The Commission for Gender Equality has found that the South African Police Service still faces challenges in combating the scourge of violence against women."Selected police stations were not adequately prepared for the challenges and faced limited institutional capacity to deal effectively with violence against women in their local areas of jurisdiction," the CGE states in a 2018 report titled "Policing Violence Against Women: Assessing local police station interventions".The study was conducted in selected provinces through in-depth interviews with key officials: the Rustenburg and Boitekong police stations in the North West; Lebowakgomo and Seshego police stations in Limpopo; and the East London and Berlin police stations in the Eastern Cape.The report comes just days after South Africa hosted its first ever National Summit Against Gender-Based Violence (GBV) and Femicide.READ: #GBVSummit: 'We hear you and we will not fail you' – Ramaphosa tells delegatesThe CGE said the report was important, because of the role police play in civil society, in terms of the Domestic Violence Act (DVA)."DVA makes it a legal duty for the South African Police Service to help victims of violence. "Members of the SAPS have various specific duties and responsibilities towards victims of domestic violence," the report reads. According to the report, the DVA places a huge responsibility on the police to ensure survivors of violence can claim their rights. This includes obtaining protection orders against perpetrators.The SAPS’s Victim Empowerment Programme Manual 2009 places further responsibility on station commanders to ensure that local stations can deal with all aspects of crime."It is therefore critical for the station commanders and commanding officers to ensure that all SAPS members under their command are aware of, and comply with, the protocol for initial and further contact with the victim," the report states.This includes being familiar with legislation relating to GBV, creating a victim-friendly environment and providing adequate victim support services.ChallengesThe 2018 report found leadership issues to be a key issue because, while all six station commanders interviewed appeared knowledgeable on the issue of GBV, the data proved otherwise."All the police stations did not seem to have accurate figures/data at their fingertips to demonstrate a clear and well-informed grasp of the intensity and prevalence of the crimes, their prevalence and patterns in their areas of jurisdiction," the report explains.Institutional capacity continued to be a challenge in practice, as GBV was dealt with by ordinary SAPS officials in the same manner as any other crime.ALSO READ: Activists plead with Ramaphosa to release woman who killed abusive husband"There is nothing necessarily wrong with ordinary SAPS officers being responsible for handling and investigating gender-based violence and violence against women, except that training and skills development - including knowledge and understanding of key gender legislative (e.g. DVA and SOA) and policy frameworks on gender rights, as well as the rights of victims of crimes (as outlined in the Victims Charter) - will be critical," the report states.Appropriate and effective interventions at local police level, in the form of programmes to combat violence against women, were proving to be a challenge."Virtually all the police stations did not have clear, coherent and well-defined long term programmes of action to tackle the scourge of domestic violence or violence against women within their areas of jurisdiction," according to the report.RecommendationsIn response to the various challenges highlighted in the 2018 report, the CGE has made the following recommendations: the development of programmes to sensitise officials in dealing with GBV; collaborative working relations with relevant stakeholders; the enhancing of institutional capacity; and providing appropriate training/skills development to officials.