Abuse: fighting back

Intimate partner violence — including sexual offences — remains high in South Africa. The rate of rape, as a particular form of sexual and gender-based violence, is one of the highest in the world. The 2014 report Victims of Crimes Survey by Statistics South Africa states that 25% of victims (from selected individuals) of sexual offences were attacked by a relative, 24% by known community member(s) in the area, 17% attacked by their spouses/partners, while 34% stated that the perpetrators were unknown community members. 

The widespread violation of people’s rights, particularly linked to their vulnerabilities including age, gender and sexuality, runs alongside an attempt in policy to respond to sexual and gender-based violence; South Africa has in place a number of progressive and comprehensive laws, policies and support systems. Support for their implementation would move forward the agenda on averting and ending violence against women, children and generally throughout the nation.

The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) in partnership with the United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef), Save the Children Fund South Africa, and in close collaboration with the government of South Africa has been supporting A Safer South Africa for Women and Children programme, aimed at strengthening primary prevention mechanisms to reduce violence against women and children. Through financial support received from the United Kingdom’s department for international development in 2012, programme partners such as loveLife, Sonke Gender Justice and the National Institute Community Development and Management have been implementing this multi-level initiative, which focuses on nationwide violence prevention activities in and outside of schools and social mobilisation through community dialogues and outreach campaigns. 

“In this initiative specifically, to supplement government’s response to violence in South Africa, there has been improved community engagement in social crime prevention and promotion of human rights. There has been a conduct of 258 community dialogues and the establishment of 38 Community Action Teams. Men and boys have been mobilised for social change; 6 535 participated in the 2013 and 2014 community dialogues held in the Eastern Cape and Free State,” says the UNFPA representative for South Africa, Dr Esther Muia.

“In addition to these achievements there’s been improved youth outreach, with over 1.6 million young people reached with gender-based violence prevention messages through the loveLife partnership with national and community radio programmes.”

“Also of significance is that the Community Action Teams are made up of individual community members who have committed themselves to continue mobilising their communities to take action to end violence against women and children. 

“To make a change in the state of violence in society requires joint collaborations and partnerships of government, civil society, community and individuals within families. Together we can make the desired change and protect the most vulnerable in our society,” says Muia.

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