The list of GBV victims cannot grow any longer: Lamola

South Africa’s criminal justice system must allow victims of crime - particularly gender-based violence - to see themselves at the centre, justice minister Ronald Lamola said on Thursday.
South Africa’s criminal justice system must allow victims of crime - particularly gender-based violence - to see themselves at the centre, justice minister Ronald Lamola said on Thursday.
Image: MDUDUZI NDZINGI

South Africa’s criminal justice system must be reorientated to allow victims of crime to see themselves at the centre, women to have faith in it and for justice to be tangible to victims. 

These were sentiments expressed by justice & constitutional development minister Ronald Lamola on Thursday during the fifth annual Tsietsi Mashinini lecture. 

Mashinini was one of the primary student leaders of the Soweto uprising in June 1976. He died in Guinea in 1990.

Lamola said it could not be correct that 26 years into democracy, people remained victims of the same things that Mashinini and his generation fought against. He slammed the growing number of incidents of violence against women and children and called for them to end.

"The list cannot grow any longer. Our commitment as men to the performance of our masculinity will render us becoming oppressors. Our commitment towards violence will only lead to more bloodshed,” he said. 

Lamola said women are “sick and tired” of patriarchy as a special type of oppression, which still manifested and was only gradually being removed from society. 

“You do not need any law to truly believe that women are humans and treat them like humans. Because of us men, women do not feel safe anywhere in this country. Their fears are informed by the heinous and fatal deeds they suffer at the hands of men. As men we must stand up, say 'enough is enough' and 'not in our name'.”

Lamola said there were a number of plans in the pipeline. “To this end, we must reorientate our criminal justice system. Women must have faith in it, victims must see themselves at the centre, and justice must be tangible." 

He said the first wave of these reforms had begun through the criminal justice system's prosecution of sexual offences, which limits secondary victimisation.

“This, along with strengthening the Domestic Violence Act, recalibrating the sexual offences list and addressing the bail provision for sexual offences will begin to help many in our society.”

Lamola said the government would strengthen the Thuthuzela Care Centres, which would be the direct pipeline to prosecution. He said the centres offer immediate medical care in the form of screening, testing, counselling and treatment to survivors of rape.

Culture of violence

Speaking at the same lecture, Human Sciences Research Council (HRSC) CEO Prof Olive Shisana said incidents of gender-based violence (GBV) had substantially increased in recent years. 

“The culture of violence did not die when apartheid ended. It is being felt day after day on our streets, in our schools and in our homes,” she said. 

Shisana said violence directed at women within intimate relationships had been linked to various factors. 

“Socio-economic factors at play also carry weight: lack of family and social support, low levels of education, and poor employment opportunities often prevent women from exiting abusive relationships ... prolonging their risk of abuse,” she said. 

Alcohol had contributed to some incidents, Shisana said, adding that this had been clearly demonstrated during the ban of alcohol.

“Police records show that during the Covid-19 lockdown, with alcohol sales being prohibited, gender-based violence decreased substantially. We note, for example, that rape decreased by 84% and domestic violence by 70.7%.”

The law failed many victims of gender-based violence, she added.

“In many countries around the world, the law both implicitly and explicitly fails to address gender-based violence. For example, approximately 126 countries do not criminalise rape within marriage.”

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