01 June 2017
Ladies and Gentlemen
This august house is holding a discussion on gruesome victimisation of children andwomen, on the first day of our youth month. Given the manner in which child abuse has become more prevalent in our country, Save the Children International has called it a pandemic. Honourable Members, heinous crimes against women and children are a shame of our times.
It has become almost an expectation that during the annual child protection week and 16 days of activism, the public get to know about the most gruesome acts of violence against women and children.
One life lost is one too many. Our society has over the past few weeks been entangled psychologically in pain and suffering emanating from:
- murders of women in the hands of their loved ones (femicide),
- children found buried in shallow graves on what is supposed to be their playgrounds,
- child trafficking, abduction and kidnapping,
- child marriage, illegal adoptions and sexual exploitation’
1.1. The Cost of Gender Based Violence to Society
Families and friends who live with the survivors of these brutal attacks often carry the pain which the victims are going through. They bear the brunt of emotional costs.
Gender based violence negatively affects our country’s GDP because it is well established that long term consequences of victimization affect productivity. We also pay heavily in terms of promoting survivors’ well-being and holding perpetrators accountable. The costs which nations pay dearly because of these crimes are in terms of:
- law enforcement,
- health care, lost labour,
- high levels of school drop-out
- children survivors developmental milestones, and
- general progress in development.
1.2. OR Tambo’s Principles on Women’s Emancipation
His Excellency President Jacob Zuma has declared this year, “The Year of Oliver Tambo”, it is therefore fitting that we be reminded of Tambo’s principles on women’s participation and emancipation.
Cde OR reminded us at the concluding session of the Conference of the Women`s Section of the ANC on 14 September 1981 in Luanda, Angola, that:
"The mobilisation of women is the task not only of women alone, or of men alone, but of all of us, men and women alike."
To deal with this scourge is a revolution within a revolution; this is one revolution that we should all wage.
Women of South Africa fought side-by-side with men during liberation struggles and even this attack on women calls for all of us to fight side by side.
2. THE SOUTH AFRICAN CONSTITUTION
We find solace in knowing that women and children’s rights are protected in the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, 1996, which is the supreme law of the country.
2.1. Section 9 – Equality Clause
The equality clause, section 9, calls for the right to equal protection and benefit of the law and expressly forbids unfair gender based discrimination.
2.2. Section 12 – Freedom and Security of the Person
Section 12 of the Constitution provides for the freedom and security of the person, including freedom from violence against women.
The mere fact that the equality clause is entrenched in the Constitution should encourage us to fight vigorously to triumph over gender based violence.
3. WOMEN’S REVOLUTIONARY AGENDA AND RESILIENCE
Struggles for gender equality have over decades been at the core of our struggles against racism and class oppression.
3.1. Mobilising against the Native Land Act
When the colonial government sought to spatially segregate people through land dispossession using the 1913 Natives’ Land Act, women couldn’t let this happen on their watch for land was critical for their survival.
Incredible women of substance such as Cde Charlotte Maxeke, who was an activist, a teacher, politician and founder of the Bantu Women`s League of South Africa mobilized other women to march and protest against these inhuman actions of the colonial government. This was not the only progressive resistance of women at the time.Cde Maxeke also detested pass laws and the manner in which they sought to restrict the movement of women. She organised and mobilised women against the pass laws. In June 1913 she led the first anti-pass campaign against the Union government.
3.2. The Women’s March to the Union Building
In 1955 at a meeting of the Federation of South African Women (FSAW), Cde Margaret Gazo made a suggestion that: "Let us go to Pretoria ourselves and protest to the Government against laws that oppress us."
On 9 August 1956, 20,000 women from all parts of South Africa staged a victorious march on the Union Buildings. The success of the demonstration challenged the stereotypes about women and their assumed lack of political drive.
In praising the resilience, courage and strength expressed by women at the march, men ended up saying: “Wathint' Abafazi, Wathint' Imbokodo”
4. GENDER MAINSTREAMING
The democratic government has put gender mainstreaming at the centre of our socio-economic transformation agenda.
4.1. The Establishment of Women’s Ministry
The creation of the women’s ministry shows government’s highest commitment to protecting children and women’s rights. Many communities have shown support and appreciation of the dedication demonstrated by Minister Susan Shabangu, who has been moving from community to community encouraging communities to work with government in fighting this scourge of gender based violence.
4.2. The UN’s Call for 16 Days of Activism
The United Nation’s Secretary General’s study on Ending Violence against Women: From Words to Action (October 2006), amongst others, stressed that:
- The most effective weapon to fight violence against women is a clear demonstration of political commitment, such as statements by high-level government officials, backed by action and the commitment of resources by the States, and that
- States should take urgent and concrete measures to secure gender equality and protect women’s human rights.
South Africa has expanded “16 Days of Activism Against Violence on Women and Children” campaign to a year-long campaign.
4.3. Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) – Agenda 2030
South Africa is fully committed to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development that was formally adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on 25 September 2015. SDG 5 talks to the achievement of gender equality and empowerment of all women and girls, which should be driven by member states. South Africa is working very hard to ensure that we excel in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.
4.4. African Union Commission Agenda 2063
Aspiration number six of the AU’s Agenda 2063, encourages us to build: “An Africa Whose Development is people driven, relying on the potential offered by African People, especially its Women and Youth, and caring for Children”.
4.5. South Africa’s Ratification of CEDAW
As South Africa we further bound ourselves by being a signatory to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) in 1995.
4.6. South Africa’s Ratification of the African Charter on Peoples and Human Rights
South Africa has ratified the African Charter on Peoples and Human rights (in 1996). Article 18 of the African Charter compels member states to ensure the elimination of every discrimination against women and also to ensure the protection of the rights of women and the child.
4.7. South Africa’s Ratification of the UNICEF’s Convention on the Rights of the Child
South Africa ratified the UNICEF’s Convention on the Rights of the Child in June 1995.
5. LEGISLATION TO ANCHOR GENDER EQUALITY
Government has come up with a legislative framework to ensure that criminals who commit these crimes are prosecuted and sentenced accordingly. Our progressive legislation paved the way for us to establish:
- The Commission for Gender Equality (CGE);
- Equality Courts;
- Sexual Offences Courts;
- Family Courts; and
- Enforce the Domestic Violence Act.
Government has done all of this to ensure people are held accountable and to send an unambiguous but clear message that perpetrators of such heinous crimes will be held accountable.
Strategic centres such as Thuthuzela centres have been established using donor money for victim empowerment. Government has also invested in the training of officials in the criminal justice system to ensure proper implementation of our laws. Government will continue to intervene to ensure the integrated criminal justice system works, for greater impact specifically in stopping this anarchy.
6. OUR ANALYSIS
Povertyis a major cause of vulnerability to gender based violence. Some of our young girls are lured with promises of better economic and social opportunities, to their detriment. We saw in the media, news about the brothels in the East Rand, where young children disguised as hairdressers are prostituted. Mothers who are economically independent are better equipped to support their children. Hence in terms of the BBBEE legislation women inclusion has been elevated.
7. NEW STRATEGIC DIRECTIONS
The question is where we go now that we have all these intervention mechanisms in place.
7.1. Border Management Authority
The establishment of a Border Management Authority (BMA) is a critical intervention to ensure that even at our 72 Port of Entry women and children are protected from violations and crimes such as human trafficking and abduction.
7.2. Education and Skills Development Initiatives for the Youth and Women
Capacity building and improving on the required resources for effective interventions have been priorised.
The National Education Policy Act 27 of 1996 and the South African Schools Act 84 of 1996 promote access to education for all. The Further Education and Training Colleges Act 16 of 2006 regulates further education and training and advancement of women in previously male-dominated fields. The Skills Development Act 97 of 1998 provides for upgrading and new skills for employment. Universal primary education is already a reality. A major challenge that poses a threat to the retention of girls in education is teenage pregnancy. Priority should continue to be accorded to combating sexual offences and domestic violence.
7.3. Civil Society Mobilization
The fight against gender based violence cannot be waged by government alone. Broader civil society and the various political parties have to drive programmes targeted at arresting this scourge. We should all take a stand, and also support the trending hashtag, #notinmyname.
“Uyi ndoda ecabanga kanjani uma ushaya owesifazane, umuhlukumeza, buphi Ubuntu bakho?”
We will continue strengthening the interventions of the criminal justice cluster. Nobody should look away, or turn a blind eye. We are all obliged, civil society, business, government and the youth to lend a hand.
7.4. Early Birth Registration
Registration of birth within 30 days is a free universal right that provides an opportunity for the creation of genealogy, family tree, natural justice, a credible and accurate National Population Register (NPR). It further serves as a barometer or statistical instrument we use to measure and scale up progress about children, guarantees protection of children, contributes to better planning, access to children’s rights and basic services.
Thus, the basic purpose of birth registration is to guarantee the civil status of all persons based on legal principles, through which individuals can be assured of the legitimacy and authenticity of civil status.
7.5. Statement by the ANC NEC On Gender Based Violence
As we debate today we make a clarion call to all political parties represented here today to take up this campaign. The ANC cannot watch as our country is plagued by the scourge of violence against women and children. Our Secretary General, Cde Gwede Mantashe, said in a statement that the ANC calls to action all its structures and society at large to become actively engaged in campaigns that involve communities in the prevention of femicide, rape and child molestation. We must affirm women’s inalienable right to justice, safety, freedom and equality.
This campaign, against violence on children, should assist us all to understand the value of life and that physical, mental and sexual abuse rob people of their dignity.
In closing I appeal to all survivors of gender based violence in our communities in both urban and rural areas that they should at all times break the silence, speak out and expose these perpetrators. To our communities, they should become a human shield and smell like a rose’s scent any threat of violation of children and mobilise for action lines. Gains made so far give us hope, and we believe this battle of gender based violence will be won if we work together.
I thank you.