21 February 2013

South Africa: Media Statement By the Inter-Ministerial Committee On Violence Against Women and Children

press release

The Inter-Ministerial Committee on Violence against Women and Children held a meeting yesterday in Cape Town to discuss matters relating to the work of the Committee.

The Committee was established by Cabinet in May last year to investigate the root causes of violence in general, and in particular, against women and children and to develop a comprehensive strategy to deal with the scourge of violence against women and children.

The Committee led by the Minister of Social Development, Ms Bathabile Dlamini comprises of Ministers of Women, Children and People with Disabilities, Justice and Constitutional Development, Health, Home Affairs, Police and Basic Education.

The Committee noted that violence against women and children is a complex social and economic problem that affects all South Africans, irrespective of race, gender and social class. It noted that while Government has enacted various pieces of legislation to provide better protection for women and children, there was a need to move from policy to action and provide stronger focus than ever before on prevention and early intervention to support women and children against the scourge.

The Committee appreciated that while it was the primary responsibility of Government to provide strong leadership and a coordinated and integrated approach to tackling this issue, it emphasised that reducing violence against women and children was a shared responsibility across the South African society and cannot be achieved by Government alone.

"Everyone has a responsibility to act to stop violence against women and children. We need to work with our communities, especially men and boys to change the culture of violence and initiate prevention activities to support highly vulnerable women and children, including those with disabilities," said the Chairperson of the Committee, Minister Bathabile Dlamini.

At the meeting, the Committee reviewed a number of research studies on the root causes of violence against women and children, with the view to develop new strategies to fight any form of violence against women and children. While the research showed significant reduction in female homicide, the research done by the Medical Research Council (1999 and 2009) identified gaps in government response.

It noted that there was a myriad of research around men and what causes them to behave violently but strong focus was required to educate the girl child of her responsibilities to protect herself.

The Committee reiterated Government's commitment to preventing violence against women and children, holding perpetrators accountable for their actions, and ensuring that women and children who experience violence receive appropriate support and for courts to deliver strong sentences against perpetrators. The Committee acknowledged while legislation and the curriculum of social workers and the police has changed, officials of these departments did not treat these cases seriously and therefore resulting in secondary victimisation.

"We cannot continue having social workers, police officers and health workers who treat issues of domestic violence as a private matter. There is evidence that victims reported cases of domestic violence to police or social workers, but their pleas for help fell on deaf ears or were told to resolve the matter with their partners."

The Committee raised concerns about the attitude of the South African men and emphasised the need to include them in the discussion about gender-based violence as part of the solution.

The Committee emphasised that if we are to reduce the incidence and impact of violence against women and children, we need communities, organisations and individuals to join Government in taking action.

Issued by: Department of Social Development

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