African Monitor stands against violence against women and children
African Monitor (AM) is deeply saddened by and concerned about the never-ending stream of reports of gruesome acts of violence being committed against women and children daily in South Africa.
The South African Constitutions states that everyone has the right to have their dignity protected, the right to life, right to freedom from violence, torture and bodily harm. South Africa is also signatory to the UN’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and AU’s Agenda 2063, both of which commit to ending abuse, exploitation, trafficking and all forms of violence against and torture of women and children.
The high incidence of rape, kidnapping and human trafficking of women and children in South Africa is in direct violation of the commitment made by Goal 16 of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which aims to safeguard women and children against all forms of violence and violation. The brutal deaths and attacks of young women and girls over the past few weeks have shocked and sparked outrage among South Africans. But being outraged is no longer enough. Action needs to be taken now!
Violence against women and children is not unique to South Africa. Statistics paint a worrying picture.
According to the International Labour Organization (ILO) women and girls comprise 98% of all people suffering forcible exploitation, most of whom are trafficked. In some countries, between 40 and 70% of female murder victims are killed by intimate partners, as reported by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC). Between 100 and 140 million girls have been subjected to female genital mutilation, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
According to the UN, a study found that 50% of women in Tanzania and 71% of women in Ethiopia reported having been beat or raped by their husband or significant other.
One in three children in South Africa experience violence and one in five children of school going age experience sexual violence‚ according to data cited by Unicef.
Preventative action is needed now
The search for long-term, sustainable and inclusive political solutions which address the root causes of violence need to start with society’s willingness to examine the underlying causes of gender-based violence.
African Monitor recently hosted Citizens Hearings (community dialogues) in 7 African countries in a bid to engage with the grassroots communities to understand their needs and aspirations. Some light was shed on the causes of gender-based violence.
In one of the sessions held in Francistown, Botswana, many people highlighted how unemployment and poverty are the cause of most of the violent crimes committed in the area. Alcohol abuse was also cited as a contributing factor.
“The abuse of women mostly happens at home by their partners or husbands after a drinking spree,” said a participant in the dialogue session. She further said that some men drink because they are frustrated because they are unemployed.
In a similar dialogue held in Cape Town it was highlighted that most of the women who live in poverty stricken communities like Khayelitsha do not report the abuse by their partners to the police because they financially depend on the men that abuse them.
The dialogues also revealed that young people were facing issues of unemployment and poverty, drugs and substance abuse which subsequently lead to them engaging in criminal activities; and this happens mostly with children who do not have a proper family structure.
Over and above these socio-economic factors, it is clear that there are underlying cultural attitudes towards women, and power dynamics that perpetrate a view of women and children as possessions of their male counterparts, and therefore objects for control. This points to poor understanding of human rights and freedoms in our societies.
Gender-based violence is a violation of Human Rights. It is everyone’s basic right to feel safe in their environment. Asked whether she feels safe in the area she lives in, a female participant in the dialogue session held in Botswana said: “I do not feel safe to walk around in my neighbourhood after 6pm. I am afraid of getting mugged or raped.”
The ills that are plaguing our societies cannot be the exclusive responsibility of governments. As responsible citizens, they call upon us to take a stand.
We therefore call on government‚ civil society and community members to accelerate ongoing actions and increase investment in prevention and early intervention programmes to promote violence-free communities. New measures must be adopted to protect women and children, and to respond swiftly to incidents of violence. Countries must adopt new procedures to strengthen implementation of the commitment to women’s equality and increasing understanding and respect for human rights of women and children.
But more than this, citizens must stand up to purge the attitudes, practices, behaviours and people that inflict psychological and physical violence on women and children.