Gender Justice

In South Africa, the call for gender justice is hindered by the religious views that a significant part of our society holds to patriarchy and tradition. Studies have shown that an overwhelming number of citizens throughout the Western Cape, and particularly Cape Town, subscribe to some religious beliefs and in turn use these to further reinforce negative behaviors regarding the marginalization of women and children[1].

Only 1 out of 9 victims of rape are reported, and fewer than 10% of reported rapes lead to conviction. Inadequate recording of statistics makes it impossible to determine conviction rates for domestic violence, but a study of homicides in South Africa showed conviction rates of no higher than 37.3%. Put another way, over 90% of rapists and nearly two-thirds of men who kill their intimate partner go unpunished. The negative reinforcement of these behaviors from some people in religious institutions has led to the continuation of these beliefs and keeps women (and children – especially girls) at risk [2]. Western Cape Premier Helen Zille has called on the WCRLF for an intervention around teenage pregnancies. Due to lack of resources and capacity WCRLF has not yet been able to act on this.

WCRLF has a unique position in combating this issue. Women who are subjugated to gender based violence are in fear of further subjugation when reporting these crimes, as well as unhelpful counsel and uniformed support from their religious leaders. Thus through a partnership with the South African Faith and Family Institute (SAFFI), sensitizer workshops that specifically target religious leaders of various faiths are supported to educate those leaders on how to support women and children who come to them regarding issues of gender based violence. The forum calls for an active reinterpretation of religious texts that do not marginalize or demean women.

The Gender Justice Programme includes supporting the national 16 Days Of Activism Campaign Against Violence Against Women & Children, and advocating for all organisations to create awareness of the campaign in their prayer services and other activities.

The WCRLF was represented by the South African Faith and Family Institute (SAFFI) at the National Council on Gender-based Violence (NCGBV). Concerns were raised that the Ministry on Women, Children and People with Disabilities may be dissolved under the new administration which would impact the future of the NCGBV. Recent developments on the NCGBV show that the new Women’s Ministry focuses on the economic empowerment of women and that the future of the NCGBV is indeed not a priority. Civil society organisations are mobilising to confront this disturbing shift in focus. The WCRLF has been asked to join civil society (especially those who work in the GBV sector) to lobby government and call them to account for this shift. SAFFI continues to play an active role in monitoring and helping to shape the course of GBV and its place on government’s agenda.

Our religious organisations have an obligation to focus on generating an increased awareness of the negative impact of violence on women and children and to engage actively with men and boys in the discourse about combating violence in our homes, our communities and in the workplace. The rights of women and children are fundamental human rights entrenched in and protected by the Constitution. Gender-based and child violence, in all its different forms, devalues human dignity and the self-worth of the person and must be stopped in our society. Promote the theme-Treat the Women and Children you know with respect and love.


[1] Executive Director Report, pg 5. SAFFI Annual Report, 2011-2012.

[2] [2] “Report to ACC-15 on Anglican responses to gender based violence, following the Primates’ Letter to the Churches from their meeting in Dublin, January 2011” pg 1.