Sonke Gender Justice joins South Africa in the outrage and sadness felt at hearing that a 9-year old girl was raped and set on fire in Delft in the Western Cape.

This time last year, the country and the world was appalled by the brutal rape and murder of 17 year old Anene Booysen. In 2012, it was seven young men who callously filmed and circulated the video of themselves sexually assaulting a mentally disabled girl. A decade before it was nine month old Baby Tshepang, raped by her mother’s boyfriend and nearly killed by her injuries. Late last year South Africans will remember the case of Yonelisa and Zandile Mali, aged two and three, who were kidnapped and later found, raped and murdered, their bodies dumped in a public toilet in Diepsloot.

These horrific stories that make it into the news headlines are, of course, not isolated incidences. Far from it. In South Africa, a rape is committed about every 30 seconds. Some estimates suggest that nearly 1.5 million rapes occur in South Africa annually. Reports also suggest that 40% of these rapes are against children, and 15% against children under age 11.

Each of these cases has generated appropriate public outrage and media coverage. Each has also led to a slew of government commitments: to provide more and better services to victims, to hold perpetrators to account, to get challenge the patriarchal norms that equate manhood without dominance over women, a sense of entitlement to their bodies and disregard for women’s rights.

In each case though the attention has gradually subsided and, as a result, government’s commitment to action recedes as the public outrage dies down.

In his State of the Nation Address delivered just a few days after Anene Booysens’s murder last year, President Zuma recognised the urgency of “unity in action to eradicate the scourge” of rape and said “The brutality and cruelty meted out to defenceless women is unacceptable and has no place in our country.”

President Zuma reminded the nation in his speech that the National Council on Gender Based Violence was set up to coordinate government’s efforts to address rape and domestic violence and said “We urge this coordinating structure to make the campaign of fighting violence against women an everyday campaign.”

Despite directives from the highest office in the land for the GBV (Gender-Based Violence) Council to urgently address men’s violence against women, the GBV council has failed South Africans and not delivered on its mandate.

To date, despite multiple and expensive meetings, it has not yet even developed a national GBV prevention plan, let alone secured the resource necessary to provide health and justice system services to victims, hold perpetrators accountable or roll-out effective GBV prevention campaigns.
This has to change.

Unlike the National Strategic Plan on HIV and AIDS which is costed, has the necessary resources from treasury and is implemented in partnership with civil society, there has been no national GBV plan since the 365 Days of Action Plan expired in 2011. This too has to change.

If it does not, the Minister of the Department of Women, Children and People with Disabilities must be held to account for her failure to produce the costed national plan South Africa desperately needs.

The GBV Council must deliver on its mandate. It has the responsibility to address the inadequate implementation of South Africa’s GBV legislation: especially the Sexual Offences Act and the Domestic Violence Act.

Over a decade ago when the Department of Health under Manto Tshabalala-Msimang failed to provide leadership on HIV prevention and the roll-out of AIDS medication, civil society activists engaged in civil disobedience to demand their right to health be respected. TAC and its partners occupied police stations and the offices of the Commission for Gender Equality and demanded government comply with its commitments and obligations as laid out in the Constitution and our national laws and policies.

Is it time for us to now embark on similar action to demand our government take urgent action to address gender-based violence? Will that move us from this predictable cycle of violence, outrage, commitments and then inaction to real and rapidly implemented solutions? If the GBV Council cannot deliver on its mandate then its leadership and members must be held accountable for their inaction.

Desmond Lesejane, Sonke’s Deputy Director, says “With the 2014 State of the Nation Address just around the corner the President and his cabinet must provide leadership and insist that the GBV Council develops a costed, evidence-based national strategic plan on GBV with timeframes for implementation and clearly laid out responsibilities and consequences for failure to deliver.”

Last year Sonke and its partners also called on Minister Gordhan to set aside a special fund to address GBV. We met with officials from Treasury and called for R1Billion a year to cover health and criminal justice system services and to fund effective national prevention campaigns. Khumalo says, “We did not hear back from treasury. This has too to change. We issue this same urgent call again this year. Similar special funds in this amount have been set aside before.”

Sonke’s Advocacy manager, Sisonke Msimang, says “GBV costs the country billions in health and police costs and in unmet economic productivity. Minister Gordhan, it’s time to treat GBV as an urgent national priority and budget accordingly.”

In conclusion, Sonke calls on the GBV Council to act on its mandate to devise and ensure implementation of an ambitious, evidence-based national plan to address rape and domestic violence. In addition, we call on President Zuma to support and hold accountable the cabinet members responsible for delivering safety and dignity to women and children. We also call on all women and men in South Africa to demand action from local, provincial and national government and to take strong stands against violence in our communities.

Sonke contacts:
Joburg office: Mbuyiselo Botha, Sonke Government and Media Relations Manager: 082 518 1177
Cape Town Office: Patrick Godana, Sonke Government and Media Relations Manager: 073 233 4560

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