16 DAYS OF ACTIVISM: SOUTH AFRICANS URGED TO ADD THEIR VOICES TO #ENDDOMESTICSILENCE Your voice has the power to expedite critical legislative change to address the scourge of GBV and femicide in South Africa Women’s rights organisation People Opposing Women Abuse (POWA) has answered President Cyril Ramaphosa’s appeal for South Africa to get behind efforts to enact new far-reaching legislation designed to confront the gender-based violence (GBV) and femicide scourge threatening the country. POWA, in partnership with Unilever’s tea brand JOKO, is asking South Africans to add their voices to #EndDomesticSilence, by recording voice notes to the President during the annual 16 Days of Activism for No Violence Against Women and Children urging the government to prioritise three new Bills specifically designed to tackle the country’s deplorable status quo: seven women are killed every day, and a reported 40% to 50% of men have admitted to perpetrating physical partner violence. POWA CEO, Mary Makgaba, has called for these key bills, introduced to Parliament in September 2020, to be urgently fast-tracked: The Bill to amend the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences and Related Matters) Amendment Act. This creates a new offence of sexual intimidation, extends the ambit of the offence of incest, and extends the duty of reporting suspected sexual abuse of a child. It also expands the scope of the National Register for Sex Offenders, including public naming of perpetrators.The Criminal and Related Matters Amendment Bill tightens the granting of bail in cases of GBV and femicide; and expands offences for which minimum sentences must be imposed.Proposed amendments to the Domestic Violence Act extend the provisions to those who are engaged, dating, in customary relationships and actual or perceived romantic, intimate, or sexual relationships of any length of time. The definition of “domestic violence” is also extended to protect the elderly from abuse by family members. “Research data shows us that it takes Parliament an average 153 days to pass a bill, with a lengthy 96 days from adoption to assent by the President. But time is not on our side. If ever there was legislation that should be fast-tracked, this is it,” Makgaba stresses. In the words of Ramaphosa, South Africa finds itself in the midst of not one, but two devastating epidemics. Highlighting the tragic intersection of COVID-19 with the country’s GBV scourge, the President said in June that no fewer than 21 women and children had been murdered by men in the previous two weeks. After the first three weeks of the lockdown, the nation learnt that the government’s GBV and femicide command centre’s 24-hour emergency line had received 120 000 calls for help – double the usual number. In August last year, POWA and Unilever brand JOKO launched the #EndDomesticSilence initiative to raise awareness about the danger of silence in the context of domestic violence, and to support survivors. “Very few women are empowered to speak about their experiences and so remain silent, largely out of shame or fear. We hope that giving everyone a chance to have their say to #EndDomesticSilence will act as a catalyst for change,” says Unilever’s Marketing Manager for JOKO tea, Sue Marshall. Recorded voice notes will be collected, collated as a petition and personally delivered to the President. Tracey Going, GBV survivor, founder of When Love Hurts and former TV and radio news anchor; as well as Leanne Manas, one of South Africa’s most recognised and longest-serving news anchors; and Dr Tlaleng Mofokeng affectionately known as Dr T. who is a sexual health thought leader and advocate defending the sexual and reproductive rights and health of women and children have also added their voice to #ENDDOMESTICSILENCE as advocates and campaign ambassadors. The 2019 announcement of the POWA-JOKO partnership saw R1 from every box of JOKO 100 tea bags sold donated to POWA to help advocate for women’s rights and provide shelter and counselling services as well as legal advice for survivors of domestic violence. This translates to R5 million annually. During the 16 Days of Activism 2020, consumers are again urged to look out for the iconic red JOKO packaging featuring the powerful purple #EndDomesticSilence message. This year Unilever is raising the bar, in direct response to the escalating GBV rates being recorded in the country. On November 25, the company will boldly redirect its radio and digital advertising spend of 24 Unilever brands to the POWA-JOKO initiative, using the collective power of all of these brands, as incontrovertible proof of its commitment to #EndDomesticSilence and add its voice to support the initiative. “GBV does not discriminate, and we believe the time is now for all South Africans to make themselves heard, adding their voices in support of government efforts to transform the legislative landscape around penalties for perpetrators of domestic violence,” concludes Marshall. Visit joko-addyourvoice.uwina.com to find out more or follow the hashtag to join the conversation: #EndDomesticSilence Follow @JokoSA on social media for further updates: Instagram: @jokoteasa Facebook: @JOKOTeaSA Twitter: @jokoteasa JOKO 100’s packs are available at retailers across South Africa. 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