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16 Days of Activism: More victim support needed for women

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South Africa Women Fight Back has roped in police stations in key cities in South Africa, during the launch of its campaign in commemoration of the global 16 Days of Activism against gender-based violence (GBV) which runs from 25 November to 10 December. Founder Bronwyn Litkey spoke to VOC’s Breakfast show on Wednesday, which marked the start of demonstrations at police stations in Cape Town, Johannesburg and Durban. Litkey said that sadly, the brutality of crime in the country has been on the rise.

“The thing that saddens me the most is that nothing has changed. We’ve heard over the past year of how things are going to get better and if you look at the crimes that have been committed over the past week… I had to stop reading the news last night. I feel the crime has escalated and become more brutal. The surge of children we have lost this year has been horrific,” she said.

Litkey expressed disappointment that nothing has come of commitments made by President Cyril Ramaphosa during a speech on September 19th, which came on the heels of a series of brutal attacks on women. Litkey cited a petition, which garnered the support of 600k people, calling for an end to the scourge.

“(A change in policies) can make it better. Sadly, I think GBV has been around from the beginning of time and its not something we will completely eradicate. but there are definitely measures that they can be taking to improve things.

“We’ve seen a couple of changes that are happening to the legislation, but these are very vague. They would say they will ‘implement stronger sentencing’- does this mean the rapist is going to get one year more than what they usually get? I don’t think it’s enough.”

Among the key concerns for anti-GBV activists include victim support. It comes amid reports that survivors are turned away at police stations, suffer secondary victimization or are put through tedious court processes, often without the desired outcome of seeing their perpetrators behind bars.

“One of the biggest problems is that once these crimes have been committed, the victims or their families have to go through these court cases for years and years because the justice system is just not working in their favour. Victims of rape are also persecuted when they’re brought into court – its almost as if the system is not on the victim’s side and more on the perpetrator’s side,” she elaborated.

“Within those promises were mobile courts that would deal with GBV cases only. (To allow for) a rape case (to) only have one or two hearings and it will be done with. The DNA labs would be moving more swiftly AS currently, we are 1000  cases behind. Justice delayed is justice denied.”

While police have come under continuous scrutiny for their handling of GBV survivors, Litkey said that governmental failure lies at the root of the problem.

“There are a lot of police stations that aren’t doing their job but there are (more) that are. But they are just so under-resourced. Understaffed, no trauma counsellors no social workers. The proper training is not being provided in a swift enough manner.

Among the deficits is a lack of trauma rooms, some of which lack beds, where survivors need to be debriefed.

“Part of the 6-point plan is that rape victims need to be taken to a trauma room to open their case. They should be dealing with someone who is skilled in GBV.”

She noted that the organisation will be handing out pamphlets at 16 police stations throughout the country, with information including how to get a protection order, contact details for victim support for post reporting of the crime.

More information on their location can be found on their facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/southafricanwomenfightback/photos/gm.743202769640236/228375311959610/


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