and children, those most affected by and concerned about GBV.
Ramaphosa said this needed to change.
“Gender-based violence is, after all, a problem of male violence. It is predominantly men who are rapists. It is mainly men who are perpetrators of domestic violence. Because it is men who are the main perpetrators, it should be men taking the lead in speaking out and reporting gender-based violence, in raising awareness, in peer education and in prevention efforts,” he said.
He said men in positions of authority in the country’s educational system, whether as school principals, educators or lecturers, should be making schools and places of higher learning safe spaces for female learners and students, and never abuse their position of authority.
Ramaphosa added that men should also be playing a more formative and present role in their families, particularly in raising their sons to exhibit healthy, positive masculinity that is respectful of women and children.