Gender violence survivors get crisis fund

A protest that took place outside the World Economic Forum in September against gender based violence. (David Harrison/M&G)

A protest that took place outside the World Economic Forum in September against gender based violence. (David Harrison/M&G)

A fund to provide emergency support to survivors of gender-based violence will be established using part of the over R1-billion budget allocated by government to tackle GBV.

The fund is one of the “key actions” identified by the interim steering committee on gender-based violence and femicide at a recent meeting in Pretoria. The meeting was convened to finalise the government’s national strategic plan on the issue.

According to a statement, other interventions include clearing backlogs at forensic laboratories, hiring additional staff for sexual offences courts, procuring evidence-collection kits and the immediate roll-out of training in survivor services police officials, prosecutors, magistrates and policymakers.

At least one shelter will be established in each province to accommodate lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people.

The statement comes after President Cyril Ramaphosa announced in September a raft of measures to be taken by the government in the coming year to address the country’s gender-based violence crisis.

Ramaphosa unveiled his plan amid a nationwide uproar over the rape and murder of University of Cape Town student Uyinene Mrwetyana.

Addressing the nation, Ramaphosa promised to open 11 new sexual offences courts and to overhaul the national register of gender-based violence offenders in this financial year.

Later that month, he told Parliament that R1.1-billion in additional funding would be directed to the “comprehensive response to gender-based violence” in this financial year.

“Since the advent of democracy, we have enacted several laws and undertaken a number of programmes to tackle gender inequality in our society, to promote human rights and to enable effective action against gender-based violence,” Ramaphosa said: “In many respects, however, these measures have fallen short of what is needed to confront the severity of the challenges we face.”

According to Statistics South Africa’s 2018 Victims of Crime Survey, released earlier this month, the number of sexual offences reported to the police rose from 50 108 to 52 420 between 2017 and 2018.

The report notes that 88% of these offences are reported to police.

The national strategic plan is the culmination of protracted efforts by civil society to get government to act on gender-based violence in the country.

In August last year, hundreds of women marched to the Union Buildings to hand over a list of 24 demands to the president. The march gave rise to a national summit against gender-based violence and femicide held later that year.

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Sarah Smit

Sarah Smit

Sarah Smit is a general news reporter at the Mail & Guardian. She covers topics relating to labour, corruption and the law. Read more from Sarah Smit

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