[16days_discussion] Fwd: [Glgenerals] 365 days of action to end gender violence

Sara Nordstrom snordsy at rci.rutgers.edu
Wed May 17 11:10:39 EDT 2006

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>Date: Mon, 15 May 2006 12:12:02 -0400
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>Subject: [Glgenerals] 365 days of action to end gender violence
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>365 days of action to end gender violence
>Shirley Ramalepa is not one to mince her words. In front of a packed 
>audience last week consisting of the Deputy President, several deputy 
>ministers, representatives of civil society, business and traditional 
>leaders she described in graphic detail what it means to have various 
>objects shoved up your vagina by your intimate partner in the name of love.
>A survivor of two abusive relationships who has now reclaimed her life 
>Ramalepa frequently punctuated her harrowing life story with the words, "I 
>am beautiful." This week, as the verdict in the Zuma trial was handed down 
>she sent the following SMS to a colleague: "we have a lot of education to do."
>As several speakers commented at the "365 days of action to end gender 
>violence conference" from 3-5 May, Ramalepa's story of verbal, emotional, 
>financial and psychological abuse probably never entered the official 
>statistics, nor did it ever go to court. Yet it is the untold story of all 
>too many women; the story that even if it went to court might not have 
>resulted in a successful conviction; the story of the human rights abuses 
>that go on every day ten years after our new constitution came into force 
>with a wholly inadequate repose from the formal systems.
>The Kopanong Declaration agreed by the 260 delegates representing all 
>spheres of government and a broad cross section of South African society 
>proposes to extend the Sixteen Days of Activism on Gender Violence from 25 
>November (International Day of No Violence against Women) to 10 December 
>(Human Rights Day) to a year long campaign.
>In setting out key strategic objectives, it breaks with past trends in 
>putting public education and awareness at the heart of the agenda, and 
>seeking to extend the reach of the campaign through schools, local 
>government, traditional authorities, men's organisations and groups not 
>traditionally involved in the campaign. As Deputy Minister of Provincial 
>and Local Government Nomatyala Hangana who leads the Sixteen Day campaign 
>in government put it: "It is time to get out of our comfort zone and talk 
>to the people we don't usually talk to."
>With regard to the response mechanisms currently in place, the Declaration 
>recognises the short comings of the present legislative framework. While 
>the Domestic Violence Act, which allows women in abusive relationships to 
>obtain "peace orders" for their protection is a far reaching law, few 
>women know about or make use of its provisions, and it is under resourced.
>The Sexual Offences Bill, that tightens the definition of "consent" and 
>restricts the extent to which various types of evidence, including ones 
>sexual past, can be brought in as evidence has still not been passed 
>despite being in the making for ten years. The latest version of the bill 
>has various flaws, including the fact that a woman must first report a 
>case of sexual assault to the police before seeking Post Exposure 
>Prophylaxis, the combination of anti retroviral drugs that can help to 
>prevent HIV infection if taken immediately after the assault. The 
>Declaration pledges to ensure the bill is passed by the 2006 Sixteen Day 
>campaign. NGOs are demanding that there be a further round of public 
>comment before it is finalised.
>A major concern in cases relating to gender violence, particularly those 
>relating to date rape in which it is notoriously difficult to prove such 
>cases in court is police bungling in the investigations (some of this 
>surfaced in the Zuma case) and low conviction rates (7% in the regular 
>courts). Conviction rates are much higher in the specialised sexual 
>offenses courts, but these currently only address about ten percent of the 
>55 000 rape cases reported each year.
>The Kopanong Declaration commits government and NGO partners to coming up 
>with a strategy for dealing with sexual offenses courts that includes 
>rolling out more of these specialised facilities, but also ensuring that 
>the entire criminal justice system is geared to deal more effectively with 
>such cases.
>The Declaration recognises that every survivor of gender violence should 
>have access to immediate and comprehensive treatment, care and support. 
>Such services are currently best provided by the Thutuzela one stop 
>services, but they only service 5% of the need. Again, the challenge is to 
>ensure that all the existing facilities, especially health facilities, are 
>equipped to provide counseling and medical care (PEP, treatment for STD's 
>and the possibility of pregnancy) as well as able to gather the necessary 
>forensic evidence.
>A critical provision of the Declaration is to establish over the next six 
>months baseline data on gender violence, especially domestic violence that 
>is currently hidden within such police statistics as "indecent assault." 
>Overarching targets will then be set for reducing levels of violence, 
>increasing conviction rates, and providing dignified, easily accessible 
>services to survivors of gender violence.
>Such targets, the conference agreed in its closing session that included a 
>symbolic recommitment to the provisions for gender equality in the 
>Constitution, are the bare minimum requirements for "making the 
>constitution work for women and children" over the next decade.
>(Colleen Lowe Morna is executive director of Gender Links, which co- 
>convened the 365 day conference with the National Prosecuting Authority, 
>Department of Provincial and Local Government and UN agencies.)
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