South African president condemns surge in gender-based violence during COVID-19 lockdown

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Gender violence

President Cyril Ramaphosa on Saturday condemned a rapid rise in gender-based violence during the COVID-19 lockdown, urging all South Africans to join fight against the scourge.

The president deplored “the culture of silence around gender-based violence” and encouraged South Africans to report perpetrators to the South African Police Service (SAPS).

He was speaking after the body of a young woman was found dumped under a tree in Soweto near Johannesburg on Friday.

Since the country eased lockdown restrictions from level four to level three on June 1, there has been a surge in gender-based violence and femicide, Ramaphosa said.

“It is a dark and shameful week for us as a nation. Criminals have descended to even greater depths of cruelty and callousness,” he said, adding that this scourge simply cannot continue.

He mentioned the names of several women who fell victim to gender-based violence in the Eastern Cape province and KwaZulu-Natal, whose bodies were found dumped this week.

Among the victims was Tshegofatso Pule, an eight-month-pregnant woman, who was found stabbed to death and hanging from a tree in an open veld in the Eastern Cape last week.

It is also suspected that one of the murdered women in the Eastern Cape was a victim of a mob killing, Ramaphosa said.

In KwaZulu-Natal, an elderly woman was raped and a child was found dead in a field, and two young women were shot dead this week, according to Ramaphosa.

“The manner in which these defenceless women were killed points to an unconscionable level of barbarism and lack of humanity,” the president said.

According to the SAPS, there has been an increase in violent crimes, especially murders, since the country entered alert level three.

“We need to understand what factors are fuelling this terrible trend and, as society as a whole, address them urgently,” Ramaphosa said.

The president said he is deploying ministers and deputy ministers to engage with community leaders on this upsurge in gender-based violence while fighting COVID-19.

“We note with disgust that at a time when the country is facing the gravest of threats from the pandemic, violent men are taking advantage of the eased restrictions on movement to attack women and children,” said Ramaphosa.

South Africa has the highest level of intimate partner violence among countries in the world, and as much as 51 percent of South African women have experienced violence at the hands of someone with whom they are in a relationship, according to Ramaphosa.

In many cases of gender-based violence, the perpetrators are not only known to the victims, but they are also known to the communities, the president said.

That is why gender-based violence is a societal matter, and not a matter of law enforcement alone, he said.

“Gender-based violence thrives in a climate of silence. With our silence, by looking the other way because we believe it is a personal or family matter, we become complicit in this most insidious of crimes,” said Ramaphosa.

He urged the SAPS to act swiftly to track down whoever was involved in these murders and ensure there is justice for the murdered women and children.

“I also urge our communities to end the culture of silence and speak up. In doing so you will be saving lives,” he added. Enditem

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