On 21 March South Africa will celebrate Human Rights Day, but it will be with a somber air, particularly in Cape Town where recent incidents of rape, assault and murder have captured public attention and demonstrated that women’s right to safety are not being upheld.
The Saartjie Baartman Centre has raised concerns around gender-based violence in South Africa and how women’s rights are not being protected. “Our constitution is meant to protect all citizens, yet the system is so broken that it has become alarmingly easy to dig up a collection of stories of rape, assault and murder,” says the Director of the Centre, Shaheema McLeod.
Situated on the Cape Flats, an area with one of the highest crime rates in Cape Town, the Saartjie Baartman Centre offers services such as crisis response, counseling, job skills training and legal advice to women and children who have become victims of abuse. Their onsite emergency shelter houses an average of 100 women and children at a time.
“We have seen a 65% increase in the number of women accessing our services in the past few years, which is an indication of the extent of the problem and how little is being done to protect women and children,” McLeod says.
Every woman is at risk, across all socio-economic and demographic classes. “There is a potent and entrenched culture of gender discrimination in South Africa, and this needs to be addressed if we are to secure the safety of women and children,” says McLeod.
The Centre has highlighted concerns around gender-based violence:
- Opposed to focusing on what women should be doing to avoid rape, the conditions and attitudes that facilitate rape culture need to be actively addressed.
- Counseling and support services must be offered to all victims of gender based violence.
- Investigations of rapes and assaults must receive speedy and adequate attention and resources.
- A climate where women feel secure reporting and prosecuting cases of sexual and physical assault should be entrenched.
- Women need to be empowered – economically, socially and politically – in order to grow their power within their households, relationships and communities.
Distributed by Be-cause Integrated Communications:
021 447 1082 / 072 930 4412
On behalf of the Saartjie Baartman Centre for Women and Children:
Director: Shaheema McLeod