Today I visited Place of Hope Women's Shelter in Cape Town to meet women who are victims of domestic abuse. I saw first-hand how South African women in abusive relationships are being failed by the inability of the South African Police Service (SAPS) to effectively implement the Domestic Violence Act (DVA).
The visit takes place in the context of the current 16 Days of Activism campaign, which seeks to increase awareness around violence against women and children.
According to SAPS crime statistics for 2011/12, 180 537 crimes were committed against women. This includes murder, attempted murder, sexual offences, common assault and assault with intent to cause grievous bodily harm. This equates to an average of 495 cases per day.
And yet a report by the Independent Police Directorate (IPID) shows that 14% of police stations are fully compliant with the DVA, that police are not properly trained on DVA implementation and that the police routinely fail to serve protection orders, especially in informal settlements. Gender violence experts confirm that domestic violence is often not reported because women fear further victimised by SAPS officials.
The Minister of Women, Children and People with Disabilities should be meeting with the Minister of Police on a regular basis to be updated on progress in the effective implementation of the DVA.
My visit today also confirmed that women face enormous challenges in re-integrating into society when they are ready to leave places of safety or shelter. While they might have overcome the emotional trauma of domestic violence, they face a new trauma of financial difficulty.
There appears to be very little support structures in place to assist these women and their children in starting over.
The Department of Women, Children and People with Disability was created to serve the needs of women and other vulnerable groups. The coordination of functions between various line departments in supporting women when they leave shelters is clearly the responsibility of this department. I will today be writing to the Minister of Women, Children and People with Disabilities, Lulu Xingwana, to propose that her department brings together line departments that could support women in re-integration. The Minister should, for example interrogate how the Department of Human Settlements can assist abused women in identifying housing opportunities and the Department of Labour should be involved in establishing access to skills development and employment opportunities.
During the 16 Days of Activism and throughout the year, the DA will strive to create an enabling environment in which women can thrive.
We realise the importance of creating firm foundations of support and security and we will continue to put pressure on the Minister mandated to support vulnerable groups to ensure that such foundations are established.
Helen Lamoela, Shadow Minister of Women, Youth, Children and People with Disabilities