News24

SA 'ignores domestic violence'

2010-07-30 22:21

Cape Town – A women's rights group's advert posted on YouTube is revealing how apathetic South Africans can be towards domestic violence within their communities, the group says.

The People Opposing Women Abuse (POWA) "social experiment" records events that take place at a Johannesbsurg middle class townhouse complex one night.

First a rowdy resident plays drums and gets a number of complaints from residents. Then he plays a recording of a screaming woman getting beaten by a man. No one complains, the police do not show up to indicate that someone has at least alerted them.

"It shows how people react to domestic violence within their communities," Powa director Nonhlanhla Mokoena told News24.

"That apathy or disregard for the woman's screams could lead to death," she said.

But many people still see domestic violence as a private matter and even allege that is what the police say in response to public complaints about domestic violence.

Apathy unjustifiable

One user (UKWilfreD68) commenting on the video expressed this sentiment:

"I wouldn't ring the police or get involved, you know why? Cos if I do A: The police say, 'It's a domestic and you should stay out of it' and B: The last time I tried to help a woman in this situation she turned on me and told me to stay out of it 'cos it was a domestic and I shouldn't be interfering." (sic)

Mokoena said this approach was unjustifiable.

"It could be an issue of fear," she said referring to women who ask people not to interfere when their partners abuse them.

She said it was also important to call the police no matter what their reaction so they can be held accountable as well.

"As a community we must show that we don't want domestic violence. If the perpetrator knows the community is going to come out and the police are held accountable, he might think more about his behaviour," she said.

All affected

She said it was also important to highlight that it was not only poor communities that were affected by the domestic violence and apathy to the phenomenon.

"We are trying to show that everyone is affected; the educated, the uneducated, rich, poor, middle class, all colours and creeds," she said.

She said although they worked mostly with women from poor backgrounds, they had started seeing results from campaigns targeting middle class women, including this one and another they are running as part of the storyline on popular local soapie Generations.

"We are getting more calls from middleclass women. They tell us that they identify with Khethiwe (Generation's character)," she said.

According to statistics cited in the video, 1 400 women die at the hands of their partners in South Africa every year.

Apart from estimates, domestic violence abuse statistics are difficult to compile because of under reporting and unreliable data collection systems at police stations.  

August 1 marks the start of Women's Month in the country with Woman's Day celebrated on August 9.