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Rights group hits out at govt

By Nawhal Kara | Dec 17, 2009 | COMMENTS [ 0 ]

COLLEN Lowe Morna has called on President Jacob Zuma and the government to prioritise campaigns aimed at ending violence against women and children.

Lowe Morna, pictured, a women's rights activist and director of non-governmental organisation Gender Links, said over the years the government had shown little enthusiasm for issues of gender-based violence despite promising to halve the current statistics by 2015.

She said that this year government departments were not actively involved in the 16 Days of Activism Campaign to end violence against women and children as they had done in previous years.

"Back then every department got involved in the campaign, even the minister of transport arranged a peace train to create awareness," she said.

According to a report by the Southern African Development Community Protocol on Gender and Development, which was adopted by heads of state in August 2008, an agreement was reached to halve gender- based violence by 2015. But she said the problem continued to escalate. She said this was largely due to attitudes and beliefs society still held when it came to gender issues.

"These attitudes underpin the gender stereotypes in society that drive gender violence," she said.

She said there were a few problem areas that, without the support of government, made it difficult to end violence against women. The absence of legislation on human trafficking also posed a serious threat to the upcoming Soccer World Cup, she added.

She said while there was a 12percent increase in reported rape cases to 71500 between April 1 last year to March 31 2009, this unusually high figure had escalated as a result of the 3500 sex workers who were arrested nationally over that period while a mere 17 brothel owners and 10 clients were taken into custody for questioning only during the same period.

"Under the Sexual Offences Act, clients are supposed to be criminalised too, but at the moment that is not happening. This is great gender injustice," said Lowe Morna, adding that the closing down of the sexual offences courts was another major problem.

"In a general court the conviction rate is 7 to 10percent whereas in a sexual offences court the conviction rate is 70percent," Lowe Morna.

She said the sexual offences courts that still existed were struggling to survive, depending largely on donor funding.

"Gender Links works with rape victims and survivors of gender-based violence continuously. We understand the frustrations associated with reporting crimes and attending court hearings," she said.

Lowe Morna welcomed the recent announcement by Brendon Lawrence, senior state advocate in the sexual offences and community affairs unit of the National Prosecuting Authority that 57 of the 80 one-stop centres for rape victims due to have been established by 2010 had been opened.

Lawrence said the Thuthuzela centres work closely with the courts and victims to ensure the successful prosecution of sexual offenders.


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