Pretoria — Women are three times more likely to die violently if there is a gun in the house, Minister for Women, Children and People with Disabilities Lulu Xingwana said on Thursday.
"Domestic violence becomes even more deadly when guns, legal or illegal, are present in the home because they can be used to threaten, injure or kill women and children," Xingwana said.
This is according to the International Action Network on Small Arms (IANSA) Women's Network.
The minister's comments come as the Women, Children and People with Disabilities Department prepares to launch the annual 16 Days of Activism for No Violence Against Women and Children campaign on Sunday.
Held from 25 November until 10 December the campaign focusses primarily on generating an increased awareness of the negative impact of violence on women and children and society as a whole. It also seeks to address issues that affect vulnerable groups.
Xingwana implored victims of abuse not to withdraw cases after they "kissed and made up with their partners".
"What these victims do is they report the case with the police and within three days they withdraw the case because they have kissed and made up [ with their partners]. This presents a problem for the police because the same women come back within weeks to report a case. In most instances the women who withdraw cases are the ones who die from abuse."
While there were programmes to prevent and respond to abuse, government alone could not fight it. Society needed a mutual partnership to tackle violence in the home and in communities in general.
"The reality that we must collectively confront is the reluctance on the part of some victims of violence to come forward and seek legal advice and social support. This could be due to a lack of knowledge of their rights, the social stigma around domestic violence or the inaccessibility for rural women of police and courts," she said.
President Jacob Zuma will launch the campaign in the Northern Cape on Sunday. There will be other activities to raise awareness across the country.
This year marks the 13th anniversary of the national campaign which began in 1999.
The theme for this year is: "From Peace in the Home to Peace in the World: Let's Challenge Militarism and End Violence Against Women!" The minister said militarisation and violence was a major challenge, particularly in regions affected by conflict.
As a sub-theme, South Africa will also focus on the theme for the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women (UNCSW): "Elimination and prevention of all forms of violence against women and children".
The campaign strapline remains: Don't Look Away - Act against Abuse".