LexisNexis launches GBV resource centre online

January 26th, 2021

Senior lecturer in Child Law and Jurisprudence at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, Dr Brigitte Clark, spoke about isolation vulnerabilities produced by the clash of two pandemics, namely COVID-19 and gender-based violence at the LexisNexis Rule of Law webinar held on 4 December.

By Kgomotso Ramotsho

LexisNexis held a Rule of Law webinar on 4 December 2020 as an initiative for the 16 days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence. Senior lecturer in Child Law and Jurisprudence at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, Dr Brigitte Clark, spoke about isolation vulnerabilities that are produced by the clash of two pandemics, namely the COVID-19 pandemic and the gender-based violence (GBV) pandemic. She said that GBV thrives on isolation and vulnerability. She pointed out that worldwide, the lockdown was a disaster for abused women, particularly abused women who are victimised by their partner or spouse. She went on to provide the definition of GBV.

Dr Clark added that GBV can be described as a hate crime against women because of their gender. She noted it is a pandemic in the world and one in three women have been abused at some stage in their life. She pointed out that GBV has been extreme and has reached crisis proportions in South Africa (SA). She said it may take the form of rape, assault, domestic violence, trafficking women, or violence against women in detention.

What is concerning in SA, Dr Clark pointed out, is that a lot of the harmful cultural practices are still being practised, such as, not only femicide and rape, female genital violence, marriage by adaption and forced marriages. She added that she personally has a problem with the legality on virginity testing of young girls between the ages of 16 and 18. She said it is a violation of children and their right to equality, as they need to be treated the same as male children and they need to enjoy all the rights that male children have.

Dr Clark said there are organisations who have established initiatives to help women who are abused to be able to report abuse and receive help. She added that government also needed to do more, by having more shelters for the victims of abuse, provide counselling, legal aid and bed spaces. She pointed out that in this time of COVID-19, GBV cannot be neglected. She suggested that neither parole nor bail should be permitted for sex offenders, and she noted there was a Bill introduced in parliament regarding offenders being given bail. She said that government must fund more charities who are responsible for these good initiatives in fighting GBV.

Managing Director at the LexisNexis Board, Videsha Proothveerajh, spoke at the LexisNexis Rule of Law webinar.

Managing Director at the LexisNexis Board, Videsha Proothveerajh, said that the private sector, as well as individuals are coming under pressure to take a stand and offer constructive, preventative action to help address societal issues that communities face, such as the topic of GBV. She pointed out that the fact that women make up approximately 50% of the population of the world and that one in three women in her lifetime will be a victim of GBV in one form or the other, is terrifying.

Ms Proothveerajh added that LexisNexis wants to make sure that they support, educate and make the women and men of SA understand their rights, responsibilities and how they can support victims of GBV. She said that for her it hit close to home – in a terrible way – when President Cyril Ramaphosa, came out and expressed his concerns at the levels of GBV in SA. She pointed out that SA had the shameful distinction of being recognised as one of the most unsafe places in the world for a woman to be born. It is something that everyone must work to change. She added that something like this is not done by one person alone, but takes a combined vision, combined effort and a change from everyone that gets involved. She said SA needs to get to a point where it is GBV free, so that children, the next generation and the current population are able to live in a land that has access to the law, where everyone is protected and treated with equality.

Ms Proothveerajh announced the LexisNexis Action Against Gender-Based Violence Resource Centre, as their contribution to fighting GBV. She pointed out that as a corporate entity they looked at how they can make the law available and accessible to everyone who is impacted by GBV regardless of their gender, as well as giving access to the broader society. She added that for LexisNexis it has always been about advancing the rule of law, and the organisation believes that there are key areas under the umbrella protection of the rule of law; which are namely –

  • equality under the law;
  • transparency of the law;
  • the independent judiciary; and
  • accessible remedies.

She said the centre has an online resources section with the latest relevant legislation and updated regulations as distributed by the SA government, along with commentary and articles. She pointed out that the centre is a free resource that helps and gives recommendation to the public, to make sure they understand the complexity around GBV.

Ms Proothveerajh added that for LexisNexis to be able to succeed on this journey they had to bring in a partner who was going to share the same vision as them, who understood what they want to achieve. She announced that they have partnered with the TEARS Foundation, which is a non-profit organisation that focuses on the assistance and support of survivors of rape and sexual abuse among many other GBV related crimes.

Founder of the TEARS Foundation and GBV survivor, Mara Glennie, said GBV victims need friends who can help them leave their abusive relationships.

Founder of the TEARS Foundation and GBV survivor, Mara Glennie, said that when she went through her own abuse at the hands of her husband, she did not receive the help she needed at the police station, as police did not know how to help her. She said her foundation gives assistance to victims to get the protection order lodged against their abuser. She added that the laws are in place and the people are in place, but victims of abuse need a friend to help them get through it and help them heal.

Ms Glennie pointed out that victims feel shame and embarrassment when admitting to people that they have been abused. She said that women are not educated on how to leave abusive relationships and what to do when they leave that relationship. She added that her foundation helps women to prepare to leave abusive relationships through their Facebook page. She noted the objective of her foundation is to help people discover that there is a wonderful life after abuse, and a new beginning. She said that government should support organisations that are working on initiatives that deal with GBV, so that victims can receive help.

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