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It is difficult to get reliable statistics on violence against women in South Africa. Although the number of reported cases is very high, many cases go unreported. The incidence of battery or domestic violence is particularly hard to measure because the police do not keep separate statistics on assault cases perpetrated by husbands or boyfriends.
Many women are still unaware of their rights when reporting abuse and even informed women traumatised by an assault are unlikely to be assertive and insist on their rights. Many women are afraid of further violence from the perpetrator if they attempt legal action. This is even more compounded by the introduction of the new Domestic Violence Act which a lot of women have not yet grasped. The challenge exists for the Act, including the regulations to be made an accessible form of legislation to benefit and protect women in all areas of their lives. Effective implementation of the Act also needs to be ensured, for effective legal preventative measures (protection order) and police escorts to abused women.
The gendered nature of domestic violence has unfortunately also seen an increase in the number of women being murdered by their intimate male partners. Lack of statistical information on this form of killing makes it very hard to measure the extent of the scourge but newspaper reports on this issue, leave little to one’s imagination. These killings demonstrate the culture of male violence against women and sexism that still pervades African society. Women have fought and succeeded in getting many basic rights yet in the private sphere of their homes, the inequality between men and women is still a battle ground.
The Department of Justice estimates that 1 out of every four South African women are survivors of domestic violence. (450.311 Domestic Violence: Submission to the South African Law Commission in the Light of International and Constitutional Human Rights Jurisprudence Part 1, May 1997)
Canon Justus Marcus, Dean of Kimberley from 1992 until 2002, was the first ‘Coloured’ priest to hold that position. Marcus supported the ordination of women and he helped prepare the first two women to be ordained deacon (and subsequently as priests) in the Diocese (by Bishop Ndungane) in 1995. Whilst in Kimberley he initiated a project to establish a ‘Tamar House’ place of safety for abused women and Rape Crisis Centre.
The Tamar Centre is the only safe and secure refuge for abused and battered women in the diocese of Kimberley and Kuruman. The Oxford Diocese has supported this project, with a number of churches helping to assist. It is a place where small donations can make a significant difference. The security of the building has been upgraded to enhance the safety of the occupants. Electrical fencing has been installed to safeguard the women and children living there. The next project is to upgrade the bathrooms, so the women can feel both clean and pampered in a safe environment.
The centre, not only offers an immediate place of refuge for those fleeing situations of domestic violence, but also legal advice, training and development, to enable women to make clear decisions about their own lives. The centre provides treatment too and counselling to strengthen women and prepare them for independent living.
- For all victims of domestic violence
- For the live-in caretaker at the Tamar centre
- For the management board in the further financing and developing of the centre
- For continued safety and security in such a vulnerable place
- For continued support from the wider church.
- That women will have the confidence to speak out and walk away