Our country has recently been saddened and angered by yet another spate of violence against women in various parts of South Africa.
A number of women were killed by men who tortured and mutilated their victims. In the process they trampled on our Constitution, which acknowledges the inherent dignity of each person, guarantees the right to life and affords all of us freedom of movement and residence.
Sadly, the grave is now the residence of women whose dignity and lives meant nothing to their abusers.
We should all be outraged and seriously concerned about the reports of the abuse and killing of women and children in some parts of the country. We should be extremely concerned that in most cases, these attacks occur at the hands of family members or in the case of women, their intimate partners.
These crimes are rooted in the social fabric of our families and communities. They are therefore difficult to police in conventional ways – short of having a police officer in every home or in every public space where men and women may encounter one another.
It is therefore essential that citizens must, without breaking the law themselves, work with our law-enforcement agencies and all sectors of society to fight this terrible scourge and isolate these criminals in society.
Victims should not turn a blind eye to violence in their intimate relationships, at home, work or school, but should immediately report incidents to authorities before such abuse intensifies and leads to murder.
The rate of abuse and violence against women and children is completely unacceptable, but the situation is by no means hopeless.
Government has declared violence against women a priority crime. We are seeing positive results as victims or those around them step forward and work with community-based organisations, the police and our courts to bring abusers to book.
We are seeing more and more perpetrators being caught and being given long jail terms, including life.
Access to justice
In support of laws and policies on domestic violence, sexual offences and harassment, government is doing a lot of work to offer victims of abuse and violence safe havens and access to justice.
The Department of Social Development has established eight Khuseleka One Stop Centres which offer a range of support services to victims of crime.
The same department funds 102 shelters for victims of gender-based violence, in addition to 19 White Doors (Safe Houses) to provide safety and shelter services to victims of domestic violence.
The Department of Social Development has also established the Gender-based Violence Command Centre with a toll free number 0800 428 428 and the “please call me” number *120*7867#.
Skilled social workers are on hand at the command centre to provide telephonic counselling services and other interventions.
The system is able to track the physical location of the callers to facilitate speedy interventions and referrals, where necessary.
SAPS has established 1 027 Victim-Friendly Rooms at certain police stations. These are private rooms where victims of gender-based violence are interviewed for statement taking. They provide a friendly environment that assures confidentiality, respect and dignity.
Centres of care
We also have 55 Thuthuzela Care Centres across the country, with a major focus on sexual violence. These centres give medical treatment to victims and survivors of rape, and ensure evidence is collected which can be used at trial.
With these services at the disposal of persons directly or indirectly affected by abuse, victims of violence should feel confident to report perpetrators to the police and other agencies that can help.
The work done by government and many community-based organisations around the country are part of our commitment to 365 Days of Activism for no violence against women and children.
We are fighting abuse and violence round the clock. We will do so as long as women and children continue to suffer.
For our society to succeed in this area, all of us must declare: “Ro neta! (Enough! Not in my name!)” It is not only victims who must make their voices heard, but it must be all of us who speak on their behalf and report and condemn abusers.
Men, in particular, must take a stand against other men who are abusive and violent.
Women account for the majority of our population, yet face the greatest burden of abuse. This cannot be how our society treats our mothers, sisters, aunts, daughters.
We must look deep into our hearts and our values and we must end the violence..