The Inter-Ministerial Committee on Violence against Women and Children says every South African has an important role to play in rooting out the scourge of gender-based violence in the country.
The committee, which was established by the Cabinet in May 2012, met in Cape Town on Wednesday to discuss matters relating to its mandate.
"Everyone has a responsibility to act to stop violence against women and children," said Social Development Minister Bathabile Dlamini, who attended the meeting.
"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."
The Ministers of Women, Children and People with Disabilities, Justice and Constitutional Development, Health, Home Affairs, Police and Basic Education also form part of the committee.
'A complex socio-economic problem'
The committee said violence against women and children was a complex social and economic problem which affected all South Africans irrespective of race, gender and social class.
It said the government had enacted various pieces of legislation to provide better protection for women and children. However, it was time to move from policy to action, and focus on prevention and early intervention to support women and children.
The committee reviewed a number of research studies on the root causes of violence against women and children, with the view to developing new strategies to fight the scourge.
It said that while research has shown a significant reduction in female homicide, research conducted by the Medical Research Council (1999 and 2009) had identified gaps in the government's response.
While there was strong research on men and what caused them to behave violently, there was a strong need to focus on what was required to educate girls on their responsibilities to protect themselves
Call for harsher sentences for abusers
The committee reiterated the government's commitment to preventing violence against women and children, holding perpetrators accountable for their actions, and ensuring that women and children who experienced violence received support.
It also echoed the call for the courts to give strong sentences to perpetrators.
The committee said there was also a need to tighten up procedures in the departments that dealt with survivors, so as to prevent secondary victimisation.
"We cannot continue having social workers, police officers and health workers who treat issues of domestic violence as a private matter," Dlamini said.
"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 they were told to resolve the matter with their partners."
Concerns about the attitude of South African men were also raised, and the committee emphasised the need to include them in the discussion about gender-based violence as part of the solution.
"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," the committee said.