This week, PS talks with Tlaleng Mofokeng, a member of the Commission for Gender Equality in South Africa and an expert in sexual and reproductive health and rights.
Project Syndicate: Modern development strategies, you wrote in February, “fail to recognize the need for concerted action to protect women from violence and uphold the rights of victims.” During COVID-19 lockdowns, violence against women has surged. How might strategies to combat COVID-19 spur broader improvement in protecting women from violence?
Tlaleng Mofokeng: All relevant investments included in those strategies – from health care to social safety nets – must explicitly acknowledge and address gender-based violence and femicide (GBVF). Crucially, they must protect all women, regardless of age, physical location, disability, sexual orientation, sexual and gender identity, gender expression, nationality, or any other factor. Violence against children is inextricable from this issue.
In other words, COVID-19 strategies must be explicitly and purposefully intersectional, incorporating a multi-disciplinary approach to violence prevention, as well as survivor support, justice, and healing. Finally, policymakers must ensure that adequate resources are immediately allocated to this cause.
PS: You have lamented how few victims of physical or sexual intimate-partner violence or non-partner sexual violence see their attackers punished. Obviously, stigma against victims of gender-based violence, and the deep-rooted misogyny it reflects, cannot be rooted out overnight. But are there feasible interventions that can help victims and ensure that more perpetrators face justice?
TM: GBVF must be completely outlawed in all its forms. Governments can and must ensure that victims or their survivors do not face long delays and repeated postponements when attempting to take attackers to court. To that end, building capacity in the criminal justice system is essential. Better coordination among relevant agencies – such as police, prosecutors, forensic laboratories, health authorities, and community welfare organizations – would also help. All of these resources must be brought to bear in order to protect and restore victims’ dignity.
We ask all our Say More contributors to tell our readers about a few books that have impressed them recently. Here are Mofokeng's picks:
by bell hooks
Written by a feminist icon and renowned cultural critic, this book considers what fuels societal polarization and how to heal the divisions that cause suffering. Her exploration of love and inspiration helps readers instill caring, compassion, and strength in our homes, schools, and workplaces.
by Loretta Ross, Lynn Roberts, Erika Derkas, Whitney Peoples, and Pamela Bridgewater
This anthology documents two decades of work initiated by SisterSong Women of Color Health Collective. The writings this book assembles expand the social-justice discourse, with a focus on the human rights-based “reproductive justice” framework, created by SisterSong to push conversations about reproductive rights beyond the pro-choice/pro-life binary.
by Winnie Madikizela-Mandela
A collection of letters and diary entries written by the South African activist and politician, and Nelson Mandela’s second wife, during her 491-day detention in apartheid South Africa, this book is as devastating as it is inspiring. It shows the brutality Winnie experienced and the depths of despair she reached, as well as her incredible resilience and even defiance in the face of suffering. This young wife and mother emerged from her long detention unbowed and determined to continue the struggle for freedom.
From the PS Archive
Mofokeng says the Trump administration’s anti-abortion crusade is hurting women in South Africa and far beyond. Read more.
Around the web
In an interview with the Health and Human Rights Journal, Mofokeng reflects on her background, her past work, and her plans – and hopes – for the future. Read the transcript.