Gender Based Violence or GBV, why does it happen and why is it on the rise in South Africa? Some research from the SA Medical Research Council shows that a staggering 40% of men commit some form of violence against their partners. What’s even worse is that on average, three women are killed every day by their partners in this country.
How can this be happening and why don’t the authorities and government take more action? But first let’s look at what GBV involves.
Gender Based Violence can be
Structural: within society
In most cases the violence is committed by men against women and in many instances the perpetrator is a husband, partner or family member. The beliefs of gender roles in society differ from place to place, but predominantly throughout the world and in South Africa there exists a Patriarchal structure. Men dominate and are seen as superior, and women cannot function within society as they should. This type of thinking in communities allows men to perform acts of violence without having to worry about consequences.
There also seems to be a lethargic response to this issue, there doesn’t seem to be any improvement only an increase in the violence. Even going to the police does not seem to bring about any action. It seems that one in every 20 women that have been killed already had a protection order out against their abuser. It has been found that the problem is; many of the women are not taken seriously when reporting their issue to the police.
On the other hand, in many instances the police cannot be blamed as the complainant drops the charges. The reason being, the women who made the complaint has reconciled with the suspect and offers no further aid to the police in the matter. Even though there have been laws put in place over the years to help stop Gender Based Violence, it seems to remain an accepted way of life in South Africa.
“A house where a woman is unsafe is not a home.” – Women, Liberia
1 in 5 means you know someone…even if you think you don’t
One in five women in South Africa has been a victim to violence, according to the Demographic and Health Survey in 2016. The most prominent form of GBV in South Africa seems to be Sexual Violence. This was gathered by taking information from police reports over the years from 2012 through to 2015. The information provided shows numbers that are consistent over the four years, meaning there has been no improvement in the matter.
This doesn’t take into account those who don’t report a crime. Sexual violence is associated with feelings of guilt and shame and having to tell someone like an authority figure, is extremely difficult. It is even worse when you find out that reported rapes are not likely to go to trial, in fact even less than 4% goes to trial. Fiona Nicholson, a gender rights activist, mentions that only 1 in 9 rape cases are actually reported.
How does one tackle such an ingrained issue in society? In the Survey done by ‘Stats SA Victims of crime for 2016 and 2017’, it shows that 68% of men agree that women should have the same rights as men. But what of the other 32%, who believe they have more rights over women? Maybe by understanding the social conditions in South Africa, such as substance abuse, unemployment and the deeply rooted patriarchal attitudes ingrained into our society, can we possibly make an improvement?
Women need to tell their stories and share their experiences, because women seldom speak out about the issue. Some may express themselves by portraying men in general as ‘#MenAreTrash’. This may alienate those 68% of men who may become offended by this statement. The only way to defeat Gender Violence is to fight it together. Men have a big role in the struggle against Gender Violence. Men can speak strongly to other men about their behaviour towards women, they can be a big help in breaking the stereotypes other men have about women.
There has to be some intervention on all levels if the problem of Gender Violence is to stop. It should come from a Government level to within the communities. Schools need to have awareness programmes and whole communities need to be involved. This is a long term commitment; it has taken years to develop and will take time to change. But if everybody can be made aware of the issue, the more we educate the South African People, the more we can start making changes to stop the violence!
What can you do to help?
Support Safe Houses such as ours with your time, skills or money.
Mary* had nowhere to go. At seven months pregnant and with a toddler in hand, she needed to get away from her abusive environment. Mary had a difficult life and there were a multitude of factors that led her to the Safe House. She had been emotionally abused by her mother and sisters. An external social worker reached out to Safe House and asked for a place for the expectant mother and two year old.
Once settled in the Safe House she started therapy sessions. She got the VEP program therapy of Restoration and Healing, as well as Attachment Therapy together with her “the mother” and her child. To rebuild the trust and relationship, in order for attachment to grow.
Mary had to face many personal challenges, but trust was her biggest issue. Also: basic administration duties like registering your child after birth…we work on these challenges on a daily basis.
“I have learned to be a better mother. I’m going to go and find myself a job so that I can get all my children under one roof.” – Mary’s words.
Mary is still currently at the the Safe House and has one month left to stay. She is a loving person and we hope and believe that when he leaves the Safe House she will stay true to herself, focus on her dreams and Individual Plan as well as focus on what is the best for her children.
We believe in her.
*Names have been changed for the resident’s protection.
Safe House is a place of safety for women and their children who are victims of domestic violence. We rely on donations and support from volunteers. If you would like to pledge a monthly amount and make a significant difference in the lives of the women who find themselves all alone and with nowhere else to go, then please become a Friend of Safe House.
The rates of Domestic Violence in Uganda are exceptionally high. Statistics for Uganda show that 1 in 3 women in the country are abused by their partners. It is also recorded that about 70% of married women experience some form of domestic violence. Many of these women remain silent and do not report the crime to the police.
The reason being, that many in the communities support the violent behaviour. This is especially true if the women fails in certain household duties such as not looking after the children properly or if they fail to cook a proper meal. The government does have laws in place against domestic violence, but much of the time it is not enforced. Even though reports come in of rape and violence there are few convictions.
“Abuse is NOT Love. Abuse is about Control.” – Domestic Abuse Survivor
Now imagine men dressed in uniform marching down the street with babies strapped to their backs and balancing water jars as well as firewood on their heads. Some officers holding boards with phrases like, ‘Peace in the home’ or ‘Stop Violence against Women and Girls in Uganda’. People who are going about their day to day activities, stop to look, wondering what is going on!
This is what happened when brave officers from the Uganda Police Force showed up to show their support against Domestic Violence. Many are surprised by these acts, as the police have not exactly acted in a way that inspires confidence in them over the years. But as with many things, there are those who act poorly and those who wish to uphold the law and do their job properly. There was a similar event that occurred in December of 2015, when police officers also marched carrying balloons and wearing white ribbons in aid of bringing the issue of domestic violence to light.
There has been an increase over the years in the violence against women; this could be due to more women reporting cases. But whatever the reason authorities find the increase disturbing, which is why they are have participated in this initiative. They want to help bring awareness nationally as well as internationally to the problem of Domestic Violence. Hopefully change is coming for those affected by domestic violence in Uganda.
The problem of Domestic Violence was brought to light even more by one of the politicians within the Ugandan Government. He made statements that clearly suggest that it is okay to beat your wife, and he made his viewpoint on national television. The officers who participated in the marches clearly want to show their support, and show the people that they do not share in these attitudes. They want to stop the violence and murders of women in their communities.
Many are supporting them and praising their efforts towards this initiative. This support is seen on many of the social media platforms. Thankfully the Ugandan President, Yoweri Museveni, stands with them against domestic violence. He is encouraging the men in Uganda to stop beating and abusing their wives. This type of display of support shows a commitment on the part of authorities to confront and prevent any form of violence against women.
This is hopefully the beginning of a movement towards more tolerance of all groups of people and a firm stance against abuse on all levels.
Domestic Violence can come in many forms, not only physical. Many women are subjected to sexual, emotional, verbal abuse. South Africa also has a problem and is considered to have high rates of domestic violence. Every day women are subjected to physical assault, sexual and verbal abuse. If you feel you are being put in danger or are being abused in any way, there are organisations out there that can offer assistance and support.
I was a resident at the Safe House four years ago. When Charlene contacted me and ask if I want to apply for the position I said I will send my CV because I want to be part of the the good work they do.
What is the best part of the work you do?
To encourage the women to get out of the abusive relationship.
What is the biggest change you would like to see in the women you work with every day?
I would like to see them motivated to change their way of life and to be happy.
What was the best piece of advice you ever got?
To not look back and to be stuck in the past. I have to always look to Jesus.
What are your hobbies?
I love to do beading and love being at the beach.
Name three things that’s on your Safe House wish list.
To have a big vehicle for the Safe House because the residents and staff needs transportation.
To have more volunteers at the Safe House.
To have new kitchen cabinets.
Safe House Stellenbosch is a shelter for abuse women and their children. If you would like to get involved please do not hesitate to contact us: firstname.lastname@example.org / DonateVolunteer
Nobody wants to get up every morning and dread going to work. Not because of the work, but because you feel you are being harassed by co-workers or even the boss. Unacceptable behaviour at work can eventually lead to not meeting your work responsibilities. Overall, working in an unpleasant or even hostile environment will create a decrease in productivity, reduced confidence and even absenteeism.
In many cases it is difficult determine if your co-worker is just being really annoying or are they stepping over the line and being completely inappropriate. In all cases, if the conditions created are affecting your ability to do your job, this is a hostile work atmosphere.
If at any time you are feeling uncomfortable with your boss or co-workers, this is a problem.
Even if the problem may seem small, like a dirty joke, you as an employee should not have to just grin and accept this kind of conduct. It happens that sometimes management might even bribe you with gifts, knowing that they have done something wrong.
If talking to the coworker who is harassing you is not working, then the best route to take would be to go to a trusted manager or supervisor. Hopefully the problem can then lead to some positive changes. Obviously if this does not work, the next step could mean legal intervention. All of this can be very difficult. It can have an emotional and financial effect; it may even affect your professional image.
If you let it go and ignore the behaviour, even if you leave the company, can you ever forget about it?
“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter” Martin Luther King, Jr.
You matter! The more people speak out, the higher the chances that there will be change.
All the members of a company from the Managing Director to the tea lady should be made aware of what behaviour to look for, if it does happen.
Sexual harassment is not the only problem in the workplace. Other actions can be considered as harassment. These can be things concerning race, religion, age or gender. It can be anything that ultimately hinders the employees work productivity and success, actions that create an unpleasant work environment. Many companies today offer training and talks about harassment in the workplace.
Here are some guidelines as to what you should consider as harassment.
Here are a few examples of what is considered non-sexual harassment
Making derogatory remarks concerning a co-workers age, race, gender and religious beliefs
Constantly shouting at and making criticizing remarks in front of co-workers
If a co-worker makes rude or lewd jokes
When a coworker shares inappropriate emails, images or videos
Tampering with a person’s personal belongings or their work equipment
Spreading gossip or malicious rumours around that is not true
Basically this includes any kind of comment, behaviour or action that is offensive, discriminates, and is insulting or intimidating.
Sexual harassment is not limited to tasteless advances; it includes any physical or verbal actions that cause an unpleasant working environment.
“It’s not a compliment, it’s harassment”
If a person makes sexual comments of appearance
Inappropriate touching or grabbing
Sharing of suggestive images or videos
Asking a lot of questions about your sexual life or orientation
Constant unwelcome and suggestive advances, this includes e-mails and letters or notes
Any kind of sexual gesture or sexually suggestive sounds such as whistling
Inappropriate name calling such as slut
This is only a short list of the types of harassment, the list could go on. The fact is that it does happen and in many different forms. Once you understand what constitutes as harassment in the workplace, you can take the next step to help improve your work environment.
How would you know if somebody you work with or even a friend is being abused? What should you look out for and how would you go about helping them?
Many times colleagues can be the ones to identify the signs of abuse as they have a different view of the other person’s life; they may even spot the signs more easily than somebody who is closer.
In both cases it is important to reach out to the person you think is being abused. You might be the only one who actually does something. Try and approach the individual in a non-judgmental and caring way. Sometimes just listening to a person can be extremely helpful. If it is a colleague at work you may want to consider raising the issue with the company’s human resources department.
Often people think of abuse as something physical, but it encompasses a lot more than this one thing. Abuse happens to both women and men, young and old. Many don’t speak about it, but it can even happen between family members, an adult child who is abusive towards their parents.
There are actually a few different types of ways that abuse can manifest:
The physical and sexual abuse
Emotional, verbal and psychological abuse
Exerting control and coercion over another person
Economic / financial abuse, which can fall under control. This is where the abuser limits the resources available, forcing the victim to rely on them for finances.
The following signs displayed by the victim might indicate that abuse is occurring:
The person may start to wear clothing that they didn’t before, to cover up their bodies. Or have injuries that don’t quite match up with their explanation.
The abused person may withdraw from all social activities, cancel plans or make excuses for not attending meetings.
You may even be a witness to the abuse, where the abuser belittles and verbally assaults the person.
If your friend or colleague asks you to keep certain normal things secret, afraid of what their abuser might say or do.
If your work colleague’s work performance starts to suffer, poor concentration, handing in inconsistent or incomplete work and making a significant amount of errors.
Some abusers may even visit the partner at work, causing unpleasant scenes
If the spouse or abuser asks you questions about their partners whereabouts and activities
If the abused person is very reluctant to leave work
Signs of anxiety, not eating properly or becoming very jumpy and significantly less confident
The abused person may show signs in their body language – bent shoulders, doesn’t look anybody in the eye, avoiding conversations and choosing to sit alone.
“You can recognise survivors of abuse by their courage. When silence is so very inviting, they step forward and share their truth so others know they aren’t alone.” Jeanne Mcelvaney
What can you do about the abuse for a friend or colleague?
As mentioned before, offer your help and try to talk to your friend or colleague about it. If they do decide to talk, just listen. Try to provide information where they can get help; be careful if you give advice, sometimes your opinion might not be the best way. Offer your support more and show them your concern, let them know you’re there for them.
Some other ways to help:
It may come to a point where reporting the problem to authorities is the best option. Talking to management in a company or going to the police.
Gather information on how you can offer help and where to get help if you need it
Offer a safe place for them to come if they need to get away from their abuser
Call Lifeline for 24 hour support and telephone counselling: 011 422 4242 OR 0861 322 322
Here are some more important organisations you can contact for help.