Pretoria – The United Nations in South Africa strongly condemns the violent murders of 19-year old student Uyinene Mrwetyana, boxing champion Leighandre Jegels and many other women and girls who have become victims of gender-based violence in recent days. We extend our deepest sympathies to their families.
These murders are unfortunately part of an unabating trend of intimate partner violence meted out against thousands of women in South Africa and across the world: globally one in three women has experienced some form of sexual or gender-based violence. South African women and civil society organizations are calling for a national state of emergency. There is indeed a need to immediately reprioritize resources that will effectively deal with perpetrators of violence and offer prevention mechanisms.
“This violence against women, particularly the murder of women by their intimate partners is a national and global crisis and our responses need to change and measure up to the destruction that brought by each life lost. And there must be accountability – men who are largely responsible for this violence – must be held to account,” said the Acting UN Resident Coordinator in South Africa, Ayodele Odusola.
The UN is using the HeForShe Solidarity Movement as an avenue to actively involve men and boys as agents of change for the achievement of gender equality and women’s rights, by encouraging them to act against inequalities faced by women and girls. HeForShe calls on men across society – from CEOs to students – to take responsibility by speaking out when they see any form of discrimination, whether interpersonal or institutional and critically challenging other men and boys if they see them acting or speaking in a way that is discriminatory, violent or harassing to women and girls.
“To achieve a world where all, especially women and girls are safe and protected, men cannot be left out of the picture. Negative cultural and social norms, particularly patriarchal privilege is at the heart of gender-based violence, therefore men have an integral role in breaking down these destructive norms and practices,” added Mr. Odusola.
The results of the “HeForShe” movement is evident. In Klerksdorp, the Southern Africa Catholic Bishops Council uses taverns as sites for change in the fight against rape culture and gender-based violence through monthly “HeForShe” community dialogues attended by over 5000 men.
Gender-based violence is costly. It costs the lives of women and girls. It robs us of women who could contribute to South Africa’s development. It costs the economy millions of rand – between at least R28.4-billion and R42.4-billion. It directly and indirectly destroys our society. Workplaces which are sites of economic activity but also sites of violence must therefore play an integral part in establishing and sustaining mandatory programmes against all forms of violence and sexual harassment and where relevant must support victims and survivors of violence.
The UN calls on South African men and boys in both public and private spaces: male leaders in corporate, political and religious spaces, law enforcement officers and others whose responsibility it is to protect society to urgently commit to ending violence against women and girls.
For more information on HeForShe or to make your commitment visit www.heforshe.org.