Many powerful words are used to describe South African women. They are described as being a rock, a backbone and a pillar of strength in times of weakness. They are endowed with the huge responsibilities to create, cultivate, nurture, love and forgive. Yet our actions, appear to be in sharp contradiction to this. Women in South Africa are not equated with this power but are disempowered by becoming the victims of gender-based violence.
GBV (Gender-Based Violence) is a global phenomenon and in general terms, it manifests itself in physical, sexual and psychological forms, encompassing:
- intimate partner violence (battering, psychological abuse, marital rape, femicide);
- sexual violence and harassment (rape, forced sexual acts, unwanted sexual advances, child sexual abuse, forced marriage, street harassment, stalking, cyber-harassment);
- human trafficking (slavery, sexual exploitation);
- female genital mutilation; and
- child marriage.
In South Africa, GBV – which encompasses any of the above forms of violence against women and children – is well documented and an issue of serious concern. Up to 40% of South African women have experienced sexual and/or physical interpersonal violence in their lifetime. This figure might have even increased since the pandemic as incidents appear to be on the rise. While gender-based violence can happen to anyone, anywhere, some women are more vulnerable such as older women, women who identify as lesbian or bisexual, indigenous women and women living with disabilities. Violence against women and girls is one of the most widespread, persistent and devastating human rights violations in our world today, yet it remains largely unreported particularly in South Africa due to the lack of punishment, silence, stigma and shame surrounding it.
16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence is an international campaign to challenge violence against women and girls. The campaign runs every year from 25th November to 10th December. The global theme this year is “Orange the world: End violence against women now”. It is a symbol of a brighter future, free from violence against women and girls. Therefore, please wear an orange ribbon in support of the campaign.
So how do we restore power to our highly valued South African women? The first step is to offer survivors of GBV the support they need and provide them with information on services and organisations that can help reduce the impact of violence on their lives.
Secondly, help to transform harmful social norms and negative gender stereotypes surrounding women. Challenge practices that condone violence
Thirdly promote gender equality – encourage equal and respectful relations between both sexes. Be the role model yourself. Encourage all women young and old to assert their independence and decision-making processes in their lives.
Lastly, stay informed and educate yourself. Understanding the causes, power dynamics, social structures that promote violence and consequences of violence against women is empowering in itself.
Over the next two weeks please take time to pay homage to the women and girls in South Africa who lost their lives as a consequence of GBV.
FAMSA PMB – 033 342 4945
Childline PMB – 033 394 5177
Nevashni Chetty – Social Work Manager