From the 25 November until the 10 December, South Africa takes part in a global campaign called “16 Days of Activism for No Violence against Women and Children Campaign.”
To be honest, this campaign irks me a bit.
Not because I support the abuse of women, children or any other form of abuse (I most certainly don’t) but by the fact that a mere 16 days is set aside to make people aware of the seriousness of women and child abuse in South Africa and to “attract all South Africans to be active in the fight to eradicate violence against women and children.”
Is 16 days really enough to make a difference to the rising number of incidences of violence against women and children?
At least once a day, I read a story of a child having been raped or murdered. Just yesterday, a baby was burnt with boiling chicken broth by another man (not certain who the man is at this stage).
I also read an article about children being bullied, about the assault being caught on camera and yet the police and school did nothing about it.
This morning I read an article about a woman having been thrown with acid by her ex who had been stalking her. After he threw acid on her and whilst she was in hospital, he sent her threatening smses promising to finish the job. The police refused to take her statement initially and only took it two weeks later and now the suspect is at large.
In the week, a six year old girl was raped by a thirteen year old boy. The rape has been going on for quite some time and the little girl actually thinks the boy is her boyfriend.
These are just some of the stories that we read and hear on a daily basis in South Africa.
What difference is 16 days of activism going to make? Has the violence against women and children decreased since last year? I suspect not.
Unless the eradication of violence against women and children is pursued actively and on a daily basis, we will continue to see the rise in the rape, murder and abuse of our women and children.
The first step is to ensure that the police take the allegations of abuse seriously and not wait weeks to take statements and to pursue the suspects. It is not sufficient to simply advise an abused woman to obtain a domestic violence interdict. The abuser often ignores those pieces of paper and the abuse continues. In fact, police often refuse to even make arrests on domestic violence orders.
We need special courts that deal exclusively with rape and abuse cases. At this stage, perpetrators take years to go on trial and more often than not, the police have done such a poor job of the investigation that the perpetrator goes free. Sentences for these crimes should be harsher and certainly not the mentality that we are seeing when the court says that “ the 11 year old enjoyed being raped and was a “willing victim” because she never told anyone and accepted the gifts he bought her.”
We need a justice system and police force that works and that sends out a strong message to perpetrators that abuse and violence against women and children will not be tolerated.
To be honest, I don’t even think that most people give a second thought to the 16 days of activism campaign.