Johannesburg (Agenzia Fides) - The Southern African Catholic Bishops Conference (SACBC) Justice and Peace Commission said it "strongly and unreservedly condemns the recent surge of gender based violence and femicide that has once again reared its ugly head nationwide since the country entered alert level 3 of COVID-19 lockdown” in a statement sent to Fides. "Justice and Peace" are calling for a process of rethinking the approach to gender-based violence and femicide, drawing parallels from the response to the COVID-19 pandemic that witnessed the involvement of government departments, business sector, civil society and ordinary citizens in their efforts to flatten the infection curve".
The Bishops said if government departments, business sector and civil society could pool their financial resources and, along with ordinary citizens, comply with stringent physical and social distancing measures in the fight against COVID-19, then "we are of the view that it is possible for a similar aggressive and holistic approach to be used in the fight of gender-based violence and femicide".
The Bishops said that the Church must do its part and invited all parishes to preach the clear message that God says "No" to the violence inflicted by men on women and children.
"God created our whole being: Heart, mind and body. Those bodies that are being assaulted are loved by Christ. These bodies remain precious. God grieves deeply when we inflict gender-based violence on anyone. We believe that recovery from being violent is possible. Change is possible. The Church must hold us accountable for what we do. It must lead perpetrators to get the help they need. We must also work towards the healing of the victims. Our work must be to educate and to prevent gender-based violence. We as Church have contributed to this scourge through our denial, our silence, our resistance and our lack of preparation", continues the statement.
Before the COVID-19 pandemic, domestic violence in South Africa was already at a very high level. In the first week of the lockdown, police received over 87,000 reports of gender-based violence. Forcing victims and perpetrators to remain in the same boundaries has increased the number, frequency and intensity of episodes of domestic violence and abuse. At least 21 women and children were murdered in South Africa during confinement, five of them in June.
Last week, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa called gender-based violence a "second pandemic" in the Country where COVID-19 infected over 97,000 people and killed 1,930.
"As a country, we find ourselves in the midst of not one, but two, devastating epidemics. Although very different in their nature and cause, they can both be overcome – if we work together, if we each take personal responsibility for our actions and if we each take care of each other", said the President on June 17th.
"It is with the heaviest of hearts that I stand before the women and girls of South Africa this evening to talk about another pandemic that is raging in our country – the killing of women and children by the men of our country. As a man, as a husband and as a father, I am appalled at what is no less than a war being waged against the women and children of our Country", added Ramaphosa. "At a time when the pandemic has left us all feeling vulnerable and uncertain, violence is being unleashed on women and children with a brutality that defies comprehension. These rapists and killers walk among us. They are in our communities. They are our fathers, our brothers, our sons and our friends; violent men with utterly no regard for the sanctity of human life". (L.M.) (Agenzia Fides, 26/6/2020)