According to the SADC Protocol on Gender and Development, Gender-based Violence (GBV) means all acts perpetuated against women, men, boys and girls on the basis of their sex which causes or could cause them physical, sexual, psychological, emotional or economic harm, including the threat to take such acts, or to undertake the imposition of arbitrary restrictions on or deprivation of fundamental freedoms in private or public life in peace time and during situations of armed or other forms of conflict. GBV covers domestic violence, sexual harassment in the workplace, human trafficking and sexual and emotional abuse to name a few examples. Gender-based violence is known to be widespread in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) region. GBV presents a major obstacle to attaining gender equality and equity. SADC considers GBV as a critical area of concern and recognizes the prevention and reduction of GBV as a catalyst for attaining an environment conducive for serene peace and security in the SADC region. When referring to Gender-based Violence, SADC recognises that the discussion is not just about the act of violence, but also about education and prevention, as well as victim assistance.
Part Six of the SADC Protocol on Gender and Development has set the following key requirements for Member States in order to eliminate Gender-based Violence at every level:
- Enact and enforce legislation prohibiting all forms of gender-based violence;
- Develop strategies to prevent and eliminate all harmful social and cultural practices;
- Ensure that perpetrators of all forms of gender-based violence are tried by a court of competent jurisdiction;
- Ensure that the laws on gender-based violence provide for the comprehensive testing, treatment and care of survivors of sexual offences;
- Review and reform criminal laws and procedures applicable to cases of sexual offences and gender-based violence;
- Enact and adopt specific legislative provisions to prevent trafficking in persons and provide holistic serviced to the victims, with the aim or re-integrating them into society;
- Enact legislative provisions, and adopt and implement policies, strategies and programmes which define and prohibit sexual harassment in all spheres, and provide deterrent sanctions for perpetrators of sexual harassment; and
- Adopt integrated approaches, including institutional cross sector structures, with the aim of eliminating gender-based violence..
In implementing this Protocol at national level, all Member States have adopted legislation that deals with GBV and/or domestic violence, and all have developed National Action Plans to end Gender-based Violence.
SADC Strategy and Framework of Action for Addressing Gender Based Violence
In 2018, the SADC Ministers responsible for Gender Equality and Women’s Affairs in Pretoria, South Africa approved the SADC Strategy and Framework of Action for Addressing Gender Based Violence (2018-2030) to operationalize the GBV provisions of the SADC Protocol on Gender and Development. This Strategy aims to provide a common platform and guidance at regional and national levels, for an effective holistic and coordinated approach to addressing GBV in the SADC region. The Strategy is aligned to relevant regional, continental and international gender and GBV instruments.
In addition, SADC developed the SADC Regional Strategy on Women, Peace and Security 2018– 2022 and the Revised SADC Strategic Plan of Action on Combating Trafficking in Persons, especially Women and Children (2016– 2023) to guide Member States in efforts to put an end to violence against women and girls.
While Human Trafficking affects both genders, it continues to plague specifically women and children around the world. Every country is in some way affected and in the SADC region, many of the Member States are considered to be a source, destination and transit point for women and children subjected to sex and labour trafficking. By 2020, in attempts to combat human trafficking, fourteen SADC Member States have adopted legislation related to human trafficking. All Member States have signed the United Nations Palermo Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children. Legislation is only the first step in the long-term battle against human trafficking.