More women are losing faith in the justice system, according to non-governmental organisation (NGO) People Opposing Women Abuse (Powa), which says the number who do not report attacks has more than doubled.
The rate of gender-based violence in South Africa is among the highest in the world, with research in Diepsloot in 2016 revealing that 56% of men surveyed had committed physical or sexual violence against a woman in the previous 12 months.
The survey in the informal settlement by the NGO Lawyers Against Abuse, found that one third of men surveyed admitted to having committed both physical and sexual violence.
Powa counselling manager Jeanette Sera said that about two decades ago, one in three women would have reported attacks, which then decreased to one in nine. “Now it is one in 25 women who report violence or abuse because nothing is done,” she said.
Sera said this was why they were pushing government to formulate a national strategic plan against gender-based violence, similar to the plan adopted for the HIV/Aids pandemic.
“We are in a crisis. We need a clear plan, targets, objectives, budgets and clear timeframes. This will take political will and commitment. The strategic plan will act as a guide because the biggest problem we have in this country is good intentions and great policies but no implementation,” she said.
The revelations of corruption on a grand scale during state capture had also hit the sector financially, and international donors now referred NGOs to government when they applied for funding.
“We are told ‘your country has money but it is being squandered’. The reply is now ‘your government must get its act together so it can give you funds’,” she said.
According to Ruth Ntlokotse, National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa’s second deputy president and chairperson of its gender committee, the gender-based violence crisis could not be solved simply by arresting and jailing the perpetrators, or handing down lengthy sentences.
“To defeat gender-based violence, we must defeat the capitalist system which breeds violence,” she said.
Ntlokotse said despite the courageous example of the women who, in 1956, marched to the Union Buildings in Pretoria to protest against pass laws, women were still not free. In 2017/18, 2,930 women were murdered in SA, which meant the femicide rate was 15.2 murders per 100 000 women.
“In 2017/18, a total of 50,108 sexual offences were recorded by the police, up from 49,660 in 2016/17.
“The majority of sexual offences recorded were rapes. Our so-called democracy has created the most unequal society in the world, with high levels of unemployment and poverty, as well as of gender-based violence.”