‘Zero tolerance for violence against women’

United Nations secretary general Ban Ki-Moon has called for zero tolerance for violence against women, adding that the pervasiveness of violence against women poses a serious barrier to gender equality.

According to the UN, 70% of women experience violence in their lifetime, and one in five women will become a victim of rape or attempted rape in her lifetime. A number of global surveys have shown that half of all women murder victims are killed by current or former husbands or partners.

November 25 is designated as the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women and in South Africa kicks of 16 days of activism, which ends on Human Rights Day.

In a statement to mark the occasion, Ban said young men and boys must be encouraged to become advocates for the elimination of violence against women. “We need to promote healthy models of masculinity. Too many young men still grow up surrounded by outmoded male stereotypes,” he said. “By talking to friends and peers about violence against women and girls, and by taking action to end it, they can help break the ingrained behaviour of generations.”

In South Africa the focus this year is on the proliferation of small arms and their role in domestic violence. Speaking at the media launch of the 16 days of activism campaign on Thursday, Lulu Xingwana, the minister of women, children and people with disabilities said that, according to the International Action Network on Small Arms, women were three times more likely to die violently if there is a gun in the house. “Not only do small arms facilitate violence against women, they are also used in many contact crimes, robberies and other violent crimes that remain prevalent in our country,” she said.

Xingwana said that while serious crime had dropped in the last year, she was concerned by the increase in violent crimes against women. There was a 2.1% increase in sexual offences last year and a 5.6% increase in the murder of women.

Patrick Godana, a spokesperson for Sonke Gender Justice, called on South African’s to act on any form of violence against women and to not look away if they observed women abuse. “As South Africans, we normally say it’s a domestic matter, it’s a private matter,” he said. “Don’t look away. I’m not saying confront them but engage them, talk to the person. If they don’t listen, press charges.”

Godana said working towards no violence against women is “a process not an event” and called for ongoing campaigning on the issue.

The gender equity NGO Gender Links has complained that police data on gender violence falls short and called for more meaningful reporting on violence against women. The organisation pointing out that there is no specific category of crime concerning domestic violence and that when women are murdered, investigations do not record relationship information, making it hard to identify femicide.

Gender Links says prevention campaigns should be made central to the state’s responses to gender violence. According to the organisation, there is virtually no government expenditure on prevention outside of the 16 days campaign.

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