Some men see women as ob­jects on which to take out frus­tra­tion

Let us fight for vic­tory in the strug­gle against gen­der-based violence, writes Hishaam Mo­hamed

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - OPINION -

THE 16 Days of Ac­tivism for No Violence Against Women and Chil­dren cam­paign is un­der way. This year we mark the 17th an­niver­sary of this in­ter­na­tional ini­tia­tive and as we do so we need to ask our­selves: does this cam­paign con­trib­ute to the preven­tion of violence against women and chil­dren?

We know that not a sin­gle day goes by with­out re­ports of violence against women and chil­dren.

In our years of strug­gle dur­ing the apartheid era, as youths we turned to our moth­ers for strength and com­fort and as adults we pro­tected our chil­dren in or­der for them to take up the fight against our op­pres­sors.

Now, 21 years into democ­racy it ap­pears as if some who are fa­thers, broth­ers and sons have for­got­ten the value of th­ese pil­lars in our com­mu­nity. Women and chil­dren are seen as ob­jects upon whom men take out their anger and frus­tra­tion.

The gov­ern­ment’s Jus­tice, Crime Preven­tion and Se­cu­rity Clus­ter de­part­ments have re­solved to deal de­ci­sively with gen­der-based violence dur­ing this year’s 16 Days of Ac­tivism Cam­paign un­der the na­tional theme: “Count me in: To­gether Mov­ing a Non- Vi­o­lent South Africa For­ward”.

“Count me in!” is a ral­ly­ing call to mo­bilise all sec­tors of so­ci­ety to stand up and be counted in the fight to end violence against women and chil­dren.

It also calls on men, par­ents, care-givers and a united com­mu­nity to take a stand against all forms of abuse.

The right of women to equal­ity, free­dom, se­cu­rity of per­son, and to the other free­doms con­tained in the Bill of Rights of our con­sti­tu­tion, re­quires con­tin­ued as­ser­tion by all. The eman­ci­pa­tion of women, in­clud­ing their fi­nan­cial free­dom, also re­mains a car­di­nal goal.

The 16 Days of Ac­tivism will this year have a greater fo­cus on mo­bil­is­ing and part­ner­ing with men to as­sist in the erad­i­ca­tion of violence against women and chil­dren. We as fa­thers, broth­ers and sons must take a stand in the war be­ing waged against women and chil­dren in our homes and com­mu­ni­ties.

Men can no longer be pas­sive by­standers. It is time to con­front and hold the abu­sive ac­tions of their peers to ac­count. Now is the time for men to make their voices heard and de­clare pub­licly that enough is enough.

It is im­per­a­tive that men be­come re­spon­si­ble fa­ther fig­ures and in­stil the val­ues of hu­man dig­nity, equal­ity and re­spect for women as part of men­tor­ing and teach­ing our sons how to be men in ways that do not in­volve de­grad­ing or abus­ing girls and women.

The clus­ter de­part­ments will con­tinue to heed this call by struc­tur­ing pro­grammes and events to ed­u­cate and em­power our com­mu­ni­ties through­out the year.

Just two months ago, the Jus­tice, Crime Preven­tion and Se­cu­rity de­part­ments held sev­eral provin­cial ser­vice de­liv­ery meet­ings and pub­lic aware­ness pro­grammes dur­ing Women’s Month, as a build-up to the 16 Days of Ac­tivism cam­paign. Through th­ese pro­grammes we en­gaged with thou­sands of women from across the Western Cape – from Ge­orge to Khayelit­sha – to em­power the most vul­ner­a­ble in our com­mu­ni­ties on the free ser­vices avail­able to them, in­clud­ing main­te­nance and do­mes­tic violence ser­vices.

Do­mes­tic violence leaves a dev­as­tat­ing im­pact on women, men and chil­dren of ev­ery back­ground and cir­cum­stance.

A fam­ily’s home be­comes a place of fear, hope­less­ness and des­per­a­tion when a woman is bat­tered by her part­ner, a child wit­nesses the abuse of a loved one, or a se­nior is vic­timised by rel­a­tives.

At our pub­lic meet­ings, we asked women why they of­ten do not re­turn to our courts to fi­nalise the pro­tec­tion or­ders that they ap­ply for. Many ex­pressed fear of reprisal from their abusers as well as fi­nan­cial de­pen­dency which forced them to re­main in abu­sive re­la­tion­ships.

For th­ese rea­sons, the clus­ter de­part­ments have com­mit­ted to act de­ci­sively against those who abuse women, by en­sur­ing the im­ple­men­ta­tion of pro­tec­tion or­ders and hold­ing in­ter­de­part­men­tal train­ing ses­sions on new strate­gies to give ef­fect to the Do­mes­tic Violence Act.

Our leg­is­la­tion em­pow­ers us to hold abusers to ac­count and pro­tect vic­tims.

We call on sur­vivors not to with­draw their ap­pli­ca­tions for pro­tec­tion or­ders. The gov­ern­ment’s ef­forts are be­ing felt on the ground, even though much more needs to be done to put into ef­fect laws and poli­cies on gen­der-based violence.

We salute the South African Po­lice Ser­vice for im­ple­ment­ing Fam­ily Violence, Child Pro­tec­tion and Sex­ual Of­fences units with a spe­cial fo­cus on crimes that are preva­lent among vul­ner­a­ble groups.

The jus­tice sys­tem is con­tin­u­ally be­ing re­viewed to align and im­prove its ef­fi­ciency in ad­dress­ing sys­tem­atic is­sues such as de­lays in pros­e­cut­ing gen­der-based violence cases.

In­fra­struc­ture such as sex­ual of­fences courts and vic­tim-friendly rooms at po­lice sta­tions and Thuthuzela care cen­tres (one-stop cen­tres which en­able rape vic­tims to lodge a case with the po­lice and re­ceive coun­selling and med­i­cal care) will con­tinue to be es­tab­lished through­out the prov­ince.

A new Sex­ual Of­fences Court and a Thuthuzela Care Cen­tre will be opened on Thurs­day in At­lantis.

Sex­ual of­fences courts pro­vide spe­cialised vic­tim-sup­port ser­vices; and are geared to­wards pri­ori­tis­ing th­ese cases and se­cur­ing bet­ter con­vic­tion rates.

A front­line train­ing work­shop will be held on De­cem­ber 9 on the Do­mes­tic Violence and Pro­tec­tion from Ha­rass­ment Acts, to en­sure the ef­fec­tive im­ple­men­ta­tion of this leg- is­la­tion for po­lice and Depart­ment of Jus­tice of­fi­cials.

The provin­cial 16 Days cam­paign pro­gramme also in­cludes a Com­mu­nity Di­a­logue on Hate Crimes against LGBTI peo­ple in part­ner­ship with Chap­ter 9 in­sti­tu­tions and civil so­ci­ety.

The im­ple­men­ta­tion of the Chil­dren’s Act, 2005 and Chil­dren’s Amend­ment Act, 2007 is also re­ceiv­ing greater at­ten­tion. We all have a duty to pro­tect our chil­dren from harm.

Ir­re­spon­si­ble par­ents or guardians who leave young chil­dren unat­tended and vul­ner­a­ble to abuse are as guilty as those who com­mit the crime.

We must work to­gether with po­lice, pros­e­cu­tors and courts to make sure that crim­i­nals are ar­rested and con­victed for crimes com­mit­ted against women and chil­dren.

It is with the in­ter­ests of our chil­dren in mind that the Depart­ment of Jus­tice and Con­sti­tu­tional De­vel­op­ment iden­ti­fied the trac­ing of main­te­nance de­fault­ers and ben­e­fi­cia­ries through Op­er­a­tion Isondlo as one of the fo­cus ar­eas for this year’s 16 Days of Ac­tivisim cam­paign in the Western Cape.

The Main­te­nance Court is em­pow­ered through the Main­te­nance Act, 1998 to make an or­der to at­tach a main­te­nance de­faulter’s pen­sion and/or property, for fu­ture or present debts, owing to a main­te­nance ben­e­fi­ciary.

Our Op­er­a­tion Isondlo will fo­cus on the im­ple­men­ta­tion of th­ese civil reme­dies to re­cover amounts due to a ben­e­fi­ciary as well as to con­tinue ag­gres­sive trac­ing of main­te­nance de­fault­ers.

This multi- dis­ci­plinary ap­proach, in part­ner­ship with com­mu­ni­ties, has al­ready re­sulted in hun­dreds of main­te­nance ben­e­fi­cia­ries re­ceiv­ing reg­u­lar main­te­nance pay­outs. From July to Novem­ber the depart­ment at­tached the pen­sions of 49 main­te­nance de­fault­ers to the value of R3 mil­lion.

This year we iden­ti­fied 1 078 main­te­nance de­fault­ers for whom war­rants of ar­rest had been is­sued by our courts and who col­lec­tively owe R3.3m.We still have to trace 600 of th­ese de­fault­ers who we will pursue dur­ing the 16 Days of Ac­tivism.

Pub­lic ser­vants and other pub­lic rep­re­sen­ta­tives who are main­te­nance de­fault­ers will also be pri­ori­tised.

With th­ese in­ter­ven­tion pro­grammes and the ac­tive par­tic­i­pa­tion of all, we are con­fi­dent that our ef­forts will con­trib­ute to erad­i­cat­ing violence in our com­mu­ni­ties and restor­ing pub­lic con­fi­dence in our jus­tice sys­tem.

We will con­tinue to work to­gether as the Jus­tice, Crime Preven­tion and Se­cu­rity clus­ter with civic or­gan­i­sa­tions and com­mu­ni­ties to en­sure that in the Western Cape, no woman ever strug­gles alone against abuse.

Let us pledge that, work­ing to­gether, we will emerge vic­to­ri­ous in the strug­gle against sex­ual and gen­der-based violence.

● Ad­vo­cate Mo­hamed is the Western Cape re­gional head of the Depart­ment of Jus­tice and Con­sti­tu­tional De­vel­op­ment.

PIC­TURE: ELMOND JIYANE, DOC

STAUNCH: Pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma launches the 16 Days of Ac­tivism for No Violence Against Women and Chil­dren cam­paign in Reiger Park.

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