The Department of Justice and Constitutional Development says plans are on track to implement Africa’s first Femicide Watch platform in April 2024, to track these types of murders.
By Nkosikhona Duma – News24
Advocate Praise Kambula, the department’s head of the Promotion of Rights of Vulnerable Groups unit, said Femicide Watch aims to track data on incidents of gender-based violence in real-time and devise prevention measures.
Speaking to News24 on the sidelines of a visit to the Mangosuthu University of Technology (MUT) in Durban this week, Kambula said in 2015, the UN Special Rapporteur on violence against women and girls called on countries around the world to establish Femicide Watches for data collection and analysis.
The Umlazi community where MUT is located has one of the country’s highest femicide rates and Kambula was there on Wednesday to advise the local community on new legislation aimed at addressing gender-based violence.
Since 2018, we have been trying to get our own Femicide Watch off the ground because we thought it was a good idea. Through this initiative, we hope to know when, where, with what and why are our women and girls are being killed.
Kambula said from the data collected, the government would create programmatic interventions against the scourge of gender-based violence.
She said the initiative would culminate into a mobile application which would contain data from the SAPS and progress of femicide-related cases in court.
“It will be open to the public because we want people to have real-time updates of interventions being made by government to address femicide.”
Kambula said the platform would also contain unprecedented data on unreported cases.
Asked about the costs of the programme and whether the department had capacity for its implementation, Kambula said she did not have the figures but the department had enough resources to see the programme through.
Civil society reaction
Cookie Edwards from the KwaZulu-Natal Network Against Gender-Based Violence welcomed the initiative.
This is a step in the right direction. We’ve long been saying that statistics from the police do not give an accurate detail of what happens on the ground.
Edwards said some victims only reported incidents to, and accessed services from, privately-funded non-profit organisations.
“These organisations often keep the data to themselves. In some instances, they share it with their funders, but more often than not, they hardly share their information with the state.
“Hopefully, they would use the Femicide Watch to strengthen efforts aimed at rooting out violence against women and girls,” she added.
Lisa Vetten, an activist academic, however expressed concerns with the initiative’s ability to make a difference.
“At this stage, it is difficult to comment about it because we have not really seen it,” she said.
“It is good to have a platform to analyse trends and patterns, but we need to have the capacity to respond effectively and use the data progressively. We are yet to see if the programme is able to achieve what it sets out to,” Vetten said.
Professor Rozena Maart from the University of KwaZulu-Natal’s School of Social Science and Gender Studies said there needed to be training on gender-based violence for the programme to succeed.
Progress with legislation
Kambula said the government was also using new legislation as part of a multi-pronged approach aimed at addressing femicide.
“As of August 2022, the Criminal and Related Matters Amendment Act now permits courts to impose tougher sentences in cases of child murder, femicide and domestic homicide.”
She said the amended act calls on courts to issue a protection order against people charged with femicide or a related matter if they are granted bail.
“Station commanders are also now prohibited from issuing police bail to persons charged on gender-based violence related matters,” she said.
Kambula said the act classified all female students under the age 25 as vulnerable persons.
She added that as a result, lecturers, administration staff, cleaners, security guards and all other personnel who have direct access and contact to these students must be vetted.
“According to the act, all persons listed in the national register are prohibited from direct contact with female students under the age of 25. Failure to ensure adequate vetting of staff members is a criminal offence,” she said.