Statement on Gender-Based Violence - 25 November 2020 to 10 December 2020
Written by Riaan de Villiers
As we start this year’s 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence towards a world free of sexism, discrimination, and violence against women and children, we are horrified, angered, deeply distressed, and concerned by the levels of brutal violence women and children in our country are facing and enduring.
With rising crime levels South Africa is a dangerous place for women and children, as the Crime Statistics of 2019/20 released on 31 July 2020 by the South African Police Service and Stats SA reports. Our home, which is supposed to be a place of shelter and safety, can in fact also be an extremely dangerous place. For instance, statistics on reported rape cases indicate that 18 231 of these offences took place inside the victim's own place of residence or home .
In a statement, the Ministry of Police revealed that 87 920 calls/complaints of gender-based violence were received by the police during the year of 2019 . Additionally, the total reported cases of common assaults against women rose 0.6% while attempted rape against children increased by 4.3% from the previous year’s report .
These statistics are indeed unacceptable, shocking, and disturbing. We are reminded that the victims, that have become part of these statistics, are our grandmothers, mothers, sisters, spouses, daughters, grandchildren, friends, family, colleagues, and neighbours. They have names, dreams, stories, careers, families, and loved ones. Like Cape Town mom-of-two, Lauren Dryden, who was shot dead in Elsies River on Friday 21 November 2020 while waiting for a lift after working a night shift . Or 19-year-old Snegugu Linda, who was brutally murdered - her heart ripped out and her body discarded - on Monday 16 November 2020, according to reports . These are just two of the many recent reports of unthinkable and cruel attacks on women. We remember and mourn their deaths, along with the thousands of other women and children known, or not known, to us.
On Wednesday 18 November 2020 Alison Oates’ torturer and rapist was sentenced to life in prison, five years after the crime was committed . Five years that Alison describes as emotionally draining and full of stumbling blocks to at least get some form of justice. This is but one of a small percentage of successful prosecutions and sentencing of perpetrators. Many perpetrators manage to escape prosecution and continue with their crimes in their homes and communities.
Considering this growing trend of violence against women and children, we call on all faith communities to urgently step up their efforts in combatting gender-based violence in their congregations and communities. Awareness and activism are needed during the 16 days but also beyond it - for 365 days of the year. Let us shine a light of justice, healing, and restoration in the midst of this darkness that surrounds us.
Churches can contribute to awareness and prevention in a variety of ways:
Pray for healing, wisdom, and guidance to counteract this growing trend.
Raise awareness through preaching, discussions, and events.
Provide information on access to crisis care and safety plans.
Provide spaces and support for victims of gender-based violence.
Listen to the stories of survivors and assist them in seeking justice and rebuilding their lives.
Support and engage with local charities and organisations working to stamp out gender-based violence.
Address and break down structures and language that feeds sexism, chauvinism, and patriarchy.
Provide safety and shelter to women and children facing domestic violence.
Engage with all local stakeholders and authorities to be informed about what is being done to address and prevent gender-based violence and provide support and assistance where necessary.
Every person and institution need to play an urgent and active role in combatting and preventing gender-based violence in our country.