With close to a third of women in the Eastern Cape victims of physical violence in a relationship, the latest South African Demographic and Health Survey puts the rate of abuse in the province far ahead of both the national average and other provinces.
“But I can tell you one thing. Using hashtags like #MenAreTrash is not the answer,” anti-abuse campaigner and Yokhuselo Haven manager Lindsay Ziehl said.
“It is not even true. Domestic violence takes many forms.
“Men are not the only ones guilty. Besides, we should cherish all human beings. Calling some of them trash won’t help.
“I think the most important thing we can do is to stop trying to stop domestic violence. You will never put a stop to it.
“What we need is more support for our victims. Courts should start giving heavier sentences and victims should be supported better.”
Ziehl said campaigns like 16 Days of Activism should be stopped and the money rather given to shelters.
“We don’t need more awareness of domestic violence. Shelters need the money to help the victims,” she said.
She also called for better services for domestic violence victims from the public hospitals in the metro.
“It would be great if we could introduce something like a ‘Code Pink’ and prioritise these cases. We have had some women who waited for two days to get help for their injuries,” she said.
The survey, released two weeks ago, showed more women in the Eastern Cape than in any other province said they were experiencing violence in their relationships, with 32% reporting that they had been in a violent domestic relationship. The national average is 21%.
South African Medical Research Council gender and health unit deputy director Dr Naeemah Abrahams said: “Given the daily media reports of violence against women and children, it is important that we develop national strategic plans that will curb genderbased violence.”
According to a 2009 Medical Research Council study, less than 38% of intimate partner femicides had led to a conviction in less than two years.
This was the last time the council undertook a study of this type.
Sonke Gender Justice’s community education and mobilisation manager, Nonhlanhla Skosana, said: “South African society as a whole needs to talk openly about gender-based violence.
“Men need to stand up and hold each other accountable.
“We also urgently need to see politicians taking a stand against gender-based violence.”
Skosana also called for a national plan to prevent gender-based violence.
“A plan would provide a coordinated response among government, civil society and the private sector and hold each stakeholder accountable.
“Sonke Gender Justice is also calling for a plan to be costed and for the necessary funding to be made available.”