What is 16 Days of Activism?

Every year, 16 days of activism takes place from 25 November to 10 December and is a campaign towards no violence against women and children. The purpose of this campaign is to highlight the negative impact violence has in an attempt to help victims of such violence. Although this campaign runs for 16 days, Government urges everyone to continuously act to safeguard against this type of abuse.

What is gender-based violence (“GBV”)?

GBV is one of the biggest problems that South Africa faces and affects women and girls regardless of their age, race and social circumstances. Although GBV can be directed towards both men and women, the majority of victims are women. Generally, GBV is most commonly in the form of physical violence, such as assault. However, it can also be other forms of abuse against women and includes sexual assault, emotional and psychological abuse, financial abuse and so on. These forms of violence can occur in instances where persons are in some form or relationship (domestic violence) or in any other situation. For more information on different types of GBV, click here.

Who can report violence against women and children?

First of all, the victims of any form of violence can report that to the relevant authority or an organisation that can help. This also applies to children, who can report if they have fallen victim to violence. In respect of domestic violence, the law even allows for children to apply for a protection order without any assistance.

Secondly, anyone else who knows about or suspects instances of violence can report same. In fact, there is a legal duty on anyone who has knowledge of or suspects sexual abuse towards a child to report it. Failure to report sexual abuse towards a child is a criminal offence.

Where can violence against women and children be reported to? 

What is the Gender Based Violence command center and how do they assist?

  • The Gender-Based Violence Command Centre (“Centre”) is a support function of the Department of Social Development that assists victims or potential victims of gender-based violence (“GBV”).
  • The Centre operates a 24/7 call centre facility where social workers will assist with referrals to relevant organisations, as well as telephonic support or advice to victims of GBV.
  • The Centre can be contacted in the following manners:
    • Emergency Line: 0800 428 428
    • Please call me facility: *120*7867#
    • Skype: Helpme GBV (add to contacts)
    • SMS-line: SMS “help” to 31531
  • In the event of an emergency the centre is able to transfer a call directly to the South African Police Service (10111) or field social workers dealing with victims of GBV in the relevant area.

How are victims of GBV assisted?

Depending on where the GBV was reported to, there are various forms of assistance that can be provided to victims of GBV. This may include, counselling, shelter, medical assistance and so on. Apart from just dealing with criminal charges, there are also specific duties on the SAPS to assist with victims of domestic violence. For more information on the duties of the SAPS, click here.

In respect of medical services offered to victims of GBV in the form of sexual abuse, it can include, but is not limited to the provision of the following:

  • post-exposure prophylaxis (“PEP”) for HIV;
  • prophylaxis for other sexually transmitted infections;
  • emergency contraception (“morning after pill”);
  • treatment of injuries; and
  • a forensic examination.

There are certain health care facilities that may provide free rape kits and so on. For example, Milpark Hospital offers free rape kit examinations, anti-retroviral treatment for rape survivors through the emergency room, as well as morning-after pill in case of pregnancy. For more information, visit https://www.violenceathomehelp.co.za/rape.

What remedies are available to victims of GBV?

Depending on each scenario, there are various remedies available to the victims of GBV. Apart from laying criminal charges against the perpetrators, victims can also apply for a protection order. A protection order is a court order that may contain certain terms and conditions, for example, the protection order can state that the perpetrator is not allowed to make any contact with or go near the victim. Protection orders can be obtained in respect of domestic violence and the protection of harassment.

What types of evidence must be kept in instances of GBV?

It is important for the victim to gather as much evidence as s/he can, which will be helpful when or if s/he decides to seek help and take legal action. For example, witness statements, photographs, medical records, documentary evidence and so on. For more information, click here.

Will the remedies for GBV also apply to the LGBTQ community?

Although the focus of 16 Days of Activism is on violence against women and children, it is important to note that the same legal remedies are applicable to everyone in South Africa. All victims will be equal before the law, regardless of gender or sexual orientations. The only difference may be the tests conducted as there are different types of rape kits available at police stations for example:

  • adult sexual assault kits;
  • pediatric sexual assault kits; and
  • buccal (swab) sample collection kits.

Are there any further aspects to take note of?

Having knowledge of one’s rights and responsibilities in instances of GBV is a step towards ensuring access to justice. It is important for everyone to educate themselves and to know what they can do to assist with the prevention and reporting of GBV in South Africa.

For further information, visit the following sites: