13 February 2013

South Africa: Commission for Gender Equality Responds to Reports of Sexual Assaults and Violence

press release

Today, the Commission for Gender Equality (CGE) spoke out on the surge in reported cases of sexual assaults and violence, including the recent brutal rapes and tragic deaths of Anene Booysen, and other young girls and women around the country. These cases reflect the extent of violent rape and sexual assault on girls and women, prompting many to speak of families, communities and a country in crisis, and question the effectiveness of the state's response.

The Commission expressed outrage at these dehumanising and brutal assaults on our girls and women, linking this to deeply ingrained historic and patriarchal attitudes towards women and gender equality, class and power imbalances, revealed in this rapid unravelling of the fabric of our society.

The Commission is mindful of its mandate and obligations, and has embarked on an escalation of its monitoring function. The Commission has maintained a watching brief on the Anene case, and resolved to do the same in other reported cases around the country, to ensure these are adequately investigated and prosecuted, and that justice is served. "Our brief extends however to closely monitoring the functioning of the newly established Council on Gender Based Violence (GBV), and the welcome commitment by the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development to reinstate sorely needed Sexual Offences Courts", said the Chairperson.

In addition, the Commission will be initiating high-level engagements with Parliament and relevant state departments to ensure the conclusion and adoption of the long-outstanding National Policy Framework envisaged by the Sexual Offences Act, as well as departmental performance as envisaged by the Act. The Commission's mandate is to ensure state accountability in its implementation of commitments and legislated responsibilities with regard to gender equality.

The Commission's recently released report on the state's implementation of the national 365 Days Action Plan on No Violence Against Women has identified significant shortcomings in departmental interventions, response and coordination in relation to gender-based violence, and the Commission will be seeking high-level engagements with relevant departments to raise its concerns and put forward its recommendations.

The Commission further advocates for significant interventions required at family and community levels, to correct the socialisation of boys and girls that has led to the high levels of gender based violence experienced. The Commission will be taking forward its research findings in relation to gender and the curriculum to ensure that issues of gender, equality, non-discrimination and gender based violence are addressed at this formative level.

The Commission heralds the work undertaken by civil society organisations in this regard, particularly interventions geared towards working with boys and men, and notes with concern the recent cuts in state funding, causing many shelters for abused women to close doors. Such institutions provide a vital component of a comprehensive response to gender based violence, and the Commission will further engage with leadership of such institutions and the Department of Social Development, to understand and seek support to address this further crisis in response to sexual violence.

The Commission supports calls from civil society for a Presidential Commission of Inquiry on sexual violence, and the establishment of an urgent fund to end violence against women and girls. It is time that this issue receives such high-level debate, interrogation, accountability and response.

The Commission calls upon all traditional, religious and community leaders to respond to this national crisis and work towards the eradication of this unheralded assault on the right to life, dignity and security of girls and women in South Africa.

Issued by: Commission for Gender Equality

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