COMMENT: ‘The fight against gender-based violence is everyone’s responsibility’

Posted on December 06, 2019

The World Population Review reports that in 2019 South Africa had the highest rate of rape in the world of 132.4 incidents per 100 000 people. These figures are in fact higher as they do not take into account rape incidents that go unreported. Many rape survivors do not report cases to the police due to social stigma in communities, the fear of the possible repercussion of reporting and the often negative attitudes of police officers towards survivors when they report cases.

Women and girls are subjected to different forms of gender-based violence (GBV), including gender-motivated killings. The tragic murders of Uyinene Mrwetyana, Leighandre Jagels, Meghan Cremer, and Ayakha Jiyane and her three siblings and the most recent brutal murder of Precious Ramabulana who was stabbed 52 times question the implementation of South Africa’s comprehensive policy and legislative framework and national strategies to ensure gender equality, curb GBV and promote sexual and reproductive health rights. Our University is committed to addressing all forms of GBV against women and girls to achieve the Sustainable Development Goal 5 of Gender Equality. This commitment includes protection against human rights violation against all children, not only girls, but also including boys. The devastating social and developmental impact for survivors of violence, as well as for their families, communities and society at large are well documented.

The announcement by President Cyril Ramaphosa that 200 social workers will be employed to provide targeted services to survivors at social work centres is an important beginning. However, much more needs to be done to prevent GBV, and interventions should start with positive parenting and early childhood development. We can, however, not only focus on the victims, we must also focus on perpetrators. To this end, we need to answer the question: What kind of society are we building in which boys grow up as men who act with such brutality against women? This means prioritising the safety and wellbeing of our children by protecting them against violence in their homes and communities, and changing living environments in which aggression has become the norm. This can only be achieved when the fight against GBV is everyone’s responsibility.

Professor Antoinette Lombard is Head of the Department of Social Work and Criminology in the University of Pretoria’s Faculty of Humanities.

- Author Professor Antoinette Lombard

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