Address by the Deputy Chairperson of the National Council of Provinces, Cde Sylvia Lucas, on the Joint Sitting Debate on Gender Based Violence

18 September 2019

Speaker of the National Assembly
Chairperson of the NCOP
Deputy Speaker of the National Assembly
President of the Republic of South Africa
Deputy President of the Republic of South Africa
Members of the National Assembly
Permanent Delegates of the NCOP
Distinguished Guests
Ladies and Gentleman

2019 marks 65 years since the adoption of the 1954 Women’s Charter and 25 Years since the adoption of the 1994 Women’s Charter for Effective Equality. By its very nature, the Women’s Charter depicts key milestones in history, of women’s activism, women’s struggle and the united fight by women against all forms of oppression and discrimination.

65 years to date, women have demonstrated a collective resilience, to unite across race and political doctrines, in order to fight against patriarchy and discriminatory laws and practices. This unity of purpose, culminated in the adoption of the 1954 and 1994 charters respectively. With both charters serving as the backdrop to the development of a comprehensive policy and legislative regime, women have continued to make remarkable strides through the advancement and adoption of a broad continuum of policy, legislative and systemic advances.

Despite the notable advances that have been made towards the advancement of the women’s rights regime, the struggle terrain for women has shifted significantly, to intensify a new set of challenges. Today women face the onslaught of an oppressor with a different face and mandate. Whereas 65 years ago the iron grip of the oppressor manifested through the apartheid regime and its repressive laws, today the face of the oppressor is patriarchy and violence, which is meted out in our homes, in our streets and our communities.

Today the oppressor is not only the societal culture that has entrenched violence against women by the men they live with. It culture of oppression is further given expression and intensified through toxic forms of masculinity, which aggressively deny women the right to exercise autonomy over their bodies.

The mutilated bodies of our mothers, our sisters and our daughters vividly demonstrate the disturbing levels of violence, at the hands of an oppressor who is determined to subdue women and deny them their constitutional rights.

Whereas 65 years ago, a revolution was sparked by women to fight all forms of discrimination, particularly as they pertain to restricted movement, ironically, today still, the struggle against freedom of movement still persists. Women and girl children live in fear.

They are terrorised in their homes, brutally attacked in public spaces and savagely killed in the most unsuspecting places. This brutal onslaught seeks to keep women bound, restricted and relegated to the fringes of society, as if they have no place of belonging. The movement of women is still restricted. 

Honourable President

This Joint Sitting takes place at a very opportune time, after Parliament hosted its first Women’s Parliament of the Sixth Dispensation. Given the recent spate and escalation of gender based violence and femicide in the country, it is no coincidence that the 2019 Women’s Parliament was convened to decisively respond to this matter of national importance.

The 2019 Women’s Parliament was convened under the overarching theme, ‘A Twenty-five Year Review of the Women’s Charter for Effective Equality,’ with the sub theme being, ‘Gender and Institutionalism: Towards Strengthening the National Gender Machinery as a response to addressing Gender Based Violence in South Africa. 

Hon Members,

The Women’s Parliament took place within the contextual framework of assessing the progress made on giving effect to the Women’s Charter for Effective Equality which was adopted in 1994.  Furthermore, set against this backdrop, the Women’s Parliament discussions focused on strengthening the National Gender Machinery, through engagement with:

  • Women across the spheres of government (Ministers, Deputy Ministers, MECs, MPs, MPLs and Councillors,
  • Civil Society Organizations,
  • All Political Parties represented in Parliament
  • The Progressive Women’s Movement
  • Ordinary South African Women
  • ngaged with members of the public on the resourcing of the National Strategic Plan on Gender-Based Violence and Femicide (henceforth the ‘NSPGBV’).

Mr President,

The National Gender Machinery (NGM) was discussed to give input into policy and programmes for women’s empowerment and gender equality, as well as hold Government accountable in this regard.

To this end, the NGM is a key stakeholder in the fight against gender-based violence, both as it relates to creating awareness and advocacy, and in holding Government service provision and resourcing for gender based violence to account.

However, despite this important mandate, structures of the NGM continue to experience challenges, which hamper its effectiveness. It is important to emphasize, that in order for the NGM to make an impact in addressing gender-based violence, the challenges and weaknesses of the NGM must be addressed.

Key challenges experienced by the NGM which require review and intervention include the following:

  • A lack of coordination and synergy in terms of planning and programming between the various structures.
  • A lack of coordination between the structures.
  • A perceived overlap in terms of the mandates of the various structures.
  • A lack of authority in terms of the placement and powers vested in the structure, particularly in relation to the Gender Focal points
  • Furthermore, some of the structures do not have the requisite financial and human capacity for them to be able to carry out their mandates.

The 2019 Women’s Parliament further reiterated the importance of addressing these anomalies that continue to hamper the effective functioning of the NGM, which impedes concerted responses to end gender based violence and femicide.

Key Issues that Emerged in relation to the resourcing the NSPGBV

Participants at the Women’s Parliament also noted that the extent of gender-based violence has become a national crisis and needs a response that demonstrates our collective commitment to respond to it. They expressed the need for us to develop a culture of consent where men understand that NO indeed means NO.

Participants also expressed that gender-based violence is so widespread it can be described as being a physical and psychological warfare waged on women and LGBTI persons. It has a negative impact on everyone in society and must be addressed at all levels.

Action areas to focus on:

The Women’s Parliament noted the following key action areas in relation to strengthening the resourcing of gender-based violence:

  • Legislation and Policy: While there was an appreciation that we seem to have the requisite legislation and policy framework in place, the review of existing legislation dealing with gender based violence would assist in identifying possible policy and legislative gaps. The women’s Parliament also strongly echoed the fact that the legislative sector should play a decisive and active role in ensuring that the existing legislation is implemented.
  • Femicide legislation: developing legislation in the area of femicide as a crime in its own right should be prioritised.
  • Political accountability: There is a need to find the appropriate mechanisms to ensure accountability. At a parliamentary level, this could potentially include the creation of a specific oversight committee on gender-based violence. 
  • Oversight mechanisms: Oversight in relation to gender-based violence at Parliament must be more targeted and co-ordinated. Parliament should consider developing an inter-sectoral oversight plan in this regard. 
  • Link service delivery to Government budgets: Parliament needs to improve upon its mechanisms for engaging in gender responsive budgeting by ensuring that Government is held accountable in providing services and in integrating gender based violence into budgets and ensuring that it is linked to planning, monitoring and evaluation initiatives.
  • Ring-fence budgets for gender-based violence: Through its oversight initiatives, Parliament should interrogate Government budgets and advocate for the ring-fencing of monies allocated to gender-based violence.

Ideally, Government should look at creating a basket fund, pulling in a range of funds from different sources to support specific pillars of the National Strategic Plan. We should also look at the strengthening of the services provided by the Government on gender-based violence. In order to do this, Parliament should engage with the costing of providing services for both addressing and prevention of gender-based violence. This should be used, for example, to engage with what is being spent on services such as the provision of shelter services and victim support services. The resourcing of Thuthuzela care centres need urgent attention.

Shortage of Skills to deal with Gender Based Violence. 

The Violence Against Women and Children sector remains constrained by shortage in skilled staff. The most important of these is the sensitivity training for frontline staff in the police and medical services, and the provision of ongoing training and support services for social workers dealing with Violence Against Women and Children.

Better data collection and management for Violence Against Women and Children is required, so as to enable effective planning and delivery of programmes and services.

The role of the legislative sector in addressing uprooting GBV

Hon Members,

As the arm of state that is seized with the responsibility of overseeing the implementation of policies and legislation aimed at uprooting gender based violence, Parliament has a particularly important role to play in this fight.

In order give greater impetus to the resolutions of the 2019 Women’s Parliament, the following strategic actions can be infused into parliament’s oversight processes:

  • We must infuse a quarterly, issue based GBV and Femicide Oversight week into our Committee Oversight Week ambit. This will provide a platform for tracking the implementation of commitments made, while advancing outcome based oversight
  • We must also infuse an annual GBV Provincial Week into the NCOP programme. This issue based Provincial Week will allow Parliament to assess the mechanisms and resources in place such as shelters for victims, while assessing how allocated GBV budgets are actually spent towards response programmes in each province.

It is important to note that SALGA has also quite a number of progressive commitments to address endemic levels of GBV across our districts and localities. These commitments must also be synergised into the broader national response plan to GBV and Femicide.

Furthermore, the SANAC Men’s Sector is also currently hosting a series of Men’s Parliaments across all districts in the country, in order to deliberate on issues that relate to GBV across provinces and localities.

The NCOP GBV Provincial Week will seek to strengthen partnerships with ALL key stakeholders, so as to accelerate and give impetus to the fight to eradicate GBV and femicide.

  • We must also convene an annual GBV oversight budget summit to assess three sphere resource requirements that must support GBV response programmes
  • We must develop a GBV and femicide tracking mechanism to monitor the implementation of all house resolutions that pertain to GBV and femicide
  • We must also convene provincial coordinating summits to assess and strengthen the cohesion and functionality of the National Gender Machinery.

It is therefore important to emphasize that elaborate plans that are not adequately budgeted for, will ultimately have no impact in turning the tide of GBV and femicide in South Africa. Government’s plans, including the National GBV strategic Plan, must be adequately budgeted for in order for us to derive greater impact.

Furthermore, we must harness and strengthen partnerships with ALL key stakeholders, while ensuring that we improve coordination across departments that must work cohesively to address related matters.

Honourable Members,

The oversight role of parliamentarians must further be strengthened by building strategic partnerships across party political lines and with civil society movements. Importantly, women’s voices must also be heard.

Women in leadership positions have the power to take specific action in response to the interests of and challenges faced by other women whose voices are not being heard or taken into account.

We need a broad front of women’s organisation, grassroots organisations of all kinds, feminist –oriented groups, researchers, faith-based organisations, traditional healers and women involved in policy formulation and response plans.

We need progressive and diverse women who are going to sharpen our understanding and collectively drive all processes to emancipate women from all forms of oppression and discrimination.

Women who are going to be guided by the principle to fight for women’s emancipation and gender equality. Women who are going to fight patriarchy and develop a platform for action and work towards common policy positions. For a minute let us forget about our Political affiliation.

This is a war that has consistently challenged the autonomy that women are meant to exercise over their bodies. Let us be driven by the maxim that “I am a woman before I am a Member of the ANC, DA, EFF and other political affiliations. We need all hands on the deck to turn this tide.

Women in South Africa have a history of uniting across racial and party lines to lobby and advocate for the attainment of women’ rights. The 1954 Women’s Charter was a result of women’s experiences; their needs, their expectations and their demands.

Conclusion

I want to conclude by reminding the house and fellow South Africans that the first Women’s Parliament of the sixth dispensation served as a launching pad to kickstart Provincial Review Sessions of the 1994 Women’s Charter for effective Equality.

Within the broader context of the Women’s Charter, provincial review sessions will take stock and assess the women’s rights regime in its entirety, including all policy and legislative instruments in place, identify policy gaps and make proposals for amendments. Review processes will also assess the efficacy of structural arrangements in place, particularly as they pertain to the National Gender Machinery, Gender budgeting processes and related matters.

Furthermore, the review processes will culminate in the adoption of improved policy and legislative oversight mechanisms, while advancing to remove all structural, institutional and cultural barriers that continue to impact the pace of transformation as it pertains to gender equality in South Africa.

With the 25 Year Milestone of the Women’s Charter for effective Equality as the Backdrop, providing both scope and context for the review and analysis of the entire women’s rights regime, the 2019 Women’s Parliament initiated strategic discussions in the Sixth Parliament around all matters of policy, legislation and structural arrangements that pertain to women empowerment in South Africa.

Review processes will run over the course of 2019 and 2020, culminating in the production of a report that will include both qualitative and quantitative perspectives of the policies, laws and systemic arrangements in place, with the objective of setting the tone to crystalize our collective response all matters that relate to Gender equality.

The struggle is not over. I therefore implore every South African to ensure raise their voices in unity and undertake corresponding action to root out GBV and femicide from our society.

Mr President, our country has witnessed unprecedented l levels of violence that have taken the characterization of violence directed at foreign nationals, especially African nationals whose countries have supported our national democratic revolution in the fight against apartheid.

As parliament, we join the rest of the nation in condemning such thuggery and xenophobic malfeasance that undermines our African unity and collective national resolve that says South Africa belongs to all those who live in it, united in our diversity.

I thank you