Debate on Women’S Month 2019: Gender and Institutionalism: Towards Strengthening the Naanchortional Gender Machinery as a response to addressing Gender Based Violence in South Africa

4 September 2019, Old Chamber, Parliament, Cape Town

Honourable House Chairperson,
Chairperson of the Portfolio Committee,
Honourable Ministers, Deputy Ministers,
Portfolio Committee Members on Women, Youth and Persons with Disabilities
Members of Parliament
Select Committee members on Women, Youth and Persons with Disabilities
The various Portfolio Committees represented here

I am standing here today with a heavy heart as I do not know how many times we as a nation should have a debate that talks about gender based violence and Femicide. I am still reeling in shock at the brutal murder of Ms Uyinene Mrwetyana in the hands on an employee in the Post Office. A person who is employed and paid by the state and instead of providing a service with a smile, brutally ended the life of this innocent young girl.

We read the story of SA boxing Champion Ms Leighandre Baby Lee, who was shot and killed by her policeman boyfriend who also died from the injuries sustained running from the police.

These murders happened while we were still trying to deal with the brutal and barbaric murder of Lynette Volschenk who was killed and cut into pieces in her own home.

We are mentioning just a few of the women who were killed during women’s month, we have counted up to thirty women thus far whose names were in the media including social media to indicate that it is a national crisis.

Where are safe spaces for women and girls in this country?

Uyinene went to the Post office to collect a parcel, instead she was raped and brutally killed by a cold blooded killer who smiled to the people who were in court yesterday. As a nation how do we deal with such evil within the confines of the law?

What type of institutions should we put in place to eradicate gender based violence and femicide and rid the society of these perpetrators?

The Home

The first institution that we have to invest our energies in, is the home. We must invest in prevention programs where love and respect is inculcated into our children. Dialogue as a means to resolve conflict should be what children are exposed to daily so that when they are confronted with any situation, they know that they should talk about it, debate without using any form of violence.

Unfortunately, most of our homes are war zones as domestic violence has reached endemic proportions. Therefore, we see escalation of violence everywhere and we urgently need interventions in many families.

We have been following postings during women’s month on the hashtag #whatwomenwant and safety has come up high as women and girls feel unsafe and most of them just want to live in peace in their country.  Women in their diversity and class are abused daily in this country and when we talk of institutions to end gender based violence we must focus on the following:

The community

The Community is a structure that reinforces gender stereotypes and if abusive behaviours are frowned upon, challenged and not tolerated, we will have young men who will grow up respecting women in their diversity and these will not escalate in other institutions

Schools

Human rights education and education that teaches respect for each other in our diversity is critical. The children must be taught from Grade R to love one another, irrespective of race, class or nationality and be taught non-violence conflict resolution skills. Presently, this is not what is happening in most schools as we are daily exposed to images of children fighting and even killing each other or teachers and children fighting. This depicts the environment that they all come from and this should be addressed as a matter of urgency by all of us.

Churches

There was a time when all other institutions failed to resolve the conflict between any warring people, that we would refer them to the church for refuge as pastors were seen as peace makers and counsellors, however, churches today are places where people are running from because of violence and sexual abuse. We have seen such horrific stories that for the safety of the majority of the congregation which is mostly women and children, that this institution must be regulated. And just like any other profession, adhere to strict code of conduct and if they contravene that, they should be arrested, struck off the roll and never to be exposed to gullible followers.

 

The Criminal Justice System

These Institution that includes the police, courts and correctional services must make South Africa to be and feel safe. But at the moment the reports of women tell a different story. At the dialogue with International Association of Women Judges, South African chapter, Kholiswa, a young woman who was trafficked after applying for a job online paints a very grim picture. She reported that at the four months that she was held in a dungeon here in Cape Town, daily, the police came in that place and collected drugs in bins and money and even though she was drugged, she tried to get their attention and none of them helped her. We need a clean criminal justice system so that criminals will know that they have no place to hide and will be punished severly.

Because of the high level of rapes and femicide, there is a loud call for chemical castration and death penalty for all the perpetrators because the criminal justice system is seen not as a deterrent but promoting criminality and disregarding the victim.

As we all know, we have the highest unemployment rate which imply that there are families that daily go to sleep hungry while criminals get three meals a day. Reports indicate that there are very few shelters for abused women in the country and what is worrying is that, the daily budget for an abused woman who is now homeless due to violence and abuse is R70.00 as compared to R200.00 for an inmate. Further, inmates get the opportunity to study and obtain degrees, while their victims are left to pick the pieces on their own. How did we reach this stage?

As we reprioritise our budgets, all these frills that are not given to law abiding citizens should be reprioritised to fund the Gender Based Violence Council and the National Strategic Plan.

Workplaces

The workplace has also turned into a battle fields and women in their diversity are abused by their bosses daily. I was told by young women during young women’s parliament in Gauteng that daily they are sexually harassed at work. And for them to get promotion, they are expected to sleep with the supervisors. And if they report, their cases go nowhere. How did we reach this state and what type of men are these?

South Africa, where is the national anger that will make each and every abuser to run away from this country? I am calling all men to rise up, let your anger reverberate at every corner of this nation, stop your brothers, uncles, friends and colleagues from further abusing any woman or girl NOW!!

As this is heritage month, use the whole of this month telling them that abusing women and girls is not your culture, reintroduce a new culture of a new man that will not stand by when any woman or girl is abused. A man who respect all women in their diversity, a man who promotes gender equality and and women’s empowerment.

Honourable Chairperson, it is GENOCIDE, and we must put politics aside and join hands to fight this scourge. There’s so much blood of women that has been spilled in this country that we need prayer to heal our land.

Churches must take the lead to pray and deliver this nation as the evil will not disappear until we call for God’s intervention.

Let us all observe a moment of silence for all the women killed in this country by people who professed to love them and prowlers like the Post office worker and individually pledge that never ever will we stand by when women and children are ridiculed or abused in our presence.

I would like to extend our deepest condolences to all the families and friends of all women and children who died from femicide. May their souls rest in eternal peace. 

Call to action to the Nation.

In mourning for all women who were raped and killed, The Department of Women is declaring Sunday the 8th September 2019 moment of Silence and Prayer.

Let’s all join hands in prayer to see violence again women and children eradicated in our lifetime.

I thank you