Shelters for victims of gender-based violence in disarray

Commissioners for the commission of gender equality.
Commissioners for the commission of gender equality.
Image: Supplied

Most shelters that are supposed to accommodate victims of gender-based violence are in disarray and fail to provide victims with proper service. The situation is the same in most provinces in the country, with the exception of the Western Cape.

This week, the commission for gender equality continued with hearings into the state of shelters in the country, where accounting officers from provincial departments responsible for these shelters responded to findings of a probe by the commission into the state of shelters.

Its investigation found there was a lack of adequate funding at most shelters, shelters were receiving late payments from the department of social development, some of them  lacked proper facilities and security. Also, there was no proper support for women after they left the shelters.

Spokesperson for the commission Javu Baloyi said the investigation started after stories were published in the media and they received complaints from victims.

Among the complaints they received was how social workers at Ikaya Lethemba (IKL) in Johannesburg failed to uphold confidentiality during consultations.

“The first complainant alleged that whilst residing at Ikhaya Lethemba, her social worker from the onset was only interested in her exit plans and showed little interest in providing her with the necessary counselling services. It was alleged further that she was provided with limited transport to attend psychologists and this resulted in her not attending adequate counselling sessions as per the contract with IKL,”  read the report.

The other complainant, according to the report, alleged that she was abused by a social worker at the same shelter (IKL) who advised her from the onset that if she did not have an exit plan, she should go back to the perpetrator.

“The complainant alleged she has not received counselling services from social workers, instead they forced her to sign forms that suggested she received counselling,” read the report.

The head of department of social development in Limpopo, Mapule Ramokgopa received harsh words from commissioners, after presenting her report which revealed there were only two shelters in the province, but it later emerged that there was actually only one functioning shelter.

“It’s really worrying to hear that a province as vast as Limpopo only has one shelter. It’s unbelievable,” said one of the commissioners, Sepanya Mogale.

Chairperson of the commission Tamara Mathebula said the report from Limpopo was depressing and showed that there was little done by the province around shelters.

“There was no meat in your report. You just gave us general figures that anyone can easily access. Your presentation showed that shelters are at the bottom of your list,” she said.

Mogale said the other disappointing fact was that the shelters were run in a way that seemed as if they were only for poor people, which she said should not be the case.

“Some of the victims are working and just need a safe space to stay in while they are trying to get back on their feet or looking for alternative accommodation,” she said.

Baloyi said after the hearings, the commission would compile a report that would be handed to different portfolio committees in parliament and to President Cyril Ramaphosa.

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