Policing of GBV – Migrant Communities’ Experiences

In commemoration of the 16 Days of Activism for 2010, Sonke, in partnership with the Heinrich Boll Institute (HBS), implemented a project that focused on the policing of gender-based violence against women and children with a particular focus on migrant communities.

From Sonke’s previous Refugee Health and Rights (RHR) workshops we knew that there are high levels of sexual and gender-based violence in many refugee communities, perpetrated by other refugees as well as South African nationals taking advantage.

Tragically, many of these cases go unreported because the women have lost confidence in the police and at times simply because refugees are ignorant of their rights. This project thus sought to provide a platform for migrants to share the challenges they face in accessing police services and to engage police in finding ways of overcoming these barriers.

Six community dialogues were held in Cape Town and Gauteng with migrant/refugee women to find out why many GBV cases go unreported. The migrants raised a number of concerns, some of which included corruption and xenophobic tendencies within the police force. These reasons, among many others, have caused the migrant population to lose trust in the legislation system of South Africa. Two further dialogues were held with the SAPS to inform them on the feedback from the migrants and also to provide them with space to share the challenges they face in policing GBV, especially among migrants. The SAPS response to the project was commendable as they came out in their numbers including the JMPD to support this cause. The project even marked an on-going partnership between Sonke and the SAPS in addressing GBV.

Through this short project, Sonke has managed to engage with a large number of refugees and migrants to better understand the challenges they face, and provide them with information on their rights and how to access legal and health services. We have also established key relationships with local police and look forward to working with the SAPS in future.