Gender-based Violence (GBV)

It is August and like many August months before, South Africa brings the past, the here & now and the future together. Not only do we pay tribute to the more than 20 000 women who marched to the Union Buildings on 9 August 1956 in protest against the extension of Pass Laws to women, we also focus on the current situation of violence against women and how harmful it will be for our future if we do not put an end to it.

Furthermore, members of the LGBTQI community are also often victims of gender-based violence, an evil that seeks to humiliate and destroy the victim. Not only is GBV a profound human rights violation, but it also has major social and developmental impacts for survivors of violence and the trauma can have psychological, behavioural and physical consequences for survivors.

Violence in its nature seeks to control and reduce another party to be at the mercy of the perpetrator. It is difficult to prevent as it can manifest in many forms, for example, but not limited to physical, emotional, financial, sexual and structural abuse. It is further complicated because the perpetrator often is not a stranger, but an acquaintance, intimate partner, a family member or it can occur in the workplace.

It is a double tragedy if the perpetrator is in a trust relationship with and known to the victim, such as a family member. Sadly the majority of incidents are never reported. Still, the South African statistics of reported incidents reflect a sombre and concerning picture. The stark reality is that GBV in South Africa is disproportionately directed against women and girls.

GBV is not limited to South Africa. It is widespread and a global problem. This year’s Women’s Month is celebrated under the theme:

“Generation Equality: Realising Women’s Rights for an Equal Future”.

Striving for gender equality is a global campaign and links South Africa to global efforts to achieve gender equality by 2030. Some of the objectives are to increase the number of girls going to school and passing laws that advance gender equality.

The Covid-19 pandemic, unfortunately, underlined the existing inequalities. Women are by far the majority of frontline healthcare workers and carers at home. Their unpaid care work has increased significantly as a result of school closures, placing them at greater risk of falling into poverty.

The pandemic has also led to a steep increase in violence against women and girls. With lockdown measures in place, many women are trapped at home with their abusers, struggling to access services. Emerging data shows that, since the outbreak of the pandemic, violence against women and girls – and particularly domestic violence – has intensified.

Those of us who are fortunate to be protected against GBV should be on the outlook for signs of women being subjected to GBV. Often the victim shows an unexpected or unexplained change in behaviour, is fearful, suffers from depression, and shows signs of lack of sleep or other physical symptoms or signs such as bruises or broken bones. They often spend less time with family and friends and become unusually quiet or withdrawn.

How can you be of any assistance? Educate yourself and others about the scope of the GBV problem and its impact.

Recognise the behaviour and talk about it to others. Use your voice to spread awareness of the atrocity against the softest and strongest of all creatures: the female. You can help the person by believing in them and by listening with compassion. Whenever you know of a victim or survivor, support the individual by getting her in contact with an institution that might be able to help her. Keep the following contact numbers and share them with anyone you think might need it. Be strong, seek help, end the GBV horror.

SAPS Emergency Services 10111
Childline South Africa Report child abuse to Childline South Africa’s toll-free line: 0800 055 555
GBV Command Centre Contact the 24-hour Gender-based Violence Command Centre toll-free number 0800 428 428 to report abuse
South African Police Service Report all cases of rape, sexual assault or any form of violence to a local police station or call the toll-free Crime Stop number: 086 00 10111
Legal Aid South Africa Call the toll-free Legal Aid Advice line 0800 110 110 for free legal aid if you cannot afford one
Commission for Gender Equality Report Gender Discrimination and Abuse: 0800 007 709
South African Human Rights Commission Call 011 877 3600 to lodge a complaint about human rights violations
Domestic Violence Helpline Stop Women Abuse: 0800 150 150
AIDS Helpline 0800 012 322