Despite steps taken to ensure that the rights of women are respected and protected, there remain many hindrances to the realisation of their rights. Gender based violence, for instance, looms large in the lives of many women in South Africa. This is defined by Bloom and Shelah, 2008, as the manner used to describe violence that occurs as a result of the expectations of a role of a particular gender. This is coupled with an imbalance of power in relationships between genders in a particular society.
Gender-based violence can have all kinds of negative consequences for women, among others that it puts them at risk for developing psychosocial disabilities. Examples of such conditions include depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder and others. The World Health Organisation identifies gender-based violence as a risk factor for common mental disorders that disproportionately affect women. It also highlights the poor identification of violence-related mental health problems on the basis that women are reluctant to disclose the fact that they are victims of violence.
The 8th of March is International Women’s Day. It represents an opportunity to celebrate the rights and freedoms of women, but also to reflect on what needs to be done to ensure the continued realisation of their rights. The South African Federation for Mental Health (SAFMH) is a human rights organisation that aims to create a society in which mental health and mental well-being receive the attention it deserves. This year, for International Women’s Day, it has elected to focus on raising awareness about gender-based violence and the need to address the plight of its victims. It calls upon duty-bearers to educate society about the Constitutional rights of women to inherent dignity, to equality and to freedom and security of the person. It urges men to respect the rights of their counterparts and women to report incidents of gender-based violence and to seek help to ward off poor mental health.
At the advent of our Constitutional Democracy it was no doubt imagined that some 20 years on we would live in a society of equality and tranquillity- free from violence and oppression. Despite this, gender-based violence remains rife in our country today. Its impact can be devastating and steps urgently need to be taken in order to rectify this inequity. Days such as International Women’s Day are considered occasions which warrant earnest activism. Instead of focusing on one day of the year, let every day be thus and let us all work together in eliminating gender-based violence.
FOR INQUIRIES INFORMATION PLEASE CONTACT:
Leon de Beer
SA Federation for Mental Health
011 781 1852