Esteemed Colleagues, Comrades and Friends,
The intervention on the part of Parliament on the whole matter of gender-based violence is most welcome, particularly now. For good reason, each year Parliament dedicates substantial time and resources to the gender question in South Africa, Africa and the world. This we welcome as the ruling party.
There’s a strong link between gender relations in society and the persistent scourge of violence, abuse and femicide.
As the ANC, over decades of legitimate struggles against oppressive power, we’ve said the national democratic revolution must bring an end to racism, sexism, and exploitation. It’s this reality that informs our vision of a nation that’s united, democratic, non-racial, non-sexist and prosperous.
It cannot be right that women who are in the majority, at 51.7%, continue to be wantonly abused, defiled, raped and murdered as if they were sub-human, in the African Decade of Women nogal!
Recent developments confirm our perspective on the importance of gender-mainstreaming and the need speedily to transform gender relations in our families and in various communities.
What we do in defence and empowerment of women and the girl child will really demonstrate how serious we are about building a progressive, equal and prosperous country, in a better world.
By the look of things, a woman’s life seems far cheaper than a black life in the days of slavery. Gender as an ideology, in patriarchal societies, normalises cruelty against women. Minors suffer the most. According to SAPS Crime Report 2010/2011:
“Among the dominantly social contact crimes committed against children, 51,9% were sexual offences, while only 18,7% of the social contact crimes committed against adult women were sexual offences. The dominant social contact crime committed against adult women, is common assault (46,9% of cases).”
As the ANC, we say this is a treasonable affront on the most democratic Constitution, with an entrenched Bill of Rights, this country has ever seen.
This is an abomination we all must condemn in no uncertain terms. This works against the very spirit and intent of international instruments we’ve embraced as a nation for the protection of women, children, and the most vulnerable.
Recent events have brought into sharp focus the most inhuman treatment of women. It pains us that these atrocities are executed by those known to the victims, and there’s evidence to that effect.
A Medical Research Council study reported last year that although there was a reduction in female homicides in South Africa, such a decline was less among intimate femicides. It said that intimate partner violence is now the leading cause of death of women homicide victims with 56% of female homicides being committed by an intimate partner.
The barbaric mutilation and defiling of the sacred body of Anene Booysen (17), in Bredasdorp, followed in close succession by the heartless killing of the charming Reeva Steenkamp show why the ANCWL wants to see accelerated mechanisms for the protection and respect of women’s lives.
Their bloody end unveils the brutal treatment of women in communities, among people they love.
In certain circumstances, and with no disregard for the laws we’ve made together, it should be possible to deny bail to those charged with heinous crimes against women. We need a radical message for other villains.
We’re not saying necessarily that we must resuscitate the archaic role of punishment as a public spectacle as we have it in French philosopher Michel Foucault’s text, Discipline and Punish.
But you tell me, what do we say when the disembowelled body of Anene brings to mind gory images of Shakespeare’s Lavinia, from the most violent and bloodiest of his tragedies, Titus Andronicus?
Before being ravished and wronged, her hands cut off, her tongue cut out, she brings home a painful truth that when you rape a woman you take away her life. To her violators she says (Act II.iii)
“’Tis present death I beg, and one thing more/ That womanhood denies my tongue to tell/ Keep me from their worse-than-killing lust/ And tumble me into some loathsome pit/ Where never man’s eye may behold my body/ Do this, and be a charitable murderer.”
We will never know Anene’s prayer in the hands of her murderers. We’re responding as a nation the way we’re doing because of the terror there in. Worse still, on 15 February, we were looking forward to reports on the President’s State of the Nation Address. But such was overshadowed by headlines on the fall of Silver Lakes into Bloody Lakes.
Comrades and friends,
It is not that the ANC government is not doing much for women as some may try to make-believe easily to score cheap points. Far from it! Actually, it is the ANC’s women’s league that has in partnership with different progressive forces, led the campaign of no violence against women. It is these forces that took the Rasuge case out of the dustbin when the matter had already been struck off the roll. These forces had worked hard to ensure justice in the KZN sugarcane serial case and the Brandford serial killer case in the Free State.
As we’ve been saying, a lot is being done to create a safe and caring society for all – women and men, young and old. But together, we believe more can still be done.
The point is how all of us can and must work together to sort out these barbaric deeds once and for all.
Our Constitution guarantees equality, justice and human dignity for all. But we know that in spite of our gender-sensitive policy framework, gender inequality remains endemic.
South Africa did ratify the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Convention on the Elimination of All forms of Discrimination Against Women. We’ve also committed to the Beijing Platform for Action.
The introduction of the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences and Related Matters) Amendment Act 32 of 2007 was a breakthrough for women, although with challenges.
Importantly, through this Act our beloved Republic will indeed build on the constitutional guarantees of rights to privacy, dignity, freedom and security of the person, and on the right to be free from all forms of public and private sources of violence.
Thuthuzela Care Centres that had been established by the Sexual Offences and Community Affairs unit of the National Prosecuting Authority, are redeeming victims of sexual offences and also providing much-needed services to victims of domestic violence.
By December 2011, 51 Thuthuzela Care Centres had been established. They are boosting the rate of conviction.
According to Justice and Constitutional Development, the conviction rate of Thuthuzela reported matters that were prosecuted, predominantly for rape cases, was 63% in 2010/11 and 60.7% in 2011/2012.
Each year we raise awareness through the 16 Days of Activism Campaign On No Violence Against Women and Children.
The ANC believes what should change radically is how we nurture children and how we cobble the souls of grown-ups with a gender-sensitive hammer and sickle of humanization. Among other things, we’ve used education, the apex priority, as a sustainable vehicle to achieve this end.
It is against this background that President Jacob Zuma said before this august House that we need a change of attitude. A new outlook is what we must all cultivate, united in our diversity, from the cradle to the grave – an RDP of the soul!
Our first democratic Head of State, former President Nelson Mandela, taught that: “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”
With education we can roll-back the dehumanizing effects of patriarchal power and oppressive cultural practices. This is the best way to fight inequality, poverty and unemployment.
This is a task we undertake religiously because education is intrinsically linked to all eight Millennium Development Goals. Quality education plays a role in driving programmes for gender equality, child and maternal health, reducing hunger, fighting the scourge of HIV and Aids, economic growth and building peace.
The Department of Basic Education is implementing key programmes for combating gender-based violence, sexual abuse and harassment. We have incorporated gender issues, including the prevention and management of gender-based violence, into the school curriculum. We teach the young to honour dignity and embrace the values in the Constitution.
We have created a learner-focused website to help young people with understanding, preventing and reporting sexual abuse. (www.speakoutfreely.co.za). It went live in 2011 and will be used to highlight other issues of concern impacting on lives of young people, like drug and alcohol abuse, school safety and moral decadence.
Through the social cohesion platform, we have trained School Governing Bodies, Representative Councils for Learners and teachers on Values in Action that include key sessions on gender and sexual abuse and harassment.
The Department has a National School Safety Framework that includes a partnership Protocol with the South African Police Services, to promote safer schools.
This framework includes linking schools to local police stations, forming school safety committees and training SGBs, teachers, learners and district officials on issues of violence, from bullying to sexual violence.
But we should remember that schools are microcosms of the broader society and thus the high levels of sexual abuse, violence and rape in our society are a matter of grave concern.
We recognise that literacy and empowerment of rural women is essential if the quality of their lives is to improve, and they are able to access justice and economic empowerment opportunities.
Without gender equality and women’s empowerment, we will never see an end to violence. We need a new breed of men to help lay a solid foundation of a non-sexist society.
This Thursday, with President Jacob Zuma, we will launch the DBE-Lead SA campaign against rape, abuse, and violence against women and the girl-child.
On the morning of 1 March, at 08H00, over 10 million of our learners will assemble in their schools and take a stand against violence and abuse.
Schools are requested to educate our children about the evils of crime and in return, they should pledge that as children and as our future they will never ever involve themselves in crime. They will protect women, children, people with disability and respect and uphold everybody’s rights.
We appeal for support from all of us, to make this campaign a success. The appeal is to all parents to be more attentive to the needs children, to teachers to spread these messages in class and be sensitive to the needs and wellbeing of children in their care. Not only on the 1st but ensure that this continues throughout the education of our children.
All must take the current when it serves, for the sake of our children, or the voyage of our life will be bound in shallows and in miseries.
As a matter of extreme urgency, we need to enhance the implementation of the Sexual Offences National Policy framework and fast-track investigations on the re-establishment of Sexual Offences Courts.
In closing, notwithstanding our challenges, we’ve made great strides. What has assisted is the fact that women have always been at the forefront of the struggle. We must remain in the trenches of the struggle for gender equality.
As responsible citizens, we must work together to make women’s rights human rights. This is an imperative on which depends the sustainability and prosperity of all humankind.
To the women of this country, we say: Stop being speechless complainers. Your tongues are intact, unlike Lavinia whose tongue was cut out by her vile rapists. Speak out! Take a stand against abuse. Reclaim your bodies. Help us fight this scandalous war against women and children.
With unity in action, we can dismantle the oppressive reality making women and girls second-class citizens, sex objects, the wretched of the earth and the rejects of life. We cannot afford to spare any effort at this moment, there are still other villains out there like the Nasrec serial killer rapist.
Our women are not safe and it cannot be right that in their own homes, communities, country, they have to stay in constant fear of being raped, assaulted and killed. It just cannot be. Something has to give fellow South Africans. The few evil among us must not be allowed to make the life of the many law-abiding and peace-loving South Africans a nightmare that it currently is.
The ANC’s message is that working together we can do more to ensure that “All People in South Africa are and Feel Safe”.
I thank you.