2023 – a bleak year for SA women as GBV persists

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2023 was a bleak year for women in South Africa. Despite a range of interventions and programmes, gender-based violence statistics remain high.

The government says it is changing the architecture of the legal framework dealing with crimes against women. But for the period July to September 2023, more than 13 000 sexual offences were reported. During this same period, more than 14 000 women were victims of assault with the intent to do grievous bodily harm.

In the majority of cases, the perpetrators are known to the victims.


Deputy Minister for Justice and Constitutional Development John Jeffrey has called on men to recognise their roles in this scourge. “We as men are the problem and therefore, we have to be part of the solution. Patriarchal value systems are still prevalent in South African families and communities. Some men believe that male dominance and male entitlement are the norm.”

Bernadine Bacher of the Saartjie Baartman Centre agrees with this view. “ I certainly think we should start prioritising the work we do with men. There is no way to get past that, so Saartjie Baartman does do programmes with men in our community, that would be a very good start.”

Since 2022, legislation relating to GBV has been updated.  This includes laws around stricter bail conditions and the establishment of a National Council on GBV and femicide. This is a statutory body responsible for providing leadership in the prevention of and response to GBV and femicide.

“We have three new GBV Amendment Acts which have drastically changed the architecture of the legal framework in responding to GBV, sexual offences and femicide. we need to ensure a multi-sectoral implementation of the laws country-wide and most importantly to create a court system that is compliant,” says Jeffrey.

President Cyril Ramaphosa acknowledges that cultural norms and toxic masculinity continue to perpetuate gender inequality. He says despite political commitments and interventions, violence against women is entrenched in the country.

He adds that the key to the success of all these plans is cohesion between all departments and sectors.

“Critical among these is the work underway to improve the response of the criminal justice system to GBV with a focus on the more effective law enforcement, better training of our police officers, and the streamlined legal processes that we put in place and continue to put in place.”

-Report by Abra Barbier and Joseph Mosia