As the country marks the start of the 16 Days of Activism for No Violence against Women and Children campaign, government has declared violence against women a priority crime.

President Jacob Zuma launched the 16 Days of Activism campaign on Friday at the Lebowakgomo Civic Centre in Limpopo.

The campaign encourages South Africans to act for a safer society for women and children.

Addressing the audience, who had packed the civic centre, President Zuma warned women against the dangers of living in an abusive environment and encouraged them not to be scared to report perpetrators to the police.

“The danger [of] living in an unattended violent relationship is that it intensifies over time until it leads to death. Women should not keep quiet, and must use all avenues to report abuse and to seek help,” said the President.

He said what is of serious concern is that most women are attacked by men they know and in most cases the men they are intimate with – their husbands or partners.

“We are losing more and more women at the hands of their violent intimate partners. International studies show that women often turn a blind eye to the violence in their intimate relationships or sometimes prefer to live in denial or disbelief. They also live in hope that the perpetrator will change and stop their behaviour.”

He urged police officers to receive women sensitively when they report cases of abuse or violence at police stations.

“A conducive environment is being created at many police stations. The police Family Violence, Child Protection and Sexual Offences Units were re-established in June 2010. Members of the units receive specialised training to deal effectively with sexual offence related case.

“Police run many campaigns around this time as well, raising awareness of the services they provide. Every Magistrate’s Court has a division that deals with domestic violence matters,” the President explained.

This year’s campaign, launched under the theme: “Count Me In: Together Moving a Non-Violent South Africa Forward”, also takes the form of the launch of National Dialogues on Violence Against Women and Children.

President Zuma said the purpose of the dialogues is to use the information gathered and lessons learned to prevent the abuse of women and children and to raise awareness.

“The dialogues will provide an opportunity for government to assess its own law enforcement and social support machinery in order to enhance support for women and children,” President Zuma said.

He added that the dialogues will be held in every province.

About 27 dialogues have been lined up for the various parts of the Limpopo province alone to engage victims as well as perpetrators.

The dialogues will not only include women but also men’s organisations. The sessions will be held separately with women and men to allow them to participate more freely.

Minister for Women Susan Shabangu said through the dialogues, government hopes to make sure that they go to the root cause of women abuse in the country.

“Let’s go much deeper in ensuring that we create a society that is peaceful, and bring back the hope about tomorrow for women,” said Shabangu.

Limpopo Premier Stanley Mathabatha said: “No one should be made to think that we are only vigilant during the 16 days of Activism. Every single day is a day against the abuse of children, and every single one must be a campaigner against women abuse.”


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