Addressing South Africa’s chronic violence is imperative, says Dialogue Forum

PHOTO: Tracey Adams / African News Agency (ANA)

To decrease the causes and contributors to violence will require the combined concerted effort of all levels.

South Africa is an extremely violent country with one of the highest murder rates in the world, averaging 49 murders on a daily basis. These are accompanied by high rates of rape and assault, according to research carried out by the Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation, and the United Nations Interregional Crime and Justice Research Institute.

Headlines of rape and violence, often against women and children, are an almost daily event. According to a policy brief run by the Institute of Security Studies (ISS) in Pretoria and written by the South African Dialogue Forum, there are numerous reasons behind the entrenched intergenerational cycles of interpersonal violence and preventing further occurrence is a complex and long-term undertaking.

The high levels of interpersonal violence, entrenched patriarchal norms, inequality, unemployment, and poverty increase the risk factors for physical and emotional violence at an individual and community level, says the Dialogue Forum which is funded by the World Childhood Foundation and the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ)

The organisation also points out that the relationship between poverty and particular forms of violence, such as sexual violence and intimate partner violence, although complicated, is often exacerbated by inequality and exclusion.

However, reducing poverty and inequality will not alone suffice in undoing the effects of the normalisation of the use of physical and emotional violence in South Africa, nor the long-term harm to generations of families caused by apartheid, says the Dialogue Forum.

“This will require specific actions and focus at all levels – societal, community, family and individual; and an application of the evidence of which kinds of interventions, and in which combinations, can effectively reduce the perpetration of violence and victimisation,” the forum explains.

Structural interventions for food security, employment, and parenting are essential to break the intergenerational nexus of poverty, trauma, and health in peri-urban settings.

To change the harmful patriarchal norms, high levels of trauma and associated poor mental health, and family dysfunction – all of which support and increase the use of physical violence – will require the combined concerted effort of all levels, departments and agencies of government, non-governmental and international organisations, and development partners, donors, business and the research community.

The Dialogue Forum says there remains a number of challenges facing South Africa, including a contextual background in the country of political uncertainty and a weak economy which constrains the government in spending on the necessary sectors.

Furthermore, the profound impact of violence on South Africa’s growth and development is not recognised and accepted by the different political forces in the country, nor has it successfully translated into political and policy prioritisation or action.

The Dialogue Forum describes ways of resolving the high rate of violence. These include a coherent agreement about what constitutes violence prevention and how to apply violence prevention interventions and programmes with the appropriate resource allocation.

“A national audit of violence prevention and response services and programmes delivered by the state and NGOs must be commissioned or undertaken by the department of social development,” asserts the Dialogue Forum.

“Government ministers and members of parliament who are responsible for approving various budgets need to understand the importance of funding violence prevention – and what is required. Violence prevention should be a non-negotiable budget item.”

– African News Agency

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