UKZN Hosts Conversation on Gender Based Violence and Femicide

Webinar panellists (clockwise from left) Dr Janine Hicks, Ms Omashani Naidoo, Ms Stephanie Erasmus, Dr Lubna Nadvi and Dr Sagie Naidoo.

UKZN in partnership with the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) hosted a webinar to spark conversation around eradicating gender-based violence and femicide (GBVF) in South Africa.

Facilitated by senior lecture in the School of Law and UKZN’s Gender-Based Violence (GBV) Committee Chairperson Dr Janine Hicks, the webinar featured presentations by Acting Deputy Director: Public Prosecutions for the NPA, Ms Omashani Naidoo;  Deputy Director: Clinical Forensic Medical Services in KwaZulu-Natal (KZN), Dr Sagie Naidoo; senior lecturer in UKZN’s School of Social Sciences and Board Member of the Advice Desk for the Abused in Durban, Dr Lubna Nadvi, and Senior Prosecutor: Maintenance/Child Support in KZN, Ms Stephanie Erasmus.

In her welcome address, Hicks remarked on how the webinar coincided with the end of the 16 Days of Activism against GBV campaign. As a global awareness campaign that marks the 16 days between 25 November – International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women – and 10 December – International Human Rights Day – she said this was used as an organising and mobilising strategy to call on the prevention and elimination of violence against women and girls.  She noted the global theme for this year, UNITE: Activism to end Violence Against Women and Girls, and added that the panellists aimed to highlight and critically examine key country interventions and responses to GBVF.

Omashani Naidoo discussed legislative and protective options open to GBV victims. Describing the eight Thuthuzela Care Centres (TCCs) in KZN as all-inclusive, one-stop rape crisis centres, she focused on how they provide psychosocial interventions and are victim-orientated and court-directed with prosecutor-guided investigations. She discussed how individuals dealt with trauma differently and how delayed reports from victims were still valid.

She implored victims to apply for compulsory HIV testing of the offender/s within 90 days to aid in making life changing decisions, to add a civil claim against the perpetrator/s, and file additional charges of attempted murder. Naidoo said interested parties ie father, mother, siblings, husband, wife and children, could apply for this action on behalf of a victim.

On the National Register for Sexual Offenders facility, she urged parents to have their children’s transporters, teachers and others involved in their lives vetted for peace of mind.

She also examined domestic and intimate partner violence and the importance of applying for protection orders, highlighting that dedicated sexual offenses courts were available for victims to testify on closed-circuit television or in a separate room from the perpetrator with the aid of an intermediary.

Sagie Naidoo commented on the important role of medical examinations and forensic evidence collection in cases of sexual offences and GBV. Naidoo said the three aspects of health care response were medical – involving injuries, infections and pregnancy; medico-legal and forensic including the J88 form and evidence collection; and psychosocial care.

Naidoo examined the topic of consent in medical examinations mentioning how written permission was required for clinical examinations, taking forensic specimens or pictures, and disclosing clinical findings and lab tests to the courts. He said in cases where victims were children under the age of 12 or mentally challenged, consent was required from a parent, caregiver or guardian.

Naidoo emphasised the importance of chaperones being involved in clinical examinations where male doctors examining female victims were provided with female chaperones – ideally a forensically trained nurse.

He said the examination of clothing was critical in corroborating the victim’s version of events using Locard’s Principle of evidence transfer which states that every contact will leave a trace. He listed the various evidence collection kits used for forensic specimen and evaluated the J88 form as a legal document completed by clinical medical forensic officers in communicating findings in court.

Nadvi spoke on the National Strategic Plan (NSP) and practitioner perspectives on GBVF. Referring to the second presidential summit on GBVF held in November this year, she highlighted civil society’s discontent with the implementation and government’s lack of delivery on NSP policies; how the National Council on GBVF has not been established to implement NSP policy; and the lack of accountability around the R1.6 billion allocated by government to address GBVF matters.

Moving on to practitioners who work in the field and respond to issues of GBVF providing assistance no matter the time or the place, she highlighted the strain they face as incidences of GBVF continue to rise.

Nadvi said challenges in managing responses included a decline in social values and morality; lack of political will to fast track the implementation of the NSP and other interventions; lack of resources and capacity to adequately respond to the scourge of GBVF in all sectors; and the lack of focus on preventative measures to reduce/eliminate GBVF.

Remedial action required included investing in regenerating moral values and ethics – particularly among the youth – through education, training and mentorship; promoting and sustaining campaigns that hold political leadership accountable; understanding the NSP and working to implement the various pillars as efficiently as possible; and investing in sustainable preventative measures such as extracurricular and after school youth programmes.

Erasmus examined the relationship between GBVF and being liable for maintenance payment. Referring to Domestic and Maintenance Acts, she highlighted the emotional and financial strain women often experience as they struggle to support their children due to their previous partner(s) failure to pay maintenance. Erasmus said court matters involving maintenance were often handled incorrectly and called for due processes to be followed.

In a Q&A session, PhD student in Social Work, Mr Sethenjwa Nduli asked about the backlog in DNA testing in KZN. It was explained that the province does not have its own laboratory so the work has to be done in Pretoria and Cape Town which causes delays.

Student Development Officer at the College of Agriculture, Engineering and Science and Chairperson for the Men of Virtue (MOV) campaign, Mr Sanele Zuma asked why initiatives such as a MOV which address issues of GBVF have not received sufficient financial support within authorities. Hicks and Nadvi provided Zuma with contact details to obtain information.

In closing, Hicks thanked participants, panellists and UKZN’s Corporate Relations Division for their involvement. She said: ‘Go forth and see what transformation you can bring about in your own spaces and communities in the new year.’ 

Words: Hlengiwe Khwela

Photographs: Supplied