26 November 2012

Southern Africa: Alliance Calls for an End to the War at Home

Photo: Radio Okapi
File photo: The Sixteen Days of Activism Against Gender Violence campaign that runs annually from 25 November to 10 December is this year running under the banner "from peace in the home to peace in the world: Let's challenge militarism and end violence against women."

As the Sixteen Days of Activism kicks off, the Southern Africa Gender Protocol Alliance calls on all sectors, especially government authorities at all levels, faith communities and the private sector to redouble their efforts to end the war at home.

The 2012 Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) Gender Protocol Barometer shows that the Member States have made significant advances in terms of coming up with laws and policies that address violence against women but most of these focus on domestic violence while a few on sexual offences. However, the main gap lies in implementation, enforcement of these laws with little to no resources allocated to address the scourge.

Citizens perceive that the region is just over the half way mark of where they need to be by 2015 in terms of meeting the SADC Gender Protocol targets. Overall citizens scored SADC governments' performance at 60%. On aggregate, women scored Member States at 58% compared to men who gave a rating of 60%.

With only two years to go, all countries need to accelerate implementation if they are going to meet the target of reducing by half current levels of gender violence by 2015.

Comprehensive data on GBV that is comparable against all countries is scarce. Police data is unreliable because women often do not report GBV; many forms of GBV such as emotional violence do not enter police statistics at all, and many cases of GBV get withdrawn. The GBV Indicators Research, based on a questionnaire administered to a representative sample of the population, coupled with first-hand accounts, is beginning to provide a picture of the true extent, causes, response, support and prevention efforts.

So far the research has been conducted in Botswana, Mauritius and the four provinces of South Africa. Gender Ministries/Women Affairs in Zambia and Zimbabwe are rolling out the project too in collaboration with Gender Links.

The statistics coming out of the research are sobering. At least one in four women (Mauritius) and two in three women (Botswana) report experiencing GBV at some time in their life.In Gauteng, the figure is one in every two women. Men corroborate these findings, sometimes even more strongly than what women report experiencing.

Political will is key if there are going to be systemic changes to the prevalence rates. This requires the allocation of adequate human, technical and financial resources coupled with training for service providers. Despite GBV being the most flagrant violation of human rights in the region, political leaders in the three countries refer to GBV sporadically in their speeches (6% to 15% of the time).

Other key issues reported in the 2012 SADC Gender Protocol Barometer (see http://www.genderlinks.org.za/article/sadc-gender-protocol-2012-barometer-2012-09-18 - Chapter five) that measures progress by governments against the 28 targets of the Protocol include:

Only three SADC member states have Domestic Violence legislation.

Seven countries do not have sexual offences or anti human trafficking laws.

Only South Africa has a specific law on sexual harassment.

South Africa is still the only country that included the provision of post exposure prophylaxis (PEP) in its Sexual Offences Act.

NGOs provide most of the shelters for survivors of GBV rather than government.

A high proportion of women and men in the three countries covered by the GBV Indicators research do not know anything about GBV campaigns.

Eleven countries in the region have integrated National Action Plans to address GBV. In the other four countries, these are in draft form.

Obtaining baseline data, targeted actions and costing will help to strengthen GBV National Action Plans.

The SADC Gender Protocol Alliance urges member states to adopt and implement comprehensive 365 Day strategies for ending GBV that bring together all sectors of society in the public and private sectors with a strong emphasis on high level prevention campaigns.

Discussions on the post-2015 development agenda that is set to succeed the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) offer an opportunity to sharpen strategies for addressing gender violence at a global level. The absence of indicators on violence against women has been a major criticism levelled against the MDGs. Successor mechanisms must have a rights based, not just a basic needs based, approach.

As US a Republican Representative of Wisconsin Mark Greenonce said,"If the numbers we see in domestic violence were applied to terrorism or gang violence, the entire country would be up in arms, and it would be the lead story on the news every night." We call on our leaders to treat GBV- the worst violation of human rights in Southern Africa at this time- with the urgency this requires.

For more information please contact Loveness Jambaya-Nyakujarah, Alliance and Partnerships Manager on 27 (0) 11 622 2877. C

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