South Africans are becoming increasingly dissatisfied with the government’s responses to gender-based violence in the country. Many regard the actions taken by the government thus far as being “all talk” with a clear lack of concrete action and President Cyril Ramaphosa’s recent statement surrounding the crisis of violence against women and children in South Africa was met with widespread disappointment. A spokesperson for the Women and Democracy Initiative at the Dullah Omar Institute, Vivienne Mentor-Lalu says that the South African government makes excellent laws and policies but fails to allocate resources to ensure the implementation thereof.
“People are right to be questioning the government,” said Mentor-Lalu.
“We need a coordinated effort on the part of ordinary South Africans to hold the state accountable so that we can see money allocated [to fighting gender-based violence].”
Mentor-Lalu explained that gender-based violence is a widespread issue throughout South African society and that it’s difficult to have faith that political parties would have the political will to ensure that it is adequately combated – given the (perceived) lack of accountability of alleged offenders within political ranks.
She suggested that the public should monitor the activities of government more closely and hold them accountable.
“It’s very disheartening to see political parties not even hold their own accountable,” she said.
“I think that people need to keep an eye on elected representatives and to see their participation in democracy as more than just making a cross every five years….keep an eye on politicians and hold them accountable.”
On the topic of gender-based violence, executive director of the South African Male Survivors of Sexual Abuse (SAMSOSA), Rees Mann says that good men who do nothing to combat the violence are in many ways a part of the problem.
“Good men who don’t speak out are passively saying to the young boys and men that the way they talk about and treat women is acceptable,” he said.
“The conversation should be to challenge men to come out in their numbers. What I’ve seen over social media in the last couple of days is that government – and everyone – is saying we must listen to women…The anger is against men, who are by far, the perpetrators of sexual abuse and violence.”
“It’s now time that men stand up. Our silence says this type of behaviour is acceptable.”
Mann suggested, however, that as a society, South Africa needs to “forget about the issue of women and men” and focus on the bigger picture: the violence in the country is simply unacceptable as human behaviour.