GBV is a disturbing phenomenon that is both persistent and prominent throughout the world. Its prevalence appears to transcend borders, culture, race and gender. In the past, violence against women and girls was the key issue, and many international and domestic legal instruments were geared towards its prevention and eradication. In recent years, however, concern has been broadened to a wider variety of victims and acts of victimisation. South Africa has some of the highest rates of GBV in the world.

Gender-based violence costs South Africa between R28.4 billion and R42.4 billion per year – or between 0.9% and 1.3% of GDP (KPMG, 2014). Rates of GBV are believed to be extremely high in South African communities, with many civil society organisations reporting increasing levels of violence, particularly against young women. Significantly for South Africa, which has the largest HIV burden in the world, women who experience gender-based violence are at increased risk of HIV infection.

Over the last 20 years, South Africa has adopted a range of progressive policies and laws designed to address gender-based violence. The National Development Plan (NDP) recently adopted by parliament as a blueprint for reducing poverty and inequality by 2030 – views safer communities as a key developmental pre-requisite. Despite this, there has been little impact on the levels of gender-based violence. South Africa boasts reformist laws and policies in theory to address the rising levels of violence, however this is not realised when it comes to implementation. There have been various initiatives undertaken by the government to address GBV, for e.g. Cabinet-approved the National Council on Gender Based Violence (NCGBV), however, these have been either inadequate of ineffective. The consequences on the lives of South Africans, especially women and the LGBTI community have and continue to be dire.

Government’s previous commitment to antiretroviral medicine (ARVs) within a fully funded National Strategic Plan (NSP) as a response to HIV and AIDS serves as a noteworthy example of the power of civil society organising and mobilisation. The National Strategic Plan on HIV, TB and STIs (NSP) has been a powerful tool to garner the political commitment and funding required in tackling HIV and AIDS.

Much like HIV and AIDS, gender-based violence is a large and complex social challenge that requires a coordinated response among diverse stakeholders as well as political will. Thus, there is a need for a separate NSP that specifically addresses GBV. There is an urgent need for civil society organizations, the private sector and government to come together for the development, adoption and implementation of a costed, and fully-funded NSP for GBV.

Based on the NSP on HIV, TB and STIs, a coalition of civil society organisations (CSOs) in extensive consultations with community groups and organisations developed a NSP to end GBV Shadow Framework report. It is envisioned that a National Strategic Plan (NSP) to end GBV will align the country around a set of clear strategic priorities and create an accountability mechanism for the performance of government, the private sector and civil society organizations in addressing GBV.  

If implemented, the NSP has the potential to address GBV on multiple levels; including response, prevention and intervention efforts from civil society as well as government and could be a powerful lever of change. While the NSP presents a myriad of opportunities and potential to address gender-based violence, it remains a framework in theory. Without government’s buy-in and commitment to take the NSP to the next level, efforts will remain limited to theoretical aspirations.

Zarina Majiet is the Secretariat of the Stop Gender Violence Campaign and is the Advocacy Manager at Mosaic Training, Services and Healing Centre for Women based in Cape Town 

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