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Research report

Research report: Survivors’ perceptions of the efficacy of the Criminal Justice System in South Africa for adults and children affected by Sexual and Gender-Based Violence.

Gender-based violence is not a problem of the rich or the poor.  It is not a problem of the townships, or the suburbs, or the villages.  It impacts us all, and we have had enough of its deeply harmful effects: broken families, ravaged communities and lives destroyed.  Our success depends on the involvement of each South African.  It is a responsibility none of us should abdicate.  Let us not look away.  Let us work together, in the words of the Freedom Charter, sparing neither strength nor courage to eradicate this evil from our country.” President Cyril Ramaphosa

The Solidarity Fund awarded Childline Gauteng a research grant which was administered by Tshikululu Social Investments (TSI) with oversight from Ucwaningo Research Surveys (PTY) Ltd. The research focused on child and women survivors of sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) experiences of the criminal justice system (CJS), however the majority of Childline Gauteng clients of SGBV were children and these research findings pertain particularly to child survivors.

The purposes of this study were to investigate the perceptions of survivors on the efficacy of the CJS in respect of reported cases of sexual and gender-based violence, with a view to identifying the factors that contribute to low conviction rates and developing recommendations for the improved performance of the CJS. Furthermore, to generate data that Childline Gauteng could use to improve its own services to adult and child victims of violence.

  • Childline Gauteng used quantitative and qualitative data collection methods to complete the research. The qualitative methods included a desk-top situational and literature review and in-depth interviews with 28 research participants (i.e., 10 subject experts, nine representatives of the South African Police Services, and nine survivors of SGBV).
  • The quantitative method was a survey of 207 clients of Childline Gauteng who had survived an incident, or several incidents, of sexual and gender-based violence.
  • Most (92%) respondents were caregivers of child survivors of SGBV, while 8% of respondents were adult survivors. Five percent (5%) of the adults had their first experience(s) of SGBV as children, while 3% first experienced SGBV as adults. The research findings are therefore applicable predominantly to child survivors. The caregivers were most likely to be mothers (67%), fathers (9%), grandmothers (7%), aunts (3%) and social workers (2%). The majority (89%) of these caregivers were female.

Childline Gauteng wanted to ensure that the experiences and the voices of survivors of SGBV are visible and understood with a view to making recommendations to improve the systems, both within the statutory and civil society sectors that are relevant and responsive to the needs and experiences of survivors.   In the process, Childline Gauteng identified some of the challenges and barriers that result in additional trauma for survivors, their families, and witnesses; low conviction rates; and the continuation of extreme violence against women and children.

Childline Gauteng celebrates the Solidarity Fund’s initiative to address the national gender-based violence pandemic as well as the “New Dawn” in South Africa, led by President Cyril Matamela Ramaphosa.  We are grateful for the expressed dedication to deal with violence, as encapsulated in the National Gender-Based Violence and Femicide Strategic Plan 2020 – 2030 and the National Child Care and Protection Policy (2019). We welcome the communication from the Desk of the President on the 18 November 2019, and his Emergency Action Plan to deal with violence against women and children, as announced at the special joint sitting of Parliament in October of the same year. 

Childline Gauteng looks forward to participating in an era of growth, in which we can address the personal and structural causes of violence that our children and families face every day (whilst recognizing that violence is always a personal choice).  We recognize that we have a long and painful road ahead to achieve our vision of a non-violent, peaceful society that genuinely cares for our youth and our women.

Lynne Cawood

Director:  Childline Gauteng


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