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South African President’s 5-Point Plan to Tackle Gender-Based Violence

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa on Wednesday announced a five-point emergency plan to put a halt to gender-based violence during an extraordinary joint sitting of Parliament.

The five points are prevention, strengthening the criminal justice system, enhancing the legal and policy framework, ensuring adequate care, support and healing for victims of violence and strengthening the economic power of women.

The plan will be implemented over the next six months.

1. Prevention

“In implementing our prevention measures, we must recognise that violence against women is not a problem of women. It is a problem of men,” Ramaphosa said.

This part of the plan entails the following measures:

  • A mass media campaign that will target communities, public spaces, workplaces, campuses, schools and recreational spaces like taverns. The focus will be on men’s groups and formations, youth at risk and offenders inside prisons.
  • Women’s rights and gender power relations will be part of Life Orientation in the school curriculum.
  • Gender-sensitivity training for law enforcement officials, prosecutors, magistrates and policymakers. Those who are found in breach of their responsibilities in this regard will be held to account.
  • Train and deploy prevention activists to all of 278 municipalities. They will engage in household visits and community interventions focused on changing harmful social norms.

2. Strengthen the criminal justice system

“This is to ensure that justice is served, perpetrators are held to account, survivors do not suffer secondary victimisation, and the law acts as a deterrent,” Ramaphosa said.

It includes the following measures:

  • Directing resources to improve the functioning of sexual offences courts, Thuthuzela care centres, and the Family Violence, Child Protection and Sexual Investigation Units of the SAPS;
  • Funding has already been approved for the establishment of an additional eleven sexual offences courts over the next financial year; and
  • The Department of Justice and Constitutional Development will clear the backlog of criminal cases for rape and other forms of gender-based violence through the establishment of special courts, hiring additional court staff and clearing the backlog at forensic labs.

3. Enhance the legal and policy framework

“Since the advent of democracy, we have enacted several laws and undertaken a number of programmes to tackle gender inequality in our society, to promote human rights and to enable effective action against gender-based violence,” Ramaphosa said.

“In many respects, however, these measures have fallen short of what is needed to confront the severity of the challenges we face.”

The measures to improve the legal and policy framework are:

  • Proposing a range of legal and regulatory reforms to Parliament to strengthen the response of the State to gender-based violence and to ensure that all crimes against women and children attract harsher minimum sentences.
  • Engaging with the judiciary on the role that it can play in supporting the national effort to end gender-based violence to ensure abusers, rapists and murderers know that they will be caught and punished. The State should oppose bail for suspects charged with the rape and murder of women and children and those who are found guilty of such crimes should not be eligible for parole.
  • Strengthen programmes to rehabilitate offenders and youth at risk. Finalise legislation like the Victim Support Services Bill, which will strengthen support for GBV programmes and services.
  • Ramaphosa called on all parliamentary committees to prioritise these areas of legislative reform and ensure that we have effective legislation in place without delay.

4. Ensure adequate care, support and healing for victims of violence

Measures in this part of the plan are:

  • Standardising the framework for funding civil society organisations working with survivors of gender-based violence;
  • Providing post-rape training for healthcare providers and lay counsellors who provide care and support to victims and survivors;
  • Working with the private sector, concerned individuals and other institutions to substantially increase the number of Thuthuzela care centres across the country from the current 54 to over 100 by 2025;
  • Meet with representatives of the private sector to discuss the establishment of a Gender-based Violence and Femicide Fund to increase support to survivors, including persons with disability and the LGBTQI+ community;
  • As drug and alcohol abuse fuel gender-based violence, the Department of Social Development has been tasked with increasing the visibility of substance abuse awareness and education and prioritising funding for more treatment facilities; and
  • Resource the gender-based violence framework in universities and colleges, which will include the establishment of gender equity offices in these institutions. Ramaphosa will meet the universities’ vice-chancellors to come up with initiatives that are focused on what should be done at institutions of higher learning.

Improve the economic power of women

“Women are often hostages in abusive relationships because of poverty and unemployment. Young women, in particular, are vulnerable to exploitation from older men with financial resources. By tackling unequal economic power dynamics we can reduce the vulnerability of women to abuse,” Ramaphosa said.

5. This will include the following measures:

  • Prioritise women when it comes to access to employment, training opportunities and procurement of services, and call upon the private sector to do the same;
  • Reach the target to set aside 30% of the value of its procurement for women-owned businesses, and to progressively increase that to 40%;
  • Prioritise support and training for women engaging in small business and informal sector activity, and call on established business to be part of this effort;
  • All government departments will be expected to adhere to gender-responsive planning, budgeting, monitoring and evaluation; and
  • Improve collection and analysis of data to monitor our GBV programmes.

Comments from other political parties

The EFF‘s Veronica Mente noted that there was no quick fix to the problem. “Our only help is successful policing, prosecuting, tough sentencing and working prisons. We will stay with this problem forever, as long as we do not fix these systems,” she said.

IFP MP Liezl van der Merwe commended Ramaphosa’s initiative and pledged her support. But she noted that following previous high-profile murders of women such as Anene Booysen, Karabo Mokoena and toddler Courtney Pieters, the government had pledged action – but to no avail.

Van der Merwe said that in announcing the interventions outlined in his address, Ramaphosa had shown that he had the courage to act. However, what remained to be seen was whether the government had the courage to govern, the courage to do what was right and the courage to save the nation from becoming a failed state.

“To date, the disjunction between what our women endure and what our government does in response has been alarmingly inadequate,” she added.

ACDP leader Kenneth Meshoe

called for harsher punishments for rape, saying that to help send a clear message that the justice system is serious about fighting gender-based violence, rapists should be denied bail and parole.

UDM leader Bantu Holomisa complimented Ramaphosa’s announcement, saying that the president spoke like a commander-in-chief.

DA leader Mmusi Maimane has called on political party leaders to cast aside their differences and recognise the severity of the gender-based violence crisis consuming South Africa.

“Let us make the dignity, respect and safety of women and girls in our society our number one priority,” he said. He said it was tragic was that few perpetrators were ever arrested and prosecuted, resulting in a conviction rate for rape of just 5%.

Maimane called on parents to set a better example to their sons. “We must raise them to respect girls and women as their equal. We must show our boys, through all our actions, what is right and what is wrong,” he said.

Children should be taught about consent at school, he said, adding that Kenya had achieved dramatic results with a “No Means No” programme in their schools. “We need to introduce similar consent classes in our own life orientation curriculum,” said Maimane, adding that culture, tradition or religion should not be allowed to offer a hiding place for those who commit such acts.

Maimane said the existing legislation was not up to the task as the act dealing with domestic abuse was 20 years old and out of touch. The DA leader proposed that parliament establishes an ad hoc committee to investigate the systemic causes of gender-based violence and to map out long-term solutions.

To watch the National Assembly session, click here.

 

For information as to how Relocation Africa can help you with your Mobility, Immigration, Research, Remuneration, and Expat Tax needs, email marketing@relocationafrica.com, or call us on +27 21 763 4240.

Sources: [1], [2], [3], [4]. Image sources: shi zhao [1], [2].

Protests Against Gender-Based Violence in South Africa Continue

Protests against the severe state of gender-based violence in South Africa are continuing. Many citizens are taking to the streets – in their own areas, alongside main transit routs, at universities, or in front of Parliament in Cape Town – to speak out against violence by men, against women, that has become the norm in South Africa.

Some are advocating for criminal justice reform, such as no bail for sex offenders, a public sex offender registry, and lifetime sentences for gender-based violence offenders. Some are even advocating for the death penalty to be written into law. Others’ main concern is that all men recognize there is a problem, and speak out against it, even if they have not committed acts of violence themselves. Many feel that men who keep quiet, instead of educating themselves about the situation and shaming those who do ill, are complicit.

The situation

Hundreds of protesters gathered outside parliament in Cape Town on Thursday to register their voices against gender-based violence, after a University of Cape Town student, Uyinene Mrwetyana was found dead this week after she went missing.

Police recorded 177,620 reported crimes against women, 36,731 sexual offences, including rape, assault and the murder of 2,930 South African women, according to the SAPS annual report in the 2017/2018 financial year.

Many women feel unsafe when walking alone (or even in groups) on the street, going to the bathroom, declining advances by men when at a bar, attending parties, or even just going about their business in the workplace or at school. All this, while many men are oblivious to the situation, and privileged in their feeling safe while doing the exact same things.

Amnesty International comments

Human rights’ group Amnesty International said on Thursday that gender-based violence in South Africa had reached “alarming levels”.

The organisation’s executive director for South Africa, Shenilla Mohamed, made the statement in response to a speech given earlier in the day by president Cyril Ramaphosa in which he addressed the country’s gender-based violence (GBV) and femicide rates, following a spate of brutal incidents that left many in the country incensed.

“Gender-based violence has reached undeniably alarming levels in South Africa. It is absolutely unacceptable that women feel they have to watch what they wear in public and be careful about where they are seen socializing, for fear that they may face violent reprisals including rape or even death,” said Mohamed.

“The time for sloganeering and politicking has passed. President Cyril Ramaphosa must now translate into action his vow that ‘enough is enough’. It’s nothing short of a national emergency that femicide and rape rates are increasing countrywide, and the government must act decisively to tackle these issues.”

According to Mohamed, decisive action would entail appropriate training for police officers, to enable them to “sensitively and objectively” investigate incidents of GBV and domestic violence.

“In order to ensure alleged offenders are brought to justice, the government must also ensure that gender-based violence is taken seriously at every level of the justice system, including by challenging discriminatory stereotypes about victims and survivors.

“However, calls to bring back the death penalty, by some in society, are misguided and will not solve this problem. The death penalty is a symptom of a culture of violence not a solution to it, and there is no credible evidence that it has a greater deterrent effect on crime than a prison term.

“The government would do better to channel its resources to ensure the effective administration of justice through proper investigations into incidents of gender-based violence and fair trials for those accused of the crimes.”

UCT students crowdfund to retaliate

A group of UCT students, lead by Samantha Perkins and Zoar Lewis has launched a crowdfunding campaign on BackaBuddy to stand up against gender-based violence in South Africa.

In the wake of a very dark period in South Africa’s history, the initiative aims to honour Uyinene Mrwetyana, Jesse Hess, Leighandre Jegels, Lynette Volschenk, Meghan Cremer and others who have lost their lives due to senseless acts of violence this year.

“We currently face what’s akin to a war against women in South Africa. Recent events have demonstrated that women are not at liberty to go anywhere without having to fear for their lives – albeit to, from or at the grocery store, campus, a club, a pre-school, the post office, or even one’s own home. It has been clearly illustrated that there simply is NO safe place for the women of this country,” says spokesperson and law student, Perkins.

“This is the breaking point, the ‘enough is enough’ moment, the time to stand up and say that we WILL NOT tolerate this any longer. We have to deal with this culture of violence against women that is so deeply entranced within our society,” says Philosophy and English Literature, student Nomazwi Nkoane.

In retaliation to the 11% increase in murders and violent attacks against women in South Africa, the #IWillNotBeNext initiative has been launched on donations based crowdfunding platform, BackaBuddy.

Funds raised will be used to purchase and distribute a minimum of 1400 units of pepper spray to female students at the University of Cape Town.

“It is in our collective best interest to address this sickness that exists in our country, so in addition, we ask that you continue the conversation and help us keep this narrative alive. Enough is enough,” says Perkins.

In less than 24 hours, the campaign has raised a total of R44,523.72 towards the fundraising target of R100,000.

“If overfunded, we hope to benefit as many tertiary education institutions as possible. It is our hope that this will at least make a small difference to the safety of women in the interim before Government decides to initiate serious efforts to solve this deep structural issue within our society,” says Perkins.

Support this campaign, by making a donation on BackaBuddy, by clicking here.

26 Vice-chancellors from SA universities to meet with the President on September 13

Vice-Chancellors at all 26 universities have called for a meeting with President Cyril Ramaphosa to discuss the scourge of gender-based violence.

“All 26 Vice-Chancellors will engage the Presidency by Friday the 13th of September, with the view of registering our anger and developing a plan of action for addressing the scourge at the universities,” Universities South Africa spokesperson Mateboho Green explained.

She said universities had agency and much to contribute to transforming the culture that produced this form of “cowardly violence”.

“Our people are angry – angry about the violent abuse of women that happens daily, angry about not being heard, angry about the irrational violence that robs people of their lives, angry about the lawlessness in our country, angry about the wanton destruction of infrastructure and angry about the empty promises and lack of political leadership on these matters,” said Green.

“We have every right to be angry. At the same time, we cannot allow our anger to spill over in a way which reduces us to lawlessness or advances further harm.”

Green believed there were political forces at play who were keen to manipulate the national tragedy for their own agendas “both within and beyond the academic sector, regardless of the rules of universities or the law of the land”.

“Universities South Africa and its members have a zero tolerance approach to gender based harm and progressive policies are in place to ensure that perpetrators are dealt with decisively.

“All complaints of gender-based harm should be referred to the respective Gender Equity Offices at the universities who have committed to investigating all complaints expeditiously.”

The President speaks, but many say his words are not enough

President Cyril Ramaphosa has announced a host of measures against gender-based violence in the wake of protests against the increasing rate of rape and femicide in SA.

After thousands marched to demand that he act, Ramaphosa told the nation the government would overhaul and modernize the national sex-offender register and he would ask parliament to consider amending the legislation to make the register public.

Sonke Gender Justice, a gender rights group, has questioned whether it will amount to any real changes.

During last night’s address, the president described the recent deaths of Uyinene Mrwetyana, Jesse Hess, Leighandré Jegels as well as the scores of other women and children as a “crime against our common humanity” and a “national emergency”.

While saying he was appalled by the violence, Ramaphosa claimed that there has been progress on the implementation of decisions which were taken at last year’s summit on gender-based violence.

He cited the review of laws on domestic violence and sexual offences, and said there will be efforts to “prioritize the needs and interests of survivors”, while boasting the opening of 92 dedicated sexual offences courts since 2013 and plans for a further 11 in this financial year.

He also promised an overhaul of the the sexual offenders register, promising that parliament will be asked to consider amending legislation to make the register public, while also proposing harsher minimum sentences for gender-based crimes, and an instruction to the state to oppose bail and parole applications for those guilty of sexual offences.

“Violence against women is not a women’s problem. It is not a problem of what a woman said or did, what a woman was wearing or where she was walking. Violence against women is a men’s problem. It is men who rape and kill women,” Ramaphosa said.

“There is therefore an obligation of men of our country to act to end such behavior and such crimes. As men, let us speak out. We must not look away. We must face gender-based violence head on.”

He also promised re-opening of all gender-based crimes that have been irregularly closed or not investigated, while promising increased protection for the LGBT+ community.

Nonhlanhla Skosana, community education and mobilization unit manager at Sonke Gender Justice lauded the president for “making all the right noises” but bringing “nothing new” to the table.

“He said nothing new,” she said after his address last night, citing the lack of implementation of resolutions taken during previous engagement regarding the scourge of gender-based violence countrywide.

“He talked during last year’s Gender-Based Violence summit. He talked during the ANC manifesto launch, and he generally talks the right language, but what we need is implementation and funding.”

Skosana questioned the effectiveness of the sexual offences courts, saying they are under-resourced, while Thuthuzela Care Centre, an organisation that caters for survivors of sexual and domestic abuse, with 54 branches across the country, is facing a financial crisis, leaving them unable to render services.

She mentioned that there is a need for at least R42 billion to ensure the gender-based violence interventions run smoothly.

While Ramaphosa last night said the finance ministry would be instructed to make sure funding is available for this, she questioned why little has been done until now.

 

For information as to how Relocation Africa can help you with your Mobility, Immigration, Research, Remuneration, and Expat Tax needs, email marketing@relocationafrica.com, or call us on +27 21 763 4240.

Sources: [1], [2], [3], [4], [5]. Image sources: [1], [2].