Police officers and social workers should treat abuse and rape cases with more seriousness, a ministerial committee said on Wednesday.
"We cannot continue having social workers, police officers and health workers who treat issues of domestic violence as a private matter," the Inter-Ministerial Committee (IMC) on Violence against Women and Children said in a statement.
"There is evidence that victims reported cases of domestic violence to police or social workers, but their pleas for help fell on deaf ears or they were told to resolve the matter with their partners."
The IMC is led by Social Development Minister Bathabile Dlamini and comprises the ministers of women, justice, health, home affairs, police, and basic education.
At a meeting in Cape Town on Wednesday, the committee noted there were tougher laws to protect women and children, but police and social workers did not treat cases of rape and abuse seriously.
This also resulted in secondary victimisation of those who reported such crimes.
The committee said it would push for prevention and early intervention to protect women and children against the scourge.
"It (IMC) noted that while government has enacted various pieces of legislation to provide better protection for women and children, there was a need to move from policy to action..."
Several reserach reports, including a study done by the Medical Research Council (MRC), on gaps in government response to the problem came under discussion.
The statement said that even though there was a lot of research around the causes of violence in men, a strong focus was needed to educate "the girl child of her responsibilities to protect herself".
Several cases of the rape and murder of young women dominated newspaper headlines earlier this month.
On 1 February, 17-year old Anene Booysen was gang raped and disembowelled.
She died in hospital shortly afterwards.
The case has sparked a wave of public protest.