Healthcare workers called to unite against GBV

The South African Medical Association (SAMA) has called on healthcare workers across the country to go beyond the call of duty to care for victims of Gender-Based Violence (GBV).

The call comes as the world commemorates the 16 Days of Activism for No Violence against Women and Children campaign.

The 16 Days campaign is a United Nations campaign that takes place annually from 25 November (International Day of No Violence against Women) to 10 December (International Human Rights Day).

This year’s 16 Days campaign will be observed under the theme “Women’s Economic Justice for a Non-Violent and Non-Sexist South Africa”.

SAMA Chairperson Dr Angelique Coetzee noted that South Africa has one of the highest rates of GBV and Femicide (GBVF) in the world, and “violence against women has only worsened due to lockdown brought on by COVID-19”.

“It’s such a big problem that President Cyril Ramaphosa has referred to it as a second pandemic. We cannot allow this situation to continue, and as South Africans and as healthcare workers we are duty bound to stand up against this scourge and make our voices heard. We must also understand that women and children also bear the brunt of HIV/AIDS – and the inclusion of World AIDS Day on 1 December in the 16 Days campaign is significant.

“We must encourage women and children to come forward if they have been abused, and healthcare workers must be sensitive to their plight, and act accordingly. It’s only appropriate that healthcare workers go above and beyond the call of duty to assist and care for these victims,” Coetzee said.

Coetzee added that SAMA stands in solidarity with women and children who have experienced or are at risk of experiencing GBVF, and notes that the country’s healthcare system is often the first point of contact for survivors of violence.

“For this reason, it [SAMA] says, healthcare workers must unite against GBV. Our government recently launched the National Strategic Plan (NSP) on Gender Based Violence and Femicide 2020-2030 to guide a coordinated national response. This is a good start as is the move to introduce three new Bills in Parliament aimed at bringing justice to victims.

“We applaud these efforts and commit to play our roles as health workers to better deal with GBV in our country. SAMA believes such a responsive legal framework is a firm foundation upon which to mount a response to the scourge of GBV in South Africa,” Coetzee said.

The three Bills to be introduced to deal with GBV include Criminal Law Amendment Bill, Criminal and Related Matters Amendment Bill, and the Domestic Violence Amendment Bill.

“Violence against women and children is a symptom of underlying social problems. If goals 3 and 5 of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are to be achieved, the underlying social, political, economic, and cultural determinants violence against women and children need to be tackled,” Dr Coetzee said.

SDG 3 aspires to ensure healthy lives and promote wellbeing for all at all ages, while SDG 5 seeks to achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls. –

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