A Critical Discussion on Gender-Based Violence as a Human Rights Violation in South Africa: Acts and Examples

On this page, we critically discuss why gender-based violence remains a human rights violation in South Africa. Despite numerous legislative frameworks and international commitments, gender-based violence (GBV) remains a significant human rights violation in South Africa. This article critically examines why GBV persists as a human rights issue in the country, providing relevant acts and examples to shed light on the severity of the problem.

Why gender-based violence remains a human rights violation in South Africa.

The Legal Framework

South Africa has implemented various acts and policies to address GBV, such as the Domestic Violence Act 116 of 1998, the Sexual Offences Act 32 of 2007, and the Protection from Harassment Act 17 of 2011. Furthermore, the country is a signatory to international agreements, such as the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) and the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action. These legislative frameworks and commitments aim to protect the rights of women and girls and prevent GBV.

Challenges in Implementation

Despite these legislative frameworks, GBV persists in South Africa due to various challenges in implementation. These include:

  1. Insufficient resources: The government’s response to GBV has been criticized for lacking resources, including funding, personnel, and infrastructure. This inadequacy hampers the effective implementation of legislation, leading to poor service delivery to victims and survivors.
  2. Inadequate police response: Police services in South Africa have been criticized for their inadequate response to GBV cases. Issues such as corruption, insensitivity to survivors, and lack of training on GBV exacerbate the problem, further discouraging victims from reporting incidents.
  3. Social and cultural norms: Deep-rooted patriarchal norms and attitudes contribute to the persistence of GBV. These beliefs result in victim-blaming, trivializing of violence, and the normalization of abusive behavior, making it difficult for victims to seek help or justice.
  4. Ineffective judicial system: The South African judicial system is often criticized for its inefficiency in dealing with GBV cases. Lengthy court processes, lack of specialized courts, and insufficient support for survivors hinder the pursuit of justice.

Examples of Gender-Based Violence in South Africa

  1. High rates of intimate partner violence (IPV): South Africa has one of the highest rates of IPV globally. A study by the South African Medical Research Council found that 56% of women surveyed experienced physical or sexual violence by a partner.
  2. Femicide: According to the South African Police Service, a woman is murdered every three hours in the country. Femicide, the intentional killing of women and girls because of their gender, is a grave manifestation of GBV in South Africa.
  3. Sexual violence: South Africa has one of the highest rates of sexual violence in the world. The World Health Organization estimates that 35% of women in the country have experienced sexual violence by a non-partner.

Gender-based violence in South Africa is a human rights violation that undermines the dignity, equality, and security of women and girls. Despite the presence of legal frameworks and international commitments, the country still struggles to address this issue due to challenges in implementation, social and cultural norms, and an ineffective judicial system. To eliminate GBV, a comprehensive and multi-sectoral approach is needed that addresses the root causes and structural inequalities, while ensuring that survivors have access to support, justice, and protection.

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