How many 16 Days of Activism will it take?


2021 marks 30 years of Global 16 Days of Activism

As long as I’ve been practising law, and as long as I’ve published this blog, I’ve been writing about violence against women (VAW), gender-based violence (GBV), domestic violence, domestic abuse, and a raft of other terms that basically refer to the same thing. Physical violence is not always sexual violence, and abuse is not always physical; emotional abuse and coercive control are also a form of violence. But whatever form it takes, whatever you call it, women and girls in South Africa are no safer today than they were 30 years ago, when the Global 16 Days Campaign launched in 1991. South Africa joined the campaign in 1998 as a strategic intervention in the effort to make South Africa a violence-free society.

Worse, not better, due to COVID-19

Sadly, the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the “second pandemic” of violence against women. During hard lockdown, many women and children were locked down with their abusers. It’s hard to know what to say that hasn’t been said before. But we must keep talking. Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, the Minister in the presidency for women, youth and persons with disabilities, has said that the scourge against women and children should be a thing of the past. She was speaking at the launch of this year’s 16 Days of Activism for No Violence against Women and Children Campaign in Soweto last week. In November 2018 a Presidential Summit on Gender-Based Violence and Femicide (GBVF) was held. The summit resolved to speed up the review of existing laws and policies and to ensure that all other relevant laws address GBVF. Three Bills were introduced at the summit and passed by Parliament in September 2021. They are: the Domestic Violence Amendment Bill; the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences and Related Matters) Amendment Act Amendment Bill; and the Criminal and Related Matters Amendment Bill.

Domestic violence safety monitoring notice

One of the tenets of the Domestic Violence Amendment Bill is the domestic violence safety monitoring notice. If a woman shares a residence with a man, against whom she has taken out a protection order, and has reasonable grounds to suspect her personal safety is under threat, she can apply for the monitoring notice at the same time. This notice requires the station commander of a police station to instruct a police officer either to contact or visit the woman at her residence at regular intervals to check on her and ensure her safety. If the police officer is prevented from contacting or visiting the woman, the officer may lawfully use reasonable force to enter the home and communicate privately with the woman.

We are all accountable

The theme of this year’s 16 Days of Activism for No Violence Against Women and Children in South Africa is “The Year of Charlotte Mannya Maxeke – 16 Days of Activism – moving from awareness to accountability”. This calls on communities and individuals to play their part in a collaborative effort to end GBV. It is not only the responsibility of the police, though we welcome the safety monitoring notice. During the 16 Days, government, together with civil society and the private sector, will conduct community and sector dialogues to increase the cooperation needed to tackle the scourge.

Recognising that response is not enough, government calls on communities to “Challenge cultures and practices that perpetuate gender inequalities and consequent abuse of women and children at personal and societal level”. Structural change is necessary, or we will be discussing prevention and response for the next 30 years. Violence against women is inextricably linked with “toxic masculinity”, defined as “the constellation of socially regressive [masculine] traits that serve to foster domination, the devaluation of women, homophobia, and wanton violence,” in a study published in The Journal of School Psychology. The term “toxic masculinity” in common usage refers to exaggerated masculine traits that have been widely accepted or even glorified. Manliness means displaying strength, lack of emotion, self-sufficiency, dominance, and sexual virility. It’s not hard to see how an overabundance of these properties can result in violence. Only a shared reimagining of what masculinity means will change this mentality.

Play your part

In addition to mobilising communities, this year’s campaign asks us all to step up and be accountable. Government calls on everyone to:

  • Reject and report abusers. Act and don’t look away!
  • Do not protect abusers, report them!
  • Sign the Pledge Against Gender-Based Violence. Do not engage in abusive activities and become an abuser. Stop abuse.
  • Challenge and denounce cultural practices that perpetuate gender inequalities.
  • Be sensitive and supportive to GBV victims – share helpful information and support causes near you.
  • Seek personal help to change harmful behaviours such as alcohol and substance abuse.
  • Teach children values of gender equality.
  • Protect children from exposure to violence and harmful content on internet and social media, including pornography, sexual solicitation.
  • Develop policies that prevent and deal with gender-based violence in your sector, workplace and communities.
  • Organise targeted community outreach and dialogues on solution towards a gender-equal society.


Let Cape Town Family Lawyers help

If you’ve been affected by gender-based violence, we can help. SD Law is a law firm in Cape Town with deep experience of helping women escape abusive men and find peace in a new life. At SD Law, we understand how deeply distressing domestic abuse and intimate partner violence can be, and we will handle your case with discretion, empathy and compassion. Contact attorney Simon Dippenaar on 086 099 5146 or email for a confidential discussion.

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