16 Days of Activism for No Violence Against Women and Children is celebrated annually between the 25th of November and the 10th of December. it is an opportunity to reflect on the past, examine the present and look towards the future we want to see for women and children in a violence-free society where they are safe and enjoy all of their rights and freedoms. In view of this SAFMH has compiled a press release. It appears below:
16 Days of Activism for No Violence against Women and Children is celebrated annually between the 25th of November and the 10th of December. As vulnerable demographics of the population, women and children often bear the brunt of violent activity within our society. This has an indisputable impact on their mental health. As an organisation committed to advocating for the rights of under-served individuals in this regard the South African Federation for Mental Health (SAFMH) wishes to raise awareness surrounding these social ills so as to work towards ameliorating the plight of women and children who are either victims of violence or who find themselves at risk of violence.
The World Health Organisation “WHO” (2002) defines violence as:
“The intentional use of physical force or power, threatened or actual, against oneself, another person, or against a group or community that either results in or has a high likelihood of resulting in injury, death, psychological harm, maldevelopment, or deprivation”
The WHO and London School of Health and Tropical Medicine (2010) indicate that:
“When directed against women or children, this violence can take a number of forms, including, but not limited to, sexual violence, intimate partner violence, child abuse and neglect, bullying, teen dating violence, trafficking, and elder abuse. The majority of violence against women and children is perpetrated by partners, family members, friends, or acquaintances, so that most violence against women and children takes place in the form of intimate partner violence, family violence, or school violence…”
The rates of violence against women and children in South Africa represents a crisis situation.
- 17% of young women aged 18-24 had experienced violence from a partner within 12 months of a survey undertaken by Stats SA (2017).
- The survey indicated that 24.4% of women in the poorest households had experienced physical violence.
- According to the South African Medical Research Council (2017), three women are killed by their intimate partners every day.
- According to the Institute for Security Studies (no date), in South Africa, one in four women report physical or sexual intimate partner violence.
- The South African Police Services indicated that in 2017/2018 the reported crime statistics (2017/2018) said that 2930 women were murdered; 691 boys were murdered; 294 girls were murdered and murders of women and children accounted for 19.3% of total murders.
For our purposes the most pertinent question is as to what impact this has on the women and children of our country. Shapland and Hall (2007) discuss the commonly occurring effects of varying kinds of victimisation which include:
“Shock and a loss of faith in society…guilt at having become a victim of crime…psychological effects, including anger, fear and depression, but may for some turn into longer-term depressive effects including sleeplessness, anxiety and constant reliving of the event, and occasionally into PTSD [post-traumatic stress disorder]…”
These are dire effects and, given the high propensity for women and children falling victim to these social ills, represent a real danger to a large proportion the population. It is therefore integral that steps be taken to prevent and act on such violence so as to minimise and ultimately eliminate the damage that violence does to individuals so-situated. Interventions can take various forms. At systemic level, further law and policy can be implemented to facilitate specific measures being taken in respect of women and children. The National Action Plan on No Violence against Women and Children is currently being reviewed and it is our hope that this process yields positive results. A top-down approach, however is never truly effective. What needs to happen is that communities need to be sensitised as to what the issues are and just how at-risk these vulnerable demographics are. Community and religious leaders, local government, non-governmental organisations and a spectrum of other parties all have a role to play in ensuring that awareness is raised about the plight of women and children. Concrete steps need to be taken at once to ensure that these segments of society are kept safe. 16 days is hardly enough to proliferate this message, but it is a start. Make your start. #takeyourplace
Project Leader: Information and Awareness
South African Federation for Mental Health
011 781 1852
072 2577 938