Criminology Academics Problematise Gender-Based Violence during South Africa’s Lockdown

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Criminology academics in UKZN’ School of Applied Human Sciences Professor Nirmala Gopal and Ms Nomakhosi Sibisi participated in the inaugural Annual International Symposium on Victim Assistance, Assisting Victims of Crime – Best Practices from Around the World. The virtual conference was hosted by the Karunya Institute of Technology and Sciences.

Gopal and Sibisi presented their paper on Gender-Based Violence (GBV) Victims’ experiences during South Africa’s COVID-19 lockdown. Drawing on online news articles between 1 April and 31 December 2020, they thematically analysed the highest hanging fruit that compromised women’s safety during the lockdown.

Their themes included South African President Cyril Ramaphosa’s declaration of GBV as South Africa’s second and parallel pandemic. Connected to this theme was the introduction of GBV legislation. According to the academics, ‘The clarion call by the head of state suggests the seriousness of GBV in South Africa.’

Other themes included controversial discourses by GBV researchers and non-governmental organisations’ confirmation of the president’s announcement of a GBV pandemic. Gopal and Sibisi highlighted that, ‘despite much pro- women legislation and policies in South Africa that facilitate the successful prosecution of perpetrators who commit GBV, the number of successful prosecutions remains low.’ They also questioned the effectiveness of South Africa’s victim empowerment programmes in facilitating a decrease in GBV.

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