“The brave are not violent”- UNiTE Campaign
Adolescent girls and young women experience sexual and gender-based violence at a rate that is unacceptable. One-third of young girls in South Africa experience abuse. Rape also affects a huge number of women and girls, with over 48 000 rapes reported to the South African National Police Service (SAPS) in 2013 – and many more going unreported.
If we would like to improve the physical, sexual and mental health of South African women and girls, we have to do something to stop this violence. Gender-based violence affects the health of the survivors: it makes them more likely to be infected with HIV, and more likely to have problems sticking to HIV treatment regimes. It also makes it harder for girls and women to use contraception, and that means that they are more likely to fall pregnant. On an emotional level, survivors of sexual and gender-based violence have a higher risk of depression, and they often find that their sense of safety, dignity and independence is threatened.
These forms of violence are often connected to poverty, as well as to society’s expectations about male and female roles. This is why it’s essential to support and empower girls and young women to find or create jobs for themselves – being independent gives them more power and opportunity. On a larger scale, we need to start changing society’s views about women having less power and less of a voice than men do.