An online workshop entitled, “Gender-based Violence in Society: Still I Rise!" was recently hosted by the Faculty of Economic and Management Sciences' Transformation Committee.
Gender-based violence (GBV) is one of the most common human rights violations in the world and knows no social, economic or national boundaries.
In her welcoming address, Prof Pregala (Solosh) Pillay, Vice-Dean: Social Impact and Transformation, said the theme of the workshop is timely, topical and contemporary.
“We have seen a rise in gender violence during the COVID-19 lockdown. Our homes have become dangerous places for women and girls during this time and the situation is such that the victims live side by side with their attackers or abusers.
“Existing structural problems such as poverty, inequality, crime, a high unemployment rate and systemic criminal justice failures have also exacerbated gender-based violence."
According to a Gauteng study, 51% of women say they have experienced GBV, with 76% of men saying they've perpetrated GBV at one stage in their lives. SAPS crime stats also revealed that there were over 53 000 sexual offences reported in 2019/20, an average of 146 per day. Furthermore, a recent KPMG report estimated that GBV costs South Africa between R28 billion and R42 billion per year, which amounts to 0.9% to 1.3% of our GDP annually.
Dr Munya Saruchera, senior lecturer at SU's Africa Centre for HIV/Aids Management and the Chair of the workshop, said: “As a father, brother, husband and a man with gender privileges and the power that is associated with it, I realise that I have to play my part in fighting against this scourge of GBV that is so prevalent in our nation, society and communities."
He added: “Nine out of 10 times we as men are the perpetrators of violence against women. During the current COVID-19 pandemic, this vice and crime reared its ugly head again to starkly remind us that we have still not dealt with this issue."
Seehaam Samaai, director of the Women's Legal Centre − an African feminist organisation that advances women's rights and equality through strategic litigation, advocacy, education and training − was the guest speaker.
She expanded on the amazing and profound power of social media in the fight against GBV.
“Increasingly victims and survivors of GBV have been naming and shaming their perpetrators on public platforms. Women will do this for many reasons. They don't do it out of malice or to punish the perpetrator, but it is done to break their silence and to start the process of healing and of finding justice.
“Usually a survivor of GBV has been silenced by the system. This is due to a complicated series of factors which include the failure of the police and the national prosecuting authority to investigate GBV, the victim's own sense of shame and guilt and the refusal of the perpetrator to apologise or acknowledge that he has committed an act of GBV."
The feminist lawyer and activist said naming the perpetrator online helps to change the narrative and the experiences of shame.
“A survivor is made to feel so much shame and embarrassment about the abuse and feel that they should not speak about it which is an extremely heavy burden. Naming the perpetrator is a way to let the rest of society, who perpetuate a culture that allows an abuser to do what they do, to carry a small part of that particular shame. In addition, they also do it to protect future victims, particularly if the abuser is a public figure."
She said by naming and shaming rape perpetrators on social media and other platforms, victims are able to take on the culture of rape, the abuser and, at times, the legal system.
“The publication (of an abuser's name) can also help with an investigation, which sadly, the legal system sometimes fails to do. The publication of an abuser's name may result in other victims of the perpetrator also coming forward, thus strengthening one's case."
- Photo (supplied): Ms Seehaam Samaai