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Violence Against Women and Children – The 16 Days of Activism Campaign

Violence against women and children continues to occur at an alarming scale all over the world and South Africa is no exception. The 16 Days of Activism for No Violence against Women and Children Campaign aims to shed light on this global issue. It is a United Nations campaign held annually from 25 November to 10 December (International Human Rights Day). 

What is the 16 Days of Activism for No Violence against Women and Children Campaign

On 25 November 1960, three sisters named Patria, Minerva, and Maria Teresa Mirabal, were murdered and dumped at the bottom of a cliff by Trujillo’s secret police after actively opposing the cruelty and systematic violence of the Trujillo dictatorship in the Dominican Republic. The commemoration of the deaths of the three sisters on 25 November was declared International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women in Latin America in 1980. This international day was formally recognised by the United Nations in 1999.

In June 1991, the Centre for Women’s Global Leadership, together with participants of the first Women’s Global Institute on Women, Violence and Human Rights, called for a global campaign of 16 Days of Activism for No Violence against Women and Children.

The 16 Days of Activism for No Violence against Women and Children Campaign focuses on raising awareness of the devastating crimes against women and children which includes crimes such as assault, sexual assault, rape, and murder just to name a few. This is the 25th year South Africa is participating in the 16 Days of Activism campaign and it was launched on 25 November 2023, in Mpumalanga.

Why is it important

Police Minister, General Bheki Cele’s speech at the occasion of the release of the quarter two crime statistics 2023/2024 hosted in Pretoria on Friday 17 November 2023, gave the alarming statistics of crimes that occurred between July and September 2023.

During this period the following statistics were given in relation to violence against women and children:

  • 881 women and 293 children were murdered
  • there were 1 514 reported incidents of attempted murder that involved female victims and  361 incidents that involved children
  • there were 14 401 Assault GBH incidents involving women and 1 820 involving children reported to the police
  • 10 516 rape incidents were reported during this period wherein 4 726 of these incidents took place at either the home of the rape victim or the home of the perpetrator which was known to the victim, such as a family member, a friend, or a neighbour.

In October 2023 Mario Giusti was sentenced to 6 400 years in jail after being found guilty of more than 1000 charges of child pornography.

Domestic Violence in South Africa is perhaps the greatest social plague that, without a doubt, must be dealt with as it, unfortunately, has already gone too far.  As a country, we have been confronted with longstanding challenges relating to domestic violence and sexual harassment, which have had profound impacts on individuals and communities.

The Constitutional Court has addressed the topic of violence against women and children on numerous occasions. In  S v Baloyi 86 2000 (1) BCLR 86 (CC), para 11, the court stated that:

“All crime has harsh effects on society. What distinguishes domestic violence is its hidden, repetitive character and its immeasurable ripple effects on our society and on family life. It cuts across class, race, culture and geography, and is all the more pernicious because it is so often concealed and so frequently goes unpunished” 

Campaigns like the 16 Days of Activism for No Violence against Women and Children Campaign are crucial because they shine a spotlight on the issue of violence against women and children, however, merely shining a spotlight and talking about this global issue is certainly not enough.

The South African government has taken a significant stride towards improving the law and safeguarding the rights and dignity of vulnerable groups like women and children. The government has introduced the Domestic Violence Amendment Bill 14 of 2022 (“the New Act”), which is an amendment to the Domestic Violence Act 116 of 1998 (“the Old Act”). The Domestic Violence Amendment Bill 14 of 2022 came into effect on the 14th of April 2022. The New Act includes various new definitions such as coercive behaviour, close relationship, and controlling behaviour. The New Act also expands the existing definition of Domestic Violence to include for example spiritual abuse, coercive and controlling behaviour, and sexual harassment. Read more here.

How can you help

In South Africa, our right to be safe and free is enshrined in the Constitution A protection order plays a very important role in safeguarding those rights and the safety of individuals who find themselves in abusive or threatening situations. These legal instruments offer a way for victims to seek legal protection from their abusers and ensure their safety and well-being.

Any person who is/was subjected to domestic violence or harassment may apply for a Protection Order. In such an application the victim is called the Complainant and the abuser the Respondent. If the victim is a child, he/she can apply for a protection order on his/her own and does not have to be assisted by a parent or a guardian.

It is also possible for a person to make an application for a protection order on behalf of the victim. This means that any person who has an interest in the well-being and safety of the victim can make an application. It should however be mentioned that if the victim is older than 18 years, the written consent of the victim is required to make an application on his/her behalf. Read more about protection orders here.

While the legal frameworks to support women and children exist, challenges persist in effective implementation and enforcement. Issues like underreporting, systemic barriers, and resource constraints hinder the full realisation of legal protections. Therefore, we must encourage silent victims to talk about their abuse and to ensure that they get help. It is also crucial to not stay silent and to report any form of abuse.

Contact Us

It takes immense courage to face each day when living in an abusive situation, and you have already shown incredible strength just by enduring this hardship. But know that there is a way out, and there is a path towards healing and freedom. Reach out for help when you are ready, whether it’s to friends, family, or support organizations that can offer guidance and resources.

If you or someone you know needs any assistance or guidance with any Domestic Violence related matter, please contact us.

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