Stop the deprav­ity to­gether

Gen­der and child abuse are only get­ting worse, writes

CityPress - - Voices & Careers -

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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PHOTO: LEEROY JA­SON

Ac­tress Manaka Ranaka took part in the #MakeitS­top cam­paign for no vi­o­lence against women for Women’s Month

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