New forum launched in the Northern Cape aims to tackle issues related to gender-based violence.
THE PROGRESSIVE Professionals Forum (PPF), which was launched in the Northern Cape on Sunday, has proposed that a DNA laboratory be established in the Province to respond to backlogs relating to gender-based violence and femicide crimes.
The newly-established forum aims to address issues relating to domestic violence, child pornography, human trafficking, crimes committed against vulnerable women and girls and secondary victimisation when crimes are reported to the authorities.
The provincial convener of the PPF, Gregory Nyongane, said that there were currently only two state DNA laboratories in the country – based in the Western Cape and Gauteng.
“Backlogs lead to the withdrawal of cases. We request the Minister of Justice to submit to Cabinet to fund the construction of a DNA laboratory in the Northern Cape. The laboratory will be able to fast-track cases relating to gender-based violence and other cases and also assist other provinces. We want a 99.9 percent conviction rate when it comes to femicide crimes,” said Nyongane.
He also called for the Galeshewe Magistrate’s Court to be transformed into a fully-fledged backlog court to finalise 228 outstanding femicide crimes that have been on the court roll for the past two years.
“Work should also include the finalisation of maintenance court matters,” he added. “This will stop men from holding women and children ransom to poverty and force them to become fathers.”
Nyongane said that the PPF provincial office would be based in Chala Street, Galeshewe.
“The forum is comprised of professionals, academics and entrepreneurs who will offer their skills and knowledge to advance women’s rights and defend, protect and support victims of gender-based violence.”
He added that the forum would enhance awareness through campaigns and programmes on gender-based violence.
“We will report, and if necessary expose, any incidents of gender-based violence and ensure that the perpetrators are brought to book. We will lobby the government to provide more resources towards improving the efficiency of courts dealing with gender-based violence cases.
“We subscribe to the notion that there is no amount of anger or perceived betrayal which justifies violence against women.”
Nyongane stated that meaningful partnerships would be formed and forum sessions would be convened in an attempt to find a lasting solution to provide support to victims and other people close to them.
He suggested that detailed gender-based crime statistics for the Northern Cape, dating back to March 1, should be presented at the forum’s next meeting, in the next two weeks.
The Minister of Women, Youth and Disabilities, Maite Nkana-Mashabane, who delivered the keynote address at the launch, called on society to educate and raise young boys to respect women.
“Women and young girls do not ask to be killed yet they are being slaughtered and raped,” said Nkana-Mashabane.
She called on civil society to work with the government to prevent abuse and not ignore signs of abuse.
“We must not minimise but rather deal with and eradicate gender-based violence with the same tenacity that we are dealing with the Covid-19 pandemic.”
Repair the social fabric
She highlighted the importance of providing women with access to finance and land so that they could become self-sufficient.
“We need to repair the social fabric and eradicate social ills so that women can feel safe,” she concluded.
Community development practitioner Richard Maketlo pointed out that offender rehabilitation should begin as soon as sentencing was handed down instead of shortly before an offender is considered eligible for parole.
“By the time an inmate is released on parole it serves to open up old wounds for the survivor,” said Maketlo.
He pointed out that the Northern Cape was vast and under-resourced, and resources were needed to successfully carry out the work of the forum and address service delivery backlogs.
“Charges of attempted rape are not treated as seriously as they are supposed to be … and are not even recorded. We also need to look at the role of substance abuse in the commission of gender-based violence. Assessors need to be appointed to ensure that offenders of gender-based violence are given fitting sentences.”
Shaine Griqua, from the Shaine Griqua Foundation, urged the forum to reach out to boys and men who were victims of sexual and emotional abuse.
“Very often these men become abusers. Providing psychosocial support to inmates assists in rehabilitation,” said Griqua.
LGBTI and women’s rights activist Patsy Alley added that transgender women faced the compounded struggle of being misunderstood in society.
“Women are still expected to apply their bodies to get ahead in government. This is also a form of gender violence where men do not understand equal rights,” she added.