SAWLA speaks out on gender-based violence

July 13th, 2020

By Kgomotso Ramotsho

The South African Women Lawyers Association (SAWLA), is calling on authorities to double its efforts on the rampant scourge against gender-based violence. In a press statement released by SAWLA, the organisation’s President Nomaswazi Shabangu-Mndawe said: ‘For too long we have been chanting that enough is enough but mutilation, wanton killings, rapes and other atrocities continue to be committed against women and children’.

Ms Shabangu-Mndawe added that South Africans are experiencing challenging times as South Africa (SA) fights the COVID-19 pandemic and vast resources are being directed to curbing the outbreak. However, she pointed out that there is another pandemic, namely gender-based violence, which continues unabated and is somewhat ignored, not resourced or only addressed through campaigns and hashtags. Ms Shabangu-Mndawe said that statistics have risen over the past few months and it cannot be normal to switch on the news only to be greeted by the devastating bulletin that a 79-year-old woman was raped, a six-year-old girl has gone missing and is later found dead, or an eight-month pregnant woman is found murdered.

SAWLA pointed out that the Domestic Violence Act 116 of 1998 should be a tool available to women and children. The organisation noted that it is evident that many victims of gender-based violence would be in possession of a protection order, be it interim or final, but these things do not protect them. SAWLA said it seemed as if South African law enforcers do not understand the importance and how domestic violence acts should be dealt with. The organisation added that abused women return home to the perpetrators and due to the life trajectories of some mothers being unemployed and relying on the fathers, children end up being sexually abused and such matters never go before the court. SAWLA said another challenge is that, while the information of the Domestic Violence Act is known in some areas, people are in most cases not willing to bring the perpetrators to book.

Ms Shabangu-Mndawe said: ‘Naming and shaming should, therefore, be the order of the day.  We must continue teaching our children that boys and girls are equal and no one must make them feel inferior. Enough has died. Enough has been raped. Enough has been assaulted.’

SAWLA noted and applauds the successful arrests made by the law enforcement. However, the organisation said as legal practitioners and contributors to the justice system, ‘we feel not enough is [being] done to put a stop to these killings, so we have taken a conscious decision to fight this scourge until justice prevail[s]. We will work with the state to ensure that matters of this nature are prioritised and that the perpetrators are brought to book. We have comprehensive proposals and practical action plans to stem the tide of this new pandemic but only through partnership with government and other concerned stakeholders. For instance, we have formed a committee that looks at amending laws to prevent the scourge of gender-based violence. We believe proper interpretation, implementation and application will help us as a nation to eradicate this’, Ms Shabangu-Mndawe said.

SAWLA pointed out that women and children are being violated by those they love, namely, their partners, husbands, lovers, fathers, neighbours and members of the community. The organisation said it believes in teaching communities about their rights and access to justice in the hope that the levels of inequality are done away with and to ensure that women and children are safe on the streets and in their homes. ‘We no longer have safe spaces and this is unheard of as surely we as women and children are the most vulnerable members of the community and therefore must be protected,’ Ms Shabangu-Mndawe added.

Kgomotso Ramotsho Cert Journ (Boston) Cert Photography (Vega) is the news reporter at De Rebus.

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