16 Days: Stop the depravity together

2016-11-27 14:54
Actress Manaka Ranaka took part in the #MakeitStop campaign for no violence against women for Women’s Month. Picture: Leeroy Jason

Actress Manaka Ranaka took part in the #MakeitStop campaign for no violence against women for Women’s Month. Picture: Leeroy Jason

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As a founder member of the National Children and Violence Trust, I was recently alerted to the case of a Diepsloot mother whose family was living in fear after her 27-year-old mentally handicapped daughter was brutally raped by a known male community member.

Upon further consultation with the family and the police in the area, my team and I discovered that the suspect had subsequently been released on bail, and was apparently now untraceable – a reality that has led to the victim’s family understandably living in marked terror and uncertainty. “He knows that we are only women living in the house and that there is no man here,” lamented the victim’s mother.

You see, such is the plight of the South African woman and girl: not only is she likely to be raped or sexually assaulted, but the possibility of her becoming incidentally revictimised – by the community, the police and the court system – remains high.

Case in point again being this particular Diepsloot family because – though it was their area’s Community Policing Forum (CPF) that led to the suspect being apprehended – it wasn’t without the rape victim first being interrogated on whether she was absolutely sure that the “alleged” crime had indeed happened, and whether there were witnesses to the assault. These questions were posed to her before they could make any move towards capturing the assailant.

The 2015/16 crime statistics reveal that an average of 142 sexual offences were reported per day in South Africa, with a whopping 42 500 or more rapes committed within the same period.

These numbers are shocking for a number of reasons, but two in particular: they are simply too high considering the kind of community, national and global campaigns and activism against sexual violence; and they are also shocking because they do not reflect the true number and extent of sexual offences that occur, as research indicates that many more cases go unreported – owing to fear of revictimisation, the stigma associated with being a victim of sexual crime, and other institutional concerns including the issue of there being a generally low conviction rate among sexual offenders.

As we mark the beginning of this year’s 16 Days of Activism for No Violence Against Women and Children, we need to look honestly at what financial mechanisms need to be adopted to strengthen community initiatives and structures, whose primary task is to support and make things easier for the victims.

Outgoing UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon, at the opening of the UN’s 60th session of the Commission on the Status of Women, said: “As long as one woman’s human rights are violated, our struggle is not over. The world is full of inequalities and injustices for women and girls.”

For this year’s 16 Days campaign, Ban has asked regions and stakeholders to join in his UNiTE campaign under the theme: Orange the World: Raise Money to End Violence Against Women and Girls.

Essentially, this is a call to those who are concerned to actually put their money where their mouths are. We interpret this as a call to business and the private sector to not just make donations and contributions as welfare to this cause, but to invest meaningfully in the prevention-and-treatment value chain. This can be done through the sustainable financing of various nongovernmental organisations that operate within this field, and the many trauma counselling centres that end up closing their doors owing to financial constraints.

Another layer that business and the private sector can add value to is funding the necessary training of police, prosecutors and those who get to make contact with the victims.

This can trickle down to the very CPF members and community-based structures that are often the first to make contact and ring the alarm. Corporates can arm them with useful gadgets that would help make prosecutions more attainable.

While we can all see that the incidents of rape and sexual assault seem to be getting more frequent and some more depraved, the media need to appreciate and reinforce the role they play. Because, through the reporting of these cases, criminals feel that they now must endure a secondary investigation; the police feel the pressure to actually investigate; and prospective perpetrators may be deterred because of fear of total exposure.

The seriousness of this situation calls for us not to campaign and mobilise over just 16 days, but on all 365 of them.

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development calls for global action for the next 15 years. It addresses the three dimensions: economic, social and environmental. Goal five of the sustainable development goals aims to “achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls”, and includes specific targets to eliminate all forms of violence against women and girls. All goals are integrated and indivisible. Therefore, prevention of violence against women and girls has a multiplying effect. Our collective resolve to the elimination of gender-based violence will go a long way towards achieving equitable, inclusive, sustainable growth and development.

Mkhize is the national convener of the Progressive Women’s Movement of SA, a movement that works closely with communities and ensures that groups such as women and girls are included, safe, empowered, skilled and given opportunities. She is also the deputy minister of telecommunications and postal services, an activist and feminist

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