SA 'rape capital' of the world

2005-11-22 09:55

Johannesburg - As South Africa prepares for this year's 16 Days of Activism for No Violence Against Women and Children campaign, the country remains the rape capital of the world.

The women's rights organisation, Gender Links, said a "yawning gap" persisted between action required and steps taken so far to turn this around.

Executive director Colleen Lowe-Morna said on Monday that this emerged from a 2005 audit the non-government body had conducted.

She said: "While we now know that the sexual offences courts yield a 63% conviction rate, these courts handle less than 10% of cases of sexual assault.

"So is the government putting its money where its mouth is?"

International campaign

Lowe-Morna said it was time for an emergency national action plan to end gender violence.

The 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence is an international campaign originating from the first Women's Global Leadership Institute sponsored by the Centre for Women's Global Leadership in 1991.

It runs from November 25, International Day Against Violence Against Women, to December 10, International Human Rights Day.

Lowe-Morna said a national action plan to end gender violence should outline actions planned, targets, time frames and a scorecard for measuring progress next year.

Sexual Offences Bill

She said: "I think we need to ask tough questions, for example.

"What does it mean when, despite the high level political profile that this campaign is given in South Africa, we still have not passed the Sexual Offences Bill first mooted in 1996?"

Although rape had shown a declining trend in the last three years from 121.1 per 100 000 in 2001/2002 to 113.7 in 2003/2004, it increased this year to 118.3 per 100 000.

There had also been a sharp rise in the number of indecent assault cases - from 17.1 per 100 000 in 2001/2002 to 21.7 in 2004/20005.

Carrie Shelver of People Opposed to Women Abuse (Powa) questioned the effectiveness of campaigns over limited periods.

Behavioural change

Shelver said: "Campaigns need to be multi-modal and sustained throughout the year in order to really result in behavioural change or reassessment.

"We cannot during the 16 Days of Activism say that we are trying to reach the youth and make them aware that domestic violence is wrong and then continue to promote gender stereotypes through the media and in schools."

Shelver said a deeper analysis was required of how society understood violence against women.

The focus should be on what would work in South Africa to change awareness and behaviour.

Shelver said although one campaign couldn't eliminate violence against women and children, it did serve to raise awareness so that fewer women suffer in silence.

On Thursday, leading non-governmental organisations (NGOs), the government and the City of Johannesburg would hold cyber dialogues hosted by Gender Links.