Civil society takes to the streets to demand a National Strategic Plan to end gender-based violence

NO MORE empty promises!

In a series of coordinated actions, thousands of South Africans will take to the streets to demand action from a government that has not prioritized the rape, battery and assault of thousands of its citizens each year. They are challenging government to live up to its promises to develop and fully fund a National Strategic Plan on Gender-Based Violence (GBV).

More than 30 civil society organizations are working together to lead marches to the Gauteng Legislature in Johannesburg and the Eastern Cape Legislature in Bhisho on 25 November, and to Parliament in Cape Town on 27 November.

Meanwhile this past Friday, 21 November, Minister of Women in the Presidency Susan Shabangu kicked off the government’s “16 Days of Activism on Violence Against Women and Children,” by asking Members of Parliament to light candles and to sign a pledge displayed on a large banner. This “pledge” has no budget, no legal enforcement mechanisms and no clear roadmap. In other words, the MPs’ pledge is symbolic and unlikely to have any real impact on the lives of victims and survivors.

In her speech to Parliament on Friday, Minister Shabangu announced that the Ministry of Women would conduct provincial dialogues in order to better understand the causes and consequences of poverty and inequality, to develop a research agenda and to inform the National Strategic Plan on Gender- Based Violence.

While civic groups welcome this public re-commitment to the currently stalled and ill-defined NSP process, it is simply not enough. Civil society groups are demanding a National Strategic Plan that (a) is fully costed and commits significant new resources; (b) is developed through an open, inclusive and consultative process and (c) creates real accountability by reviving and reconstituting the moribund National Gender-Based Violence Council.

Over the last twenty years South Africa has adopted impressive laws and policies to address gender- based violence. Yet, because of poor implementation, these laws have made very little difference. Police are not trained or resourced to follow through on their legal obligations to victims and survivors, the NPA’s specialized Sexual Offences Courts are woefully underfunded and struggling to get off the ground and civil society organizations, which provide vital support services to victims, are closing their doors due to lack of funding.

As Mara Glennie, Executive Director of TEARS, one of the participating organisations in this week’s actions, explains: “NGOs are frequently being asked to carry out work in responding to gender-based violence that is the responsibility of the state. The state has essentially outsourced many essential statutory services to NGOs but without funding them to do so.”

According to a recent study by KPMG, gender-based violence costs South Africa up to 42 billion rands a year – roughly one percent of the country’s GDP. Yet, as research from the UK shows, for every £1 spent on prevention, the country stands to save £6 on response services. In other words, the state can’t afford not to invest in a more comprehensive strategic response to GBV.

Most importantly however, as Charlene May, at the Legal Resources Centre notes, “Government has a Constitutional obligation to address gender-based violence in a strategic, coordinated and funded manner. Women in South Africa’s Constitutional rights to dignity, equality and freedom from violence will continue to be violated as long as there is no national strategic plan to address gender-based violence.”

This statement is co-signed by the following organizations:

Budget and Expenditure Monitoring Forum (BEMF); Centre for the Study of AIDS and Centre for Human Rights, University of Pretoria; Community Law Centre, University of the Western Cape; Ecumenical Service for Socio-Economic Transformation (ESSET); Gender Links; Greater Rape Intervention Programme (GRIP); Legal Resources Centre; Médecins Sans Frontières / Doctors Without Borders (MSF); NACOSA; New World Foundation; People Opposing Women Abuse (POWA); Pietermaritzburg Agency for Community Social Action (PACSA); Project Empower; Rape Crisis Centre—Port Elizabeth; Section 27; Sisonke; Slutwalk; Sonke Gender Justice; SWEAT; TEARS Foundation; Thohoyandou Victim Empowerment Programm (TVEP); Treatment Action Campaign, Tshwaranang Legal Advocacy Centre

Media Contacts

For the marches

Gauteng/Joburg (25 November):

Eastern Cape/Bhiso action (25 November):

Western Cape/Cape Town action (27 November):

For solidarity actions