South Africa has been described as a lawless nation that lacks accountability when it comes to Gender-Based Violence and Femicide (GBVF).
This is according to civil society organisations that attended the second day of the Presidential Summit on Gender-Based Violence and Femicide in Midrand, Johannesburg.
The South African government has been criticised for favouring perpetrators of violence, rather than the victims. Civil society organisations say they are inundated with women and children that have either been raped or beaten, more often than not by an intimate partner or someone known to them.
Victims say that reporting the abuse to police remains futile as they sometimes ridiculed at stations and they have no faith that their abusers will ever be prosecuted.
Loyiso Saliso is the national task team spokesperson for the #TotalShutdown movement. The movement protested against the country’s pervasive gender-based violence and femicide and offered the 24 demands as a solution which led to the first summit.
Saliso says hearing about rape and abuse is no longer a shock because it happens so frequently. She speaks about some of the most horrific cases her organisation is dealing with, many of which involve young children.
“Gender-based violence is normalised, so if somebody is being beaten, nobody comes out to help them. I’m a survivor. I was beaten up by a then partner, and the people who know me just walked pass as I was reeking of blood. We have to deal with taking them to police station and the police refusing to assist. A little girl, 9 or 10, her mom left her with her siblings. This child sneaks out in the night to look for her mom and she was violated by a man in the same street,” Saliso explains.
She has accused government and the judiciary of allowing perpetrators to continue re-offending. She says South Africa remains a dangerous country for women.
Saliso elaborates, “We have a sick society. I really feel that if there were consequences for people who violate, perpetrators would be terrified of even having these thoughts. Men do these things because they know, they will go to jail and get bail, or pay officers to lose the dockets because this country is lawless. This country has not taken a firm and consistent stand when it comes to the crisis of GBV especially towards perpetrators. Even worse, you call this an accountability summit but these ministers come here and can’t answer clear questions of accountability.”
Religious organisations called out
Religious leaders have also been accused of turning a blind eye to Gender-Based Violence, specifically within churches. Anglican priest, June Major, was raped in 2002, allegedly by a fellow Anglican priest.
Her faith in the ministry was used to keep her silent while she was forced to be in the same space as her rapist. Major was interrogated by the church and had to constantly prove that she was in fact violated.
Major explains, “My Bishop at the time told me to stay silent to protect the reputation of the Anglican Church, reminding me of my vow of obedience. In doing that, you have to obey what your Bishop tells you to do. It was very hard and tough for me. You get nightmares being in the same space as your rapist. A few years after my rape, my rapist was caught on camera at another church, in the church office, sexually molesting the secretary. My rapist continues to minister and I’m busy fighting that up to today.”
The business sector has also been criticised for being absent in the country’s struggle to eradicate rape and violence against women.
Business Unity South Africa (BUSA) says the sector has been locked out of discussions and the implementation of policies on Gender-Based Violence and femicide by government.
BUSA’s Jahni De Villiers says business is willing to fund NGOs, however there is a lack of trust in government.
“It is not unwillingness. I am here to tell you today that we are willing, able. We have resources, we want to pool them. We want to work with government and civil society. What we are finding is a lack of coordination from government. When we were invited to negotiate the national GVBF bill, National Economic Development and Labour Council (NEDLAC) recently, we were thrilled, we were there. But guess what happened, business is not in that structure. So where must I take my money?” says De Villiers.
National Treasury announced that they will be allocating R13 billion across different government departments and programmes towards the fight against GBV.
Treasury’s Ishmail Mamoniat answered tough questions from delegates around the funding model of GVB.
Momoniat explains, “We have a number of programmes and the question is, are they funded adequately? I have a figure, R13 billion that I will explain. A budget that we allocate to departments and from that it’s allocated to the programme. Whatever we spend, is not going to be enough given the scale of the problem that we are dealing with. Secondly the issue is what is the capability of the state? Even before state capture it was a problem, and certainly after state capture it is a problem.”