A CALL FOR AN END TO THE PANDEMIC OF VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN AND CHILDREN IN SOUTH AFRICA
The Southern African Catholic Bishops Association (SACBC) Justice and Peace Commission, strongly and unreservedly condemns the recent surge of gender based violence and femicide that has once again reared its ugly head nationwide since the country entered alert level 3 of Covid-19 lockdown. We continue to witness shocking incidences of mindless and callous killings of innocent women and girls which amounts to a civil war!
Whilst we are encouraged to date by the way the government has responded to gender based violence in the recent past which has seen the introduction of harsher punishments for perpetrators, introduction of sexual offences courts and appointment of a steering committee which has come up with National Strategic Plan, we are of the view that more can and should be done to deal with this scourge.
WE HAVE TO RETHINK OUR APPROACH TO THIS SCOURGE
We are calling for a process of rethinking the approach to gender-based violence and femicide, drawing parallels from the response to the Covid-19 pandemic that witnessed the involvement of government departments, business sector, civil society and ordinary citizens in their efforts to flatten the infection curve. If government departments, business sector and civil society could pull billions of financial resources together and, along with ordinary citizens, comply with stringent physical and social distancing measures in the fight against Covid-19 (the ‘invisible enemy’), we are of the view that it is possible for a similar aggressive and holistic approach to be used in the fight of Gender-Based violence and femicide.
Our call for an aggressive and holistic approach is guided by the fact that the government identified gender-based violence as one of the most defining public health, social and human rights issues that confront and affect the country today. This call continues to invites everyone from the government departments, business sector, civil society, media and ordinary South Africans to join forces and continue to play their part as we have seen in the fight against COVID -19. The culture of bystanderism needs to be eradicated from our midst as gender based violence thrives in a climate of silence. We must all work with government to ensure a safer society for women and children. It is the responsibility of government to eradicate the scourge through legislation, tough police action and hefty court sentences to perpetrators.
THE CALL FOR THE CHURCH
We call upon all Churches, to provide care, to become educated about this issue and preach a clear message that says: “God says no to the violence inflicted by men on women and children. God created our whole being: Heart, Mind and body. Those bodies that are being assaulted are loved by Christ. These bodies remain precious. God grieves deeply when we inflict Gender Based Violence on anyone. We believe that recovery from being violent is possible. Change is possible. The Church must hold us accountable for what we do. It must lead perpetrators to get the help they need. We must also work towards the healing of the victims. Our work must be to educate and to prevent Gender Based Violence. We as Church have contributed to this scourge through our denial, our silence, our resistance and our lack of preparation. Forgive us.
LET US CONTINUE THE FIGHT
The SACBC Justice and Peace Commission continues to thank all the Justice and Peace activists and many other people of goodwill across the country who continue to fight this scourge and are assisting survivors to seek justice. In our activism, we are reminded by the words of Pope Francis in his New Year Address in 2020: “Women are sources of life,” he said. “Yet they are continually offended, beaten, raped, forced into prostitution and forced to suppress the lives they carry in their wombs. All violence inflicted on women is a desecration of God,”” We will continue to work for the prevention and restoration of social fabric which include pushing for change in toxic masculinities and social norms that drive gender based violence perpetration.
For further information: Bishop Victor Phalana, Chairperson for SACBC Justice and Peace Commission, 0824707151 .