Gender-based violence (GBV) affects one in three women globally and continues to be one of the most notable human rights violations in our society. It is systemic and deeply entrenched in our institutions, cultures and traditions. It can be physical, sexual, emotional, financial or structural, and can be perpetrated by partners, friends, strangers and organisations. South Africa has one of the highest femicide rates anywhere in the world. In 2019, more than 2,700 women were killed and more than 87,000 cases of gender-based violence were reported in South Africa.
The World Health Organisation says there has been an increase in cases of gender-based violence across the world as the fight against the coronavirus pandemic continues. During Covid-19, some of the very measures taken to protect populations and health systems have left women vulnerable to violence. Stress, loss of income and prolonged isolation can all exacerbate the risk of violence for women.
As we commemorate Women's Month in August, we are reminded that it is our responsibility to do all we can to challenge unequal gender power relations as a root cause of gender-based violence and to support survivors of gender-based violence. Decreasing violence against women and girls requires a community-based, multi-pronged approach, and sustained engagement with multiple stakeholders.
I would like to encourage everyone to challenge those norms, stereotypes and practices that perpetuate gender inequalities and consequent abuse of women. To prevent gender-based violence, we have to challenge the beliefs and behaviours that excuse, justify or condone violence. Silence is not an option. It is our collective responsibility to take a stand.
Incidents of gender-based violence can be reported to the Crime Stop Hotline on 0860 010 0111, sending an anonymous SMS to Crime Line at 32211 or by calling the Gender Based Violence Command Centre on 0800 428 428.
Webber Wentzel Managing Partner