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Address by the Deputy Minister of Justice and Constitutional Development, the Hon JH Jeffery, MP, at the 2020 Men’s Parliament hosted under the theme “Institutionalising a Responsive Men’s Movement, to end Gender-Based Violence in particular and all forms of violence in general”, 19 November 2020

Deputy Speaker,
Deputy Chairperson of the NCOP,
Ministers and Deputy Ministers,
Honourable Members,
Representatives from various sectors and stakeholders,
All delegates present,

Figures are frequently quoted in relation to gender-based violence and femicide.

Statistics SA’s 2016 Demographic and Health Survey showed that, on average, one in five South African women older than 18 has experienced physical violence by a partner.

In 2018/19, approximately 50% of assaults on women were committed by someone close to them - like a friend or acquaintance (22%), a spouse or intimate partner (15%), or a relative or other household member (13%).

If one assumes that GBV is generally under-reported, one can deduce that the figures may well be higher than those reported.

But we are not talking about figures or numbers or statistics, we are talking about women – human beings who have their own lives, names, families and loved ones and friends. 

And we know the names of those who have lost their lives to GBV - Uyinene Mrwetyana, Tshegofatso Pule, Altecia Kortje, Naledi Phangindawo and so many others.
We cannot bring those women back, but we can ensure that there is justice for them and for their families.  This is where a responsive and well-functioning criminal justice system is crucial.
A well-functioning criminal justice system is not only about preventing and combating GBV, femicide and sexual offences, but ensuring that when we bring these cases to court we prevent secondary traumatisation and ensure that survivors receive the necessary support services that are available to them.
Even before the matter reaches the court, when the complainant takes that first step and reports it to a police station, or goes to a hospital or a Thuthuzela Care Centre, they must be treated with dignity and sensitivity and afforded all available services.
In short, the criminal justice system needs to be victim-centred.

We need to constantly ask ourselves how geared are our courts, the SAPS and the broader criminal justice system to effectively deal with GBVF.
Many of you would, no doubt, have seen a recent episode of CheckPoint on eNCA and would have seen how quickly a case can derail in instances where the criminal justice system does not function the way it should.

Our country has some of the most advanced legislation in the world in dealing with GBVF matters, but why are levels of GBVF so high? And what can be done to improve under-reporting?

Domestic violence is one form of GBV. Domestic violence cases include physical and sexual abuse (any behaviour that abuses, humiliates, degrades or violates the sexuality of a person) as well as emotional and psychological abuse (including repeated insults and/or threats, name-calling, obsessive possessiveness and jealousy) that occurs within a domestic relationship.

It also includes economic abuse (such as unreasonably refusing to share money or selling or giving away household property), intimidation, harassment, stalking, damage to property and entering a person’s home without their consent.

Some 240 282 domestic violence cases were registered in our courts during 2019/20. One can almost certainly say that in reality there are many more.

With regards to our Sexual Offences Courts, in February this year, section 55A of the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences and Related Matters) Amendment Act, 2007 was signed into operation meaning that for the first time Sexual Offences Courts will now be established in accordance with Regulations.

The Regulations set out a catalogue of support services and resources that must constitute a section 55A Sexual Offences Court. These services include court support, court preparation, emotional containment, trauma debriefing, counselling, private testifying services, intermediary services and information services.

In moving towards a disability-centric justice system, the Regulations also provide special services for the disabled survivors of sexual offences. They also refer to infrastructural capacity requirements.

Our Sexual Offences Courts work closely with the NPA’s Thuthuzela Care Centres (TCCs).

TCCs are attached to specific hospitals and enable the victim of a sexual offence to receive treatment at the same time as the evidence of the case is collected.  The focus of the TCC model aims to ensure that a holistic integrated service is being provided to victims at these sites.

We currently have 55 TCCs across the country and are planning to open 6 more.

Our TCCs also play a vital role in getting the message out to communities and to the public that help and support is available to victims.  Just as an example, during the months of August and September this year, officials from the NPA’s SOCA unit and/or those specifically involved with TCC-sites participated in no less than 112 events – this is no small feat.

But government and the criminal justice system can only do so much.

Patriarchy and toxic masculinity play a significant part in GBV. That’s why it’s crucial to address men and boys.

Our Department has embarked on a programme called “Under the Tree” dialogues. The aim of the dialogues is to vigorously engage with men and boys to change toxic attitudes and beliefs around masculinity and patriarchy that lead to violence against women and children.

The dialogues are intended to create a non-intimidating space for male participants to introspect and face up to the harmful realities and effects of GBVF.  

The dialogues were launched by the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development in the Hammanskraal township of Temba in December 2019. It was attended by over 400 men and boys from Temba and surrounding areas within the Moretele Municipality. Subsequent dialogues have taken place at Kgosi Mampuru Management Centre, Upington, Oukasie in Brits, Westville Correctional Centre, Boksburg, Welkom and Majosi Village, Limpopo.

We also make optimal use of the opportunities offered by civil society organisations to share platforms and spread the anti-GBV message. It is with vibrant partnerships between government and civil society organisations that we can really reach into communities.

For example, later this evening, we will be having a live radio broadcast to more than 70 community radios featuring one of our civil society partners, called Dads in the Picture, to speak about GBV, responsible fatherhood and family support matters and listeners can call in or sms if they have questions.

The importance of coherence, efficiency and effectiveness in the implementation of programmes cannot be over-emphasised. We cannot work in silos and government Departments must support the work being done by other Departments in their cluster or even in other clusters.

This is why we always include, amongst others, the SAPS, the NPA and the DSD in our programmes pertaining to preventing and reporting trafficking in persons and when it comes to hate crimes against LGBTI persons. We also work closely with SANAC and serve on its Legal and Human Rights Technical Task Team.

But our real strength lies within our communities. As feminist activist Fatima Shabodien wrote: “I think most people who grew up poor in South Africa will have a memory of taking a vulnerable woman in.”  Often the first place a victim of GBV will go for help is to a neighbour or a religious leader or to someone in their community.

Earlier this year, just before the lockdown, we launched a Sexual Offences Court in Bredasdorp, a small town in the Overberg region in the Western Cape.

In 2015, in Bredasdorp, the 14 year-old Elna Jaftha’s body was found wrapped in a blanket and stuffed under her 27-year old boyfriend’s bed.

In Elna’s case, when the Western Cape High Court was busy with the sentencing proceedings of the boyfriend who had been found guilty of the rape, kidnapping and murder of the teenager, the Court was informed that violent assault by a partner, largely due to alcohol abuse, was considered "the norm" in many families in the area.

We need to ask ourselves in how many families across our country is this the norm? What does this do in creating a cycle of intergenerational violence and how do we address this?

The investigating officer in the case informed the High Court, that in his 27 years as a police officer and 17 years as a detective, the common denominators in these cases were always alcohol abuse and poverty.

He stated that financial dependence on an attacker made it worse because a woman would lay a charge, an attacker would then be arrested, but the case would later be withdrawn when they realise they would lose their financial support if their attacker went to jail. This fear of losing support meant that many attackers go unpunished.

That is why the economic empowerment of women is equally important, as economic empowerment interventions help to prevent inequality and can, in turn, assist in reducing GBV.

In the memorandum of 24 demands of the #TotalShutdown movement there is a lot of emphasis on legislation.

The Domestic Violence Amendment Bill is one of three legislative interventions, currently before Parliament, intended to contribute to the fight against the scourge of GBVF. The other two bills are the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences and Related Matters) Amendment Act Amendment Bill which proposes improvements to the Sexual Offences Act and the Criminal and Related Matters Amendment Bill which seeks to tighten existing laws on bail and sentencing and aims to reduce secondary victimization of vulnerable persons in court proceedings.

Honourable Members,

In short, we need a multi-faceted approach – by those of us within government, within Parliament, but also those of us in the various sectors and in our communities – to effectively combat and prevent GBV in our country.

Thank you.