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Meet Sergeant Matjeka, the cop who has dedicated his career to ending GBV

Sergeant Matjeka, the cop who has dedicated his career to ending GBV

Growing up in rural Moletjie in Limpopo, Ishmael Matjeka witnessed the scourge of gender-based violence (GBV) through his childhood. Even as a young boy he decided to dedicate his life to protecting vulnerable women and children.

Since then, Sergeant Matjeka has become one of the most celebrated police officers at the forefront of South Africa’s fight against GBV.

Since joining the police service in 2010 at Erasmia police station in Pretoria, most of his cases have involved violent crimes against women.

In less than five years, the specialist investigator has managed to secure 19 life sentence imprisonments for several serial rapists who were tormenting women and children. 

His most recent case was the biggest of his career. He led the investigation of the serial rapist Prince Mabalena, who was sentenced in July to 16 terms of life imprisonment and an additional 15 years for 36 counts of rape.

“What is so sad is that when you investigate these cases, you often find that the perpetrator and the victim are related in one way or another. This tells you that women are abused by people they know, the people who should be protecting them,” Matjeka said.

He makes it very clear that he is not done putting perpetrators of GBV behind bars.

“Those who take advantage of women have no place in our communities. We will do everything in our power to arrest them and let the law deal with them,” he said.

International and regional instruments

Efforts to fight violence against women can take many forms and access to justice, or lack thereof, for such violence varies greatly depending on the justice system. International and regional instruments are increasingly used as the basis for national legislation and policies to eradicate violence against women.

The Inter-American Convention to Prevent, Eradicate and Punish Violence Against Women – also known as the Belém do Parà Convention, for instance, has been applied by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) in its first case of domestic violence to condemn Brazil in the Maria da Penha case. This led the Brazilian government to enact in 2006 the Maria da Penha Law, the country's first law against domestic violence against women.[312] There is also, for instance, the South Asian Agreement on Regional Cooperation's (SAARC) Protocol to End Trafficking in Women and Children.[45]

Examples of measures put in place

As violence is often committed by a family member, women first started by lobbying their governments to set up shelters for domestic violence survivors. The Julia Burgos Protected House established in Puerto Rico in 1979 was the first shelter in Latin America and the Caribbean for "battered women". In 2003, 18 out of the 20 countries in the region had legislation on domestic or family violence, and 11 countries addressed sexual violence in their laws. Legislative measures to protect victims can include restraining orders, which can be found in Colombia, El Salvador, Guatemala, Paraguay, Venezuela, Turkey, the United States and many western European countries for instance.

Courts can also be allowed by law (Germany, 2001) to order the perpetrator to leave the home so that victims do not have to seek shelter. Countries were urged to repeal discriminatory legislation by 2005 following the review of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action in 2000. Egypt, for instance, abolished a law that exempted men from rape charges when marrying their victims. However, the goal of antiviolence legislation is often to keep the families together, regardless of the best interests of women, which perpetuate domestic violence.[45]

Innovative measures have been pioneered in a number of countries to end violence against women. In Brazil and Jordan, women's police stations have been introduced, and one-stop women's shelters were created in Malaysia and Nicaragua.

Marital rape has been illegal in every American state and the District of Columbia since 1993, but is rarely prosecuted in America.[313]

In 2013 the UN General Assembly passed its first resolution calling for the protection of defenders of women's human rights.[46] The resolution urges states to put in place gender-specific laws and policies for the protection of women's human rights defenders and to ensure that defenders themselves are involved in the design and implementation of these measures, and calls on states to protect women's human rights defenders from reprisals for cooperating with the UN and to ensure their unhindered access to and communication with international human rights bodies and mechanisms.[47] The United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 5 is also a global initiative with a target to eliminate all forms of violence against women.[314]

Challenges faced by women in accessing justice and limitations of measures

There can be a de jure or de facto acceptance of violent behaviors and lack of remedies for victims.[45]

Lack of criminalization: in many places, acts of abuse, especially acts such as female genital mutilation, marital rape, forced marriage and child marriage, are not criminalized, or are illegal but widely tolerated, with the laws against them being rarely enforced. There are instances where

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Erasmia Limpopo Mabalena Matjeka Moletjie


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