With R1.1bn budget, gender violence interim committee eyes 6 key areas

Following President Cyril Ramaphosa's announcement of a R1.1bn additional budget allocation to fight gender-based violence, the steering committee has identified its key focus areas.

As persistent calls for tougher action against gender-based violence continued to mount, Ramaphosa called an extraordinary sitting of both houses of Parliament – the National Assembly and the National Council of Provinces – last month and told members the money was to dispel the "dark and heavy shadow" of gender-based violence cast over the country.

In a statement on Thursday, the steering committee said the key areas – six in total – "will drive a joint emergency response by government and civil society" to gender-based violence and femicide in the country.

Broadly, the action areas will target the clearing of backlogs of sexual offences cases, strengthen victim-oriented centres and pump money into efficient legal assistance for victims.

"The steering committee will involve all sectors of society in the implementation of the emergency response action plan to ensure that individuals take responsibility for their behaviour and that organisations and institutions of civil society and government undertake programmes to prevent abuse of and violence against women and children," co-chairpersons of the committee, Olive Shisana and Brenda Madumise-Pajibo, wrote in the statement.

The committee said it hoped to implement its action deliverables in the coming six months.

Among the actions agreed are:

  • the clearing of backlogs at forensic laboratories related to GBVF and especially, sexual assault;
  • the hiring of additional staff for sexual offences courts, Thuthuzela care centres and Family Violence, Child Protection and Sexual Offences Investigations units;
  • the procurement of evidence-collection kits (paediatric rape kits, adult rape kits and buccal (mouth) sample kits);
  • behaviour-change interventions to influence changed behaviour for men and boys, while involving all sectors of society;
  • the establishment of at least one shelter per province to accommodate people who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual, intersex or queer;
  • the immediate rollout of training on victim-centric, survivor-focused services, with a specific drive to train police, prosecutors, magistrates and policymakers; and
  • the establishment of a GBVF fund for rapid response to assist survivors at community level, including access to justice through Legal Aid.
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