Home South African UN experts slam ‘alarmingly high’ scale of GBVF in SA

UN experts slam ‘alarmingly high’ scale of GBVF in SA

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In a scathing report, the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women said available evidence indicated that the scale of domestic violence, including femicide, is alarmingly high in South Africa.

File picture: African News Agency (ANA)

SOME survivors of domestic violence used drugs to cope with the violence or had attempted to commit suicide in South Africa.

This is according to a UN women’s rights committee, which found that the country’s low levels of prosecution and conviction in domestic violence cases and the frequent failures by police to serve and enforce protection orders, exposed survivors to repeated abuses and resulted in the violation of women’s fundamental rights.

In the scathing report published on Monday, the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) said available evidence indicated that the scale of domestic violence, including femicide, is alarmingly high in South Africa.

Committee members visited South Africa in September 2019 to conduct a confidential inquiry into allegations by civil society organisations that women in the country were subjected to extreme levels of domestic violence.

They found that many women and girls, especially in rural areas, were victims of harmful practices, including child marriage, abduction for marriage (“ukuthwala”) and polygamy or polygamous unions that often give rise to domestic violence.

The report also noted that in many cases women had been killed by their partners.

In a recent incident involving domestic violence, axe murderer Nowa Makula was handed six life sentences for the killing of his girlfriend and five children. One of the children was a six-month-old baby.

The 32-year-old appeared in the Elliotdale Regional Court in the Eastern Cape on Monday. He had pleaded guilty to all six counts of murder on March 25.

The court had said the killings and destruction of innocent souls amounted to a massacre.

The six were attacked in their shack at Sidabekweni Village in November. Makula was arrested in less than 24 hours, miles away from the crime scene at Ginsberg Township, King Williams Town, in a place where his brother lived.

The court heard that he was upset and, as such, decided to kill the mother and children because the mother had cheated on him.

Police spokesperson Thembinkosi Kinana said: “On that sad and traumatising morning, the detectives witnessed horrific scenes of human bodies strewn all over the shack in which the six occupied as their home.

Every document, which included ID, cellphones and other valuables, were cut into pieces, presumably by the axe-wielding, bitter and jealous Nowa Makula,” said Kinana.

After an investigation which included verification of his citizenship, the Zimbabwean eventually admitted to murdering his six victims.

The CEDAW found that those who reported their abuser often did not get the protection they needed.

According to official figures, out of 143,824 requests for protection orders in 2018-2019, only 22,211 were granted – and in many of these cases, the protection order just instructed the abuser to sleep in another room in the same house.

The committee highlighted the substantial suffering inflicted on women and girls frequently exposed to domestic violence, including sexual violence from a very young age.

“Many victims described physical violence including rape, battery with objects, kicks and inflicted burns by their partners, who often abused alcohol or drugs, had low self-esteem or had sadistic tendencies,” the committee said.

“Some survivors used drugs to cope with the violence or had attempted to commit suicide.

“Even after leaving an abusive relationship, many continued to suffer from depression, trauma and anxiety,” the committee added.

The committee noted the absence of State-run shelters for women and their children, and said South Africa “cannot absolve itself from its obligation to ensure protection and assistance to victims of domestic violence by delegating the provision of such services to NGO-run shelters without adequately funding them”.

The committee concluded that South Africa failed to comply with its obligation to effectively investigate, prosecute and punish cases of domestic violence, and provide systematic and effective capacity building for the judiciary and law enforcement bodies, thereby violating the right of South African women to live free from domestic violence.

The committee has made 34 recommendations for action. These include effective law enforcement, policies ensuring adequate access to justice, protection and victim support services, and measures dismantling patriarchal attitudes and discriminatory stereotypes that legitimise domestic violence.