When policy and regulation are loud, yet action is silent.
This a is a reality that South Africa seems to be comfortable accepting, while suffering in the hands of such inaction. South Africa has all these laws and regulations that are aimed at promoting and protecting women’s rights, yet year in and year out, the same challenges persist. Since the start of the month of August, gender-based violence has featured prominently in most media platforms, however, once the celebrations and festivities are over, the question is what now?
Chapter 12 of the National Development Plan (NDP) stipulates that “gender-based violence in South Africa is unacceptably high. This frank admission should be accompanied by another admission that as a country, not only the government have failed in adequately protecting women and children. What this means is that without political will, a change in the sensationalism and narratives around the reporting of gender-based violence and men’s greater involvement as allies with women when it comes to gender-based violence, nothing will change.
According to Statistics South Africa, rape and the targeting women and girls, is a serious problem in South Africa. The 2016/17 Victims of Crime statistical release reported that 250 out of every 100 000 women were victims of sexual offences compared to 120 out of every 100 000 men. Using the 2016/17 South African Police Service statistics, in which 80% of the reported sexual offences were rape, together with Statistics South Africa’s estimate that 68,5% of the sexual offences victims were women. Most women still suffer in silence because of inadequate and enabling facilities in police stations and clinics, where in most cases the fear of being victimised or ridiculed suppresses the victims to report the crimes.
The problem we have in the country is that most GBV cases that make it to the mainstream media are sensationalised, creating a wave of public outcry and frustration which leads to minimal societal engagement on the broader issues round GBV. The hashtag such as #MenAreTrash are problematic and have unintended consequences, as they alienate the involvement of men in the whole debate around GBV, while it is understandable for people to use social media platforms to air their frustrations, the danger becomes that the real issues are not being dealt with as people start twisting the narrative. Sadly, the approach taken thus far regarding GBV reporting has only focused on brutal and gruesome cases, which get 5minutes of fame and quickly dies off.
The Antidote is multifaceted; however, the first step is to ensure that the policy development process captures the voices of women and young girls. Not only should their voices be heard, but active education and engagement should be at the core of development of such policies. The work that is being done by many women focus organisations thus far is recommendable, however more needs to be done in ensuring that issues affecting women are not treated as another headline, there should be strong collaboration and alliance creation in ensuring that in all strategic levels women issues feature prominently and not as a by the way item.