SOUTH AFRICA: Address Surge in Gender Based Violence, Bishop Phalana Urges Clerics

KLERKSDORP, JUNE 19, 2020 (CISA)–  Bishop Victor Phalana the Chairman of the Catholic Justice and Peace commission of the Southern African Catholic Bishops Conference(SACBC) has blamed the surge on gender based violence and femicide on failure of religious leaders to address the scourge in churches and to help lead perpetrators towards repentance.

“We as church have contributed to the scourge to Gender Based Violence through denial, or silence, or resistance and our lack of preparation. When it happens we are not ready. When it happens we are little prepared to intervene and take part,” he said.

A statement released on June 17 by Bishop Phalana noted that most of the clerics focus only on spiritual matters, “We have to ask for forgiveness from women and children. Men and boys to admit fully to what they have done and stop excuses, blaming and justification and try and make amends.”

Bishop Phalana urged perpetrators to accept responsibility and recognize that abuse and violence is a choice, encouraging them to identify patters of controlling their behavior that drive the abuse.

“Change how you respond to your partner’s anger and grievances so that your partner can feel free to express his or her grievances without feeling threatened and intimidated. And change how you reacted in heated conflict and know that violence is not an answer then you will know you have changed,” he added.

When the country entered a late level three lockdown to  contain the spread of Covid-19, the prelate notes that cases related to gender based violence and femicide have been increasing in the country. He said the incidences are shocking relating them to a civil war.

“We have to rethink our approach to this scourge. We are calling for a process of rethinking the approach to gender based violence and femicide,” he said suggesting a collaboration between government departments, business sector, bringing together the civil society and mobilizing ordinary citizens as witnessed in the war against the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Our call for an aggressive and holistic approach is guided by the fact that our government identified Gender Based Violence as one of the most defining public health, social and human rights issues that confront and affect the country today,” Bishop Phalana said.

He lauded the judiciary for giving hefty sentences to the perpetrators and the police for their response to calls and incidence of gender based violence further asking them to improve responses so as to avoid death related cases.

“The SACBC justice and peace commission continues to thank all the activists and any other people of good will across the country who continue to fight this scourge and are assisting survivors to seek justice,” calling for the eradication of the culture of biased genderism from mixed as gender violence thrives in a climate of silence.