Gender-Based Violence

Gender-based violence is a crisis in South Africa, one that has been normalized and institutionalized in the very fabric of our society. The available statistics show that ever hour and a half a woman is murdered or subjected to attempted murder, and a woman is raped every half an hour (Africa Check, FACTSHEET: South Africa’s crime statistics for 2018/19, 12 September 2019). According to Statistics South Africa, women constitute the majority of victims of sexual offences (68,5%). The South African Human Rights Commission reported that an estimated 21% of women over the age of 18 years have experienced physical violence by a partner, while 6% of women overall have experienced sexual violence by a partner.

Since its inception, the FHR has been supporting civil society organisations (CSOs) and social movements that are working towards the prevention and elimination of GBV in South Africa. This has included projects aimed at addressing discrimination through constitutional rights awareness, enhanced access to justice and participatory democracy. Through its various programmes, the FHR recognizes that despite enormous advances at the level of law and policy, women in South Africa continue to be marginalized. Most South Africans living in poverty are black women who are also disproportionally affected by various forms of discrimination. These are linked to patriarchy, culture and gender-based violence.

The FHR mainstreams gender in all of its programmes and also supports initiatives addressing gender-based violence and women’s substantive equality.

What the FHR does as part of the Gender-Based Violence Programme?

The FHR believes in social change. Social change will only happen if it is driven by active citizenry and thriving civil society. For this reason, the FHR is engaged in various activities that are aimed at advancing the rights of women. In recent years, the FHR has provided financial support and engaged in policy advocacy and development activities including:

  • #TheTotalShutdown march and National Gender-Based Violence Summit resulting in the Presidential Declaration on Gender-Based Violence and Femicide.
  • Drafting and consultations on the National Strategic Plan on Gender-Based Violence and Femicide. The FHR is also a founding member of the Call to Action against gender-based violence civil society organization coalition, which is currently working on popularising the National Strategic Plan on Gender-Based Violence and Femicide.
  • The drafting of the National Action Plan on the Women, Peace and Security Agenda, in relation to the UN Security Council Resolution 1325. In this regard, the FHR facilitated and funded the provincial consultations with civil society organizations across the country, which significantly contributed to the drafting process of the National Action Plan. 
  • Drafting shadow reports for the Committee on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) and making submissions to relevant human rights bodies.

The FHR has also been active at the campaigning front by supporting or driving various campaigns:

  • In 2019, the FHR supported and was actively involved in the #SandtonShutDown campaign, which was aimed at encouraging the private sector to be actively involved in funding interventions addressing gender-based violence in communities.
  • #Mzansi4SouthSudan is a campaign established in partnership with Crisis Action and Amandla.Mobi during Women’s Month in August 2019, and concerns standing in solidarity with women affected by sexual and gender-based Violence in South Sudan. It is about taking collective action and calling for accountability, justice and redress for survivors of gender-based violence. For more information see “FHR participates in the Mzansi for South Sudan campaign”.

Under the Socio-Economic Justice for All (SEJA) programme, the FHR, in partnership with other organizations and experts, has provided capacity-building to a broad audience, including government officials, prosecutors, police officers, civil society organizations working with the survivors of gender-based violence, and other experts. The capacity-building initiatives typically include workshops and training covering subjects related to the legal and medical aspects of investigating and prosecuting gender-based violence cases, best practices in dealing with the survivors of gender-based violence, or issues related to eco-feminism. Our most recent capacity-building initiatives related to gender-based violence include: 

The year 2020 is a critical year for women’s rights as it is the 25th anniversary of the landmark Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action (1995), and marks five years since the adoption of the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. One of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) identified in the Agenda is the achievement of gender equality.

The year 2020 also marks the end of the African Women’s Decade and coincides with South Africa assuming the Chairmanship of the African Union (AU) this year. 2020 is also the final year of its non-permanent membership of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC). This represents a unique opportunity for South Africa to leverage the capacity of both institutions to advance the Women, Peace and Security (UN Security Resolution 1235) agenda. The 20th anniversary of UNSC Resolution 1325 and the AU’s Silencing the Guns by 2020 initiative give further impetus to South Africa’s focus on the role of women in the promotion of peace and security on the African continent.

  1. In light of the above, the FHR is focusing its current efforts on: 
    The ongoing building of solidarity with women’s movements and formations, and partnerships at all levels: community, national, regional and international.
  2. Engagement with regional mechanisms including the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights and the various UN bodies including the UN Women Generation Equality Campaign (Beijing +25), CEDAW, and the UN Human Rights Council.
Embed from Getty Images
Embed from Getty Images
Embed from Getty Images
Embed from Getty Images

What is the rationale behind the FHR Gender-Based Violence Programme?

The FHR is committed to reducing and eventually eliminating gender-based violence from our communities. Towards this end, under its gender-based violence programme, the FHR has invested in projects aimed at strengthening the capacity of civil society, building partnerships and solidarity within the sector nationally and regionally, strengthening government’s response to violations, shifting cultural norms to empower women and girls, and promoting constitutional awareness of fundamental human rights.

Gender-based violence has significant and multiple consequences for the individuals experiencing the violence (survivors, perpetrators), as well as within family, communities and society at large. Gender-based violence not only impacts negatively on the mental and physical health of survivors and their families but it also places a heavy burden on the health and criminal justice systems in our country. In 2014 a KPMG study estimated that gender-based violence, and in particular violence against women, cost the South African economy between R28.4 billion and R42.4 billion (between 0.9% and 1.3% of gross domestic product) in the year 2012/2013 alone. ¹

Gender-based violence severely restricts women’s ability to exercise their reproductive rights, with grave consequences for sexual and reproductive health. According to the FHR Constitutional Awareness Baseline Survey  two fifths (41%) of all respondents felt that women should not be allowed to refuse sex with their husbands. Approximately one in six (16%) South African adults also thought that a man is justified in hitting or beating their partner if they annoy him. Recognizing the adverse impacts of gender-based violence on our communities, there is a need to engage efforts that address gender-based violence through comprehensive response and prevention strategies. Addressing gender-based violence is a complex issue which requires multi-faceted responses and commitment from all stakeholders, including government, civil society, academics, the private sector and ordinary citizens.

¹ Muller R, Gahan L & Brooks L (2014). Too costly to ignore – the economic impact of gender-based violence in South Africa. Available online. Accessed 10 July 2020.

Latest News

"The success of our fight to end gender-based violence will require the involvement and support of our entire society."

President Cyril Ramaphosa

“Achieving gender equality requires the engagement of women and men, girls and boys. It is everyone’s responsibility.”

Ban Ki-moon, former UN Secretary General

“I raise my voice not so I can shout, but so that those without a voice can be heard. We cannot succeed when half of us are held back.”

Malala Yousafzai

Gender-Based Violence Programme Contact

For any queries related to Regional and International Cooperation, please contact:

“Freedom cannot be achieved unless women have been emancipated from all kinds of oppression.”

Nelson Mandela

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