Human Rights Commissioners, Ombudspersons want end to endemic, multi-dimensional GBV

A call has been made for all hands on deck to end Gender Based Violence (GBV), which has been described as is an endemic, multi-dimensional phenomenon with devastating effects on women, men, boys and girls in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) region.

Ms Habiba Roswana Osman, the Chief Executive Officer of the Malawi Human Rights Commission (HRC) made the call when she delivered a keynote address at a consultative meeting convened by the SADC Parliamentary Forum (SADC PF). The virtual meeting sought to allow Human Rights Commissioners and Ombudspersons to consider a draft of a SADC Model Law on GBV being developed by the Forum in collaboration with other partners.

She said GBV continued to pose a threat to human security, peace and development as well as the attainment of national, regional and international development blueprints. She said GBV also results in drastic socio-economic consequences.

“It remains the most severe human rights violation in southern Africa with one in two women having experienced GBV at some point in their lives globally,” she said.

She noted that in the SADC region, some countries had higher instances of GBV than others and noted that COVID-19 had exacerbated the structural discrimination and inequalities faced by women and girls.

She said that there had been reports, also, of marital rape in some countries, while GBV had cost the government of South Africa at least 1.7 billion Rands.

“Globally, data continues to show that GBV remains a serious and pervasive problem across all sectors,” she said.

Stressing that no sector was immune to GBV, Ms Osman said the scourge was negatively affecting the Gross Domestic Product of some countries and damaging health, lives, financial independence, productivity and effectiveness.

She noted that SADC had adopted various frameworks to combat GBV in a coordinated manner. In this regard, she cited the Revised Regional Indicative Strategic Development Plan (2015-2020) and expressed optimism that the SADC Model Law on GBV would guide Member States in the domestication, ratification and implementation of relevant international and regional guidelines and obligations that inform GBV prevention and responses.

She encouraged all stakeholders to aggressively promote the Model Law on GBV to support human rights for all and to ensure that no one was left behind.

Speaking at the same occasion, popular Judge, the Honorable Professor Oagile Key Dingake, stressed that GBV denies people their fundamental rights.

“When we talk about rights, we are speaking about non-negotiable entitlements which are not dished to us at the mercy of the state. In actual fact, the state as the duty bearer is obliged to ensure that these rights are realised. GBV implicates so many of the different rights contained in our constitutions and laws in SADC countries,” he said.

Justice Dingake presented two related papers. One focused on GBV as a human rights issue, and the other provided an overview of gaps in the GBV legislation within the SADC region.

Said the judge: “The right to life and the right to dignity constitute – in my mind – the foundational basis of all other rights. All other rights must accrue from the foundational rights: the right to life, the right to human dignity, security of the person, autonomy and self-determination. GBV is one of the most prevalent human rights violations in the world. It knows no social or economic barrier. It doesn’t discriminate on the basis of class. It is very prevalent among women and girls.” He expressed concern over the fact that in some parts of the SADC region, culture was used as an excuse or justification to oppress women and girls.

He stressed that certain cultural practices flew in the face of human rights, while certain roles assigned to women and girls restricted their options and curtailed their autonomy. The judge said GBV had many negative ripple effects on survivors. These include physical and psychological injuries.

He explained that while physical injuries were manifest, psychological injuries, which included depression and anxiety, eating disorders, stress and compulsive behaviour, were difficult to identify.

The judge expressed concern, also, over low levels of reporting GBV, as well as successful prosecution of offenders. He nevertheless expressed optimism that continuous education might socialise boys and girls in such a way that they would embrace the values of equality and human rights for a better world

Last modified on Friday, 05 August 2022 15:51
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The Southern African Development Community Parliamentary Forum (SADC PF) was established in 1997 in accordance with Article 9 (2) of the SADC Treaty as an autonomous institution of SADC It is a regional inter-parliamentary body composed of Thirteen (14) parliaments representing over 3500 parliamentarians in the SADC region. Read More

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