South Africans need to unite to stop sexual violence
UNICEF outraged at unacceptably high levels of violence against women and children
30 November 2010, Edendale, Pietermaritzburg… As South Africans mobilize behind the 16 Days of Activism for No Violence Against Women and Children campaign, UNICEF South Africa joined the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development (DoJ&CD), the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) and the Embassy of Denmark at the official opening of a Thuthuzela Care Centre at the Edendale Hospital in KwaZulu-Natal. The centre – which provides comprehensive support to survivors of sexual violence in an integrated and sensitive manner – is the second of three to be launched this week in the province.
South Africa continues to be plagued by unacceptably high levels of violence against its women and children, despite a world-renowned Constitution and a legislative overhaul that safeguards women's and children's rights. The media is dominated by stories of sexual violence, and recent figures released by the South African Police Service show that South Africa remains one of the most impacted by sexual violence in the world. There are 138.5 reported sexual offences per 100,000 population, which translates to approximately 60,000 to 70,000 reported cases each year, with an estimated 40 per cent of the victims being children.
The tip of the iceberg
Reasons for the high attrition rate for sexual offences include gaps in policing, in the collection of medico-legal evidence, and in prosecution, as well as the secondary victimization often experienced by survivors going through the criminal justice system.
“Putting these figures together, it is evident that sexual offences are committed in South Africa in a climate of almost total impunity,” said UNICEF South Africa Representative, Ms. Aida Girma.
A one-stop integrated response
Specially-trained staff at the Thuthuzela centres provide services in a manner that is mindful of the dignity of survivors, and makes specific provisions for the rights and vulnerabilities of children and women.
Speaking at the launch, the Honourable Jeff Radebe, Minister of Justice and Constitutional Development applauded the Thuthuzela model for its focus on protecting the rights of victims, and stressed the need to strengthen the justice system so as to improve conviction rates with regard to gender-based crimes and crimes against children. He also emphasized the importance of dealing swiftly with those in the criminal justice system who subject children and women to secondary victimization.
Driving the HIV/AIDS Pandemic
MEC for Health in KwaZulu-Natal, DR. Sbongiseni Dhlomo stated that for victims of rape and sexual assault, “access to health services comes first, before going to the police,” ensuring that their health is not endangered further. All Thuthuzea Care Centres are located at hospitals to guarantee the best possible access to healthcare.
Prevention through Partnerships is Key
“We must take collective responsibility to ensure we alert the police when we notice such violence,” implored Hon. Radebe, particularly urging men to speak out against known perpetrators in their communities and to be positive role models for young boys.
Prevention must be at the heart of all efforts to combat violence against women and children, and the Government, business, civil society, faith-based organizations, the media and the UN and other development partners need to work together to increase awareness of the negative impact of violence and abuse on women and children.
Download the speech by the Honourable Jeff Radebe, Minister of Justice and Constitutional Development [PDF]