A number of government organisations, NGOs and educational institutions dedicated to fighting domestic violence are still having an uphill battle combating this scourge.
At the Commission for Gender Equality’s stakeholders engagement, held at the Beautiful Gate Centre in Philippi East on Thursday June 29, the organisations advocacy groups and police admitted that there are still challenges in the fight against all forms of abuse.
Under the theme “Everyone has inherent dignity and the right to have dignity respected and protected”, the engagement provided a platform for the community organisations to discuss and network on pertinent barriers facing women and children in the promotion of a human rights-based approach.
It emerged that a lot still has to be done to educate the public about the threat of different domestic abuses and the impact it has on society. Calls were made to positively influence the community, men included, so that their attitudes can change and improvements can be made to help victims in need and their families.
The organisations, including police officials, said there should be ongoing campaigns to voice anger against domestic violence against all genders. Those who took the podium said ways and solutions of making homes and communities safe should be found.
Leonard Macakati , public education and information officer at the Commission for Gender Equality, said the engagement had to focus on the plight of domestic violence and substance abuse, not forgetting the impact of abuse of children in communities and families.
He called for co-ordination between the organisations and the government. Mr Macakati said the government should know what the NGOs are doing.
Captain Heidi Ontong, Nyanga police sector co-ordinator, said domestic violence happend in a secluded space and it is hard to police. She said as police there is nothing they can do if the victim does not report the crime.
She said the main challenge they have is that in most cases abusers are men who are breadwinners and women are scared to report them because of this.
“Very common to us is that the man is very much in control because he works. Women are scared to report their husbands but we always advise people that they can still apply for protection orders. But they don’t. So the choice lies with the victim,” she said.
Captain Ontong said domestic violence is a pattern of ongoing behaviour. She said it takes many forms such as financial, sexual and psychological. She said the scourge does not only happen to women but to men too.
“Men are shy. They do not want to be seen as weak or lesser. We encourage men to also come forward,” she said.
Captain Ontong said the scourge has lasting consequences on all – women, men and the community.
Luvuyo Zahela, programme manager of Cesvi South Africa, believes that there cannot be any improvement in the services provided to people if NGOs and lobby groups are not well co-ordinated.
He said domestic violence is a serious issue and a concern.
“It is by far the most widespread form of violence. Women are still afraid to report it; it makes up 25 percent of cases treated in the Philippi East police station trauma room.
As men we need to talk to to each other.
“We need to build a caring society. We as NGOs and other organisations need to have joint activities. We train people and organisations so that they can be aware of the scourge. We believe that together we can build more,” he said.
The groups agreed on working together to fight domestic violence and said a local victim empowerment programme has to be established by all, including the government.