Violence against women in South Africa seems to be getting more brutal and gruesome by the day. Karabo Mokoena, who was allegedly murdered by her 27-year-old ex-boyfriend was in life a young women who had a followership of thousand in Social media, as a beautiful, interesting woman carefree to share details of her life with many. In death she has captured the attention of millions of South Africans and again brought to the national debate the horrendous issue of gender-based violence and particularly Violence against women.
Karabo Mokoena’s sad story highlights what many young girls and women are experiencing in relationships, and it reveals the reality that statistics conceal. It sounds far-fetched when we hear that one out of every six women in South Africa is regularly assaulted by a partner. It is only when we see the faces of those murdered and the faces of their loved ones mourning that reality sinks in, and it becomes impossible to ignore the devastation that gender-based violence brings in our midst.
In death, Karabo’s face has become the face of the reality that millions of women in South Africa suffer. She has catalyzed a process where we humanize the numbers of the victims and the survivors. My hope is that the work that Karabo had begun in creating awareness of her experience of domestic violence is elevated to a national crisis level and that mechanisms are put in place to take action on cases of abuse quicker than we are currently experiencing. Her family has been robbed of a daughter, and her future cut short, and not because we don’t have the right policies in place to protect women – we have the Domestic Violence Act 116 of 1998, Criminal Law (Sexual Offences and Related Matters) Amendment Act 32 of 2007, Prevention of Family Violence Act 133 of 1993, and mechanisms such as the National Council Against Gender Based Violence, Commission for Gender Equality, and the list goes on. However, we need on-the-ground prompt responses to domestic violence cases.
The focus on Karabo’s death forces everyone to realize that enough is enough, we can not tolerate this anymore. Getting a protection order against a respondent should not take over 24 hours, because in 24 hours a lot can happened. The protection order seems like a long process to assist those who fear for their lives. The current process requires that a woman fills in an affidavit at the police station, the police then take the application to the clerk at the nearest court, and the court conducts the investigation to verify evidence that the respondent is committing an act of domestic violence. Only after the court is satisfied that there is enough evidence against the respondent (that he committed an act of violence), the court can approve for a sheriff to issue an interim protection order. Thereafter, a date is set for a hearing, during which the respondent is offered the opportunity to dispute the protection order. In addition, the respondent must acknowledge the interim protection order for it to take effect.
The current process is long and needs to be improved, because women’s lives are at stake. We have seen with Karabo’s case, who is said to have reported her alleged violent boyfriend to the authorities.
This state of affairs is an anomaly; women must not live in fear of their partners or of men in general. We must live in a community where we feel safe to trust the people who supposedly “love” us, to break up with a man and not fear for our lives. Karabo’s case, mine and that of other women who have and continue to experience domestic violence should not be happening, should not normalized. We cannot live in fear that a partner will one day turn ‘monster’ on us.
Perhaps this is the time to look at effecting harsher sentences on cases of violence against women in order to set the tone that this is unacceptable. Perhaps it’s time to mobilize, to come together as a nation and establish what we must do at family, community, provincial and national level to support women in abusive relationships and ultimately eradicate GVB.
Perhaps frank conversations that have now escalated as a result of Karabo’s death and the four additional women who have died in the last week, must result in action that will bring a stop to these atrocities. Perhaps this is a time to show lessons to the young boys and girls that we are raising that this is not a way of life, and show them the consequences for perpetrators in terms of severe sentences, and restitution and rehabilitation requirements.
We should get to a point where no woman is killed by her partner. Our partners are not supposed to be the people we fear the most. They are supposed to be the ones who care and protect and love us – and should the relationship go sour, our partners must surely – out of love – let us go. Our communities and our nation must restore the sense of safe and justice, through consistent and effective actions to uncompromisingly show that Abuse is not tolerable.