In November and December, we commemorate one of the most important events on our annual calendar.
Recognised across the world, the 16 Days of Activism for No Violence Against Women and Children campaign tackles one of our most serious societal issues.
From 25 November to 10 December, governments, civil society and members of the public commit to take action against the evils of abuse against women and children.
In South Africa, a number of events are arranged throughout these two weeks at local, provincial and national levels.
We have a strong framework in place to protect the rights of women and children.
The Domestic Violence Act, Children’s Act, Maintenance Act, Promotion of Equality and Prevention of Unfair Discrimination
Act and Criminal Law (Sexual Offences and Related Matters) Amendment Act are all in place for this purpose.
Awareness of this issue is vigorously promoted by government and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) throughout the year.
Unfortunately, the cycle of abuse remains a huge problem.
Women are still seen as being lower in status in the home and in society.
Abuse occurs when men abuse their positions of power (either physical power or a perceived higher status) to control women and children.
Since the vast majority of abuse happens behind closed doors, it often goes unseen and unheard, making it impossible for the appropriate action to be taken.
The success of the 16 Days of Activism campaign therefore rests largely on the daily actions of individuals.
As government, we urge victims and those who are aware of violence against women or children to break the silence,
learn about their rights, take action against abuse and never ignore it. Non-reporting of such crimes is a major hindrance against the fight.
Government recognises that some of this is due to the victims feeling like there are insufficient specialised services in place to support them.
There has been an intense focus on rectifying this over the past few years.
In the 2017/18 financial year, a total of 17 Sexual Offences Courts were established around the country, bringing the total number of these courts to 74.
Thuthuzela Care Centres at health facilities, as well as Khuseleka One-Stop Centres,
provide services for female and child victims of violence, and are open 24 hours per day.
These are safe spaces for the victims to turn to for the urgent support they need, without risk of being victimised.
The Department of Social Development has funded more than 120 shelters and safe houses to provide shelter for the victims of domestic violence,
while more than 1 000 victim-friendly rooms have been established at police stations.
In addition, there are numerous NGOs doing excellent work in the prevention of abuse.
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