The Department of Social Development (DSD) is part of a system for the protection of victims of gender based violence which comprises the SAPS, NPA, courts and Department of Health, and is governed by legislation including the Domestic Violence Act, Sexual Offences Act and the Prevention and Combating of Human Trafficking Act.
The vast majority of gender based violence is perpetrated by intimate partners in the home environment. Providing shelters offers the opportunity for women to leave abusive relationships before it is too late. Rigorous enforcement of the Domestic Violence Act by the SAPS, NPA and courts is also a critical component in keeping perpetrators away from potential victims of abuse. In this regard, DSD embarks on regular awareness drives.
The Department’s role in this system is to provide shelters for women who are victims of violence, trauma support services for victims of violence at hospital-based Thuthuzela centres, as well as longer term specialised trauma counselling.
The department’s total budget for these services in the current year is R46m, an increase from R14m in 2014.
Minister Fernandez said: “ We need all spheres of society to come together to ultimately address gender based violence. Our nation has the legislation and institutions to support the empowerment of women, promote gender equality and oppose oppression and all forms of violence against females. Yet, violence is still being experienced by women on a daily basis.”
Shelters provide safe accommodation for women and their children, therapeutic services, accredited skills development courses and assistance with reintegration back into the community. Furthermore, these services are rendered jointly by 42 funded specialist organisations (including 20 shelters) the Department’s own social workers at 45 local offices, reaching 20 000 beneficiaries per year.
The introduction of emergency shelter space has alleviated the pressure on existing shelters by providing women and their children with temporary safe accommodation for a maximum of 7 days. The additional 26 emergency bed spaces in the province.
“We need to have a whole of society approach to strengthen our nation’s efforts against women and child abuse,” says Minister Fernandez.