16 Days of Activism: Fighting the scourge of gender violence

Every year from 25th November to 10th December, South African observe 16 Days of No Violence against Women and Children.

Violence against women

President Jacob Zuma launched the 16 days of no violence against women and children campaign at Lebowakgomo in Limpopo on Friday.

Presidential spokesperson, Bongani Ngqulunga says president Zuma will call on South Africans to unite against the abuse of women and children.

"There is a significant number of violence against women and children, President Jacob Zuma thought it was very important as he had been doing this since 2009 when he became the president. He launches this event that he thinks that our society faces the challenge against women and children and that we need to mobilise the society to fight the scourge. At that event will be government and other stake holders of the society."

Violence against women and children is still rife


The ANC Women's league (ANCWL) says violence against women and children is still rife.

The league says while there is progress in addressing the problem of violence against women a lot still needs to be done.

They also visited the family of a young girl swept away by floods two weeks ago.

Students don't report rape

The Teddy Bear Clinic says at least 40% of university students don't report rape. This alarming statistic comes just before the release of the GASA report probing a rape at a university.

Male rape survivors excluded from 16 Days of Activism

Oliver Meth. Picture by Nina Oosthuizen.

 There are many stigmas surrounding sexual crimes against men.

This is according to Oliver Meth who is part of a support group called the Rape Survivors Network. He was brutally gang-raped by three men in a graveyard at the age of 16.

Meth is unhappy with the campaign as he believes it further fuels the stigmatisation of male rape survivors by excluding them.

"It stigmatises men to say that men will always be seen as the perpetrator and not seen as the victims of sexual violence or violence. That's why the 16 days of activism campaign needs to drop gendered language, suggesting that only women and children are victims of sexual violence and abuse; we need to make this campaign much more inclusive so that we can include men."

“I think that once the campaign becomes much more inclusive to include men and queer bodies, we will achieve our goals in having a non-violent society.”

Meth says that more dialogue with rape survivors is needed to find out what policies can be formulated around the different issues that they experience.

From personal experience, he says that the whole system, from health clinics, police to the courts needs to be educated and sensitised to help reduce the stigma and trauma of male victims.

"I had to explain to this cop that I'm here because I’d been raped. I was still covered in semen and I was bleeding because I’d been stabbed. The cop kept tapping his fingers on the table while taking my statement asking me questions like, did you scream, why didn’t you scream, did you enjoy it? He was trying to imply that the reason that I didn’t scream was that I actually enjoyed it, that I actually consented to rape."

After three and a half years all three perpetrators were arrested.

One of the rapists got a suspended sentence of five years and the other two are currently serving 15 years for indecent assault.

“Court was the worst, I felt like the system raped me again. The whole process is traumatic. I remember more of the court experience in terms of trauma than my actual rape. I remember the emotions I felt at certain dates of the court more clearly than the aftermath of the actual rape itself.”

Large number of rape incidents go unreported


A large number of rape incidents go unreported especially when the perpetrators are family members and bread winners.

Barely seven-years-old and one of the victims has already been haunted by her experiences.

She has been repeatedly sexually abused at the hands of those who were meant to protect her, her father.

Her identity hidden, the victim's grandmother says the child is young and her life is ruined.

"The child now speaks and screams when sleeping at night. She is now afraid of men. If a man comes home looking for me, she screams and cries, saying we should not let him in."

She is not alone; many who attended the North West launch of the 16 Days of Activism campaign were also victims and survivors of abuse.

The provincial police have held special operations focusing on crimes committed against women and children.

North West Police Brigadier Sabata Mokgwabone says, “Our focus was also more on suspects who are wanted for crimes against women and children of which we managed to arrest 56 of them."

In the Eastern Cape, elderly women and children are the most vulnerable people in rural areas.

Many of these women live with their grandchildren or alone.

Social Development Minister Bathabile Dlamini says, "Women need to mobilise each other and stand together. They need to be friends of the court and attend court cases."

Social Development has set up a helpline to assist those who have been victims of abuse.

Drum beating for violence victims

The Women's Shelter Movement has held a drum beating demonstration in the Cape Town CBD to commemorate 16 Days of Activism for No Violence against Women and Children.

A group of activists beat drums to raise awareness about women and child abuse. The Women's Shelter Movement in Cape Town took its message to the streets.

"Violence is a human rights violation. It is enshrined in our constitution. So this is our way of coming out. I think the sound of the drum, it goes to your heart strings when you beat that drum, to know that the only thing that you beat is a drum," says Director at St. Anne's homes Joy Lange.

The various shelters see hundreds of women coming through their doors; Tamsin a 31-year-old mother of two from Cape Town is one of the victims of violence who has been beaten by men in two different relationships.

Concerns raised about media reporting on 16 days of activism Deputy Tourism Minister Thokozile Xasa says the media is biased in its coverage of the 16 Days of No Violence against Women and Children campaign.

She was speaking at Somerset West in Cape Town. Women from various walks of life have been attending a three-day conference aimed at finding ways to end domestic violence.

Xasa says since the launch of the campaign, the media has been focusing on negative stories which emphasise violent situations.

"We are worried that the 16 days of activism is like our media, all they can show is the negative things that are happening, we don't hear, we don't see success stories. It is like everything is so doomed, our media if they are part of civil society they have to do better.”

Abuse is SA's biggest societal problem: NFP Women's Movement

The National Freedom Party (NFP) Women’s Movement says that the 16 Days of Activism for No Violence Against Women and Children should be a daily campaign and not a one-off event.

NFP Women’s Movement president, Sindi Maphumulo Mashinini, says abuse of women and children has become the biggest societal problem facing South Africa.

Mashinini says the fight against women and children abuse should not be left to government alone.

The whole community must play a role.

"In these 16 days of activism, we are saying it must not only be the16 days. It must be from the beginning of the year. Women and children should not be abused."

Child abuse on the rise - Clinic

There's an increase in the number of children abusing and violating other children physically and sexually.

That's according to children's rights organisation, The Teddy Bear Clinic.

Recent statistics released by the South African Police Service indicate that there are about 15 000 victims of child abuse in South Africa each year.

Doctor Shaheda Omar, a director at the Teddy Bear Clinic, says it's disturbing that children are exposed to physical and sexual violence at home.

She says it's these children who become perpetrators of abuse to other innocent children.

"Indeed we are seeing an increasing number of children who are violating other children, so they are violating them physically where there's physical assault on children but there's also sexual assaults. It has been confirmed that more than 40% of sexual assaults in the general population are committed by children against other children."

Compiled by Neo Motloung