Public Protector calls for an integrated approach in dealing with gender based violence
Gender based violence has robbed millions of women and children a quality of life and a freed potential promised by the Constitution and needed an integrated approach to deal with it.
This was the view of Public Protector Adv. Thuli Madonsela on Tuesday while addressing the community of Botshabelo in the Free State. The event was part of the 16 Days of Activism campaign against Women and Children abuse.
The Public Protector said the society where women and children were not free to fulfil their full potential was never a society envisaged by the Constitution.
“How can women and children truly enjoy the constitutional promises of a society healed from the divisions of the past and which is based on democratic values, social justice and fundamental rights while they fear of getting raped, battered or killed at home or wherever they go,” she asked.
The Public Protector said her office was joining the Minister of Women, Children and People with Disabilities and the rest of the country in saying NO to abuse. She said she will also be engaging with the Minister to ascertain if the country was still on track with the implementation of the SADC instruments on violence against women and children, the integrated approach and ensuring public accountability.
The Public Protector noted that there was a link between poverty and violence against women and children and particularly those from poor backgrounds and those in informal settlements. She cited among others unemployment, alcohol and substance abuse as some of the main causes.
She pleaded with those dealing with victims of gender-based violence to be compassionate saying they must not experience “two fold suffering.” She explained that her office steps in to ensure accountability when it is alleged or suspected that one or more organs of state responsible for preventing or ending violence against has failed to do what is required by law, policy or other instrument. In this regard she mentioned the case of disabled teenage girl who has Downs Syndrome that was brought to her attention in the past few weeks. The person reporting the case had told her that after the teenager had been gang raped nine years ago the police allegedly did nothing claiming that the case could not be won in court because the victim could not be as a witness. She said if such allegations were proven to be true this would amount to improper conduct or maladministration as it is possible to have a child with Downs Syndrome to testify in court.
The Public Protector urged communities not to take the law into their own hands but to use constitutionally provided mechanisms to deal with perpetrators. She called on communities to approach her office and other Chapter 9 institutions to report any violation that constitute improper conduct and bad administration.
The community also used the opportunity to bring to the attention of the Public Protector some of the challenges they are faced with on daily basis. They complained about issues ranging from delayed issuing of identity documents, provision of land and others.
One resident complained about how convicts were given parole early before they have been rehabilitated enough to go back into the society. He said this also contributed to scourge of gender-based violence experienced in the country.
In conclusion the Public Protector said she was concerned that a community as small as Botshabelo had such a high crime rate. She said while crime statistics in the country were declining, she was particularly interested in having reported cases particularly murder and rape and how they got solved.
She ended her speech by identifying the following measures as needing attention to improve the impact of measures aimed at preventing and eliminating violence against women and children:
Strengthen the integrated approach to preventing and ending violence against women and children
To find out reasons why people engage in violence against women and children
Preventative measures need to be strengthened
Gaps in the criminal justice system need to be closed and in particular we need to talk about how many crimes, particularly murders have been solved in the last 15 years and what percentage do these make.
We need public accountability as per the National Accountability Framework
A review of 15 years of the SADC Addendum.
impact of poverty to be addressed
Civil society to play its part
When the system fails the Public Protector and other Chapter 9 institutions to be brought in.