National Women's Day Debate on "Gender and institutionalism- Towards strengthening the National Gender Machinery" by the Hon Zanele Nkomo

03 September 2019

Honourable Speaker

Most if not all of us are affected directly or indirectly by GBV and Femicide scourge: My personal experience was in August 2016, yes Women's Month, when I lost my sister uBoniswa Nkomo, severely beaten by her boyfriend, hospitalised and died a few days later.

We learned with anger and shock yesterday about the rape and murder of a young women UYINENE, a student at the university of Cape Town who died at the hands of an insensitive elder.

To the bereaved families, your pain is our pain, your loss is our loss, sithi kini ningumndeni, duduzekani, may your loved one's soul rest in peace and we assure them that their death is not in vain.

In march the President, Cyril Ramaphosa at the launch of the Declaration against gender-based violence and femicide, affirmed government's promise made to the people of South Africa, to 'take firm, decisive and swift action to eradicate gender-based violence and femicide in our society' and the clear targets set in the Women's Charter reminds us of what still remains to be done for the advancement of women's rights and the government is hard at work to address the persistent ills.

It is against this backdrop that we the Women of South Africa, call on President Cyril Ramaphosa to please declare GBV and Femicide a state of Emergency. Your Honourable President, every 4 hours a woman is killed in our country, Sithi no bail for the perpetrators, riri, no bail for the perpetrators!

These deaths, highlight challenges which demand South Africans to work together, including traditional leaders, customary and the religious fraternity in achieving gender equality and confronting the violence that comes with patriarchy, which continues to entrench itself, examples of cases brought before the Commission for the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Cultural, Religious and Linguistic Communities (CRL), exposes the exploitative nature of patriarchal systems taking advantage of the young and vulnerable in spaces of worship, as well as the increasing abuse of customary rituals and healing practices in initiation schools, where power is exercised over the female body and mind, these are some of the challenges amongst others:

CHALLENGES

  • Discrimination remains persistent in our communities and educational information relating to the sexual health of persons with disabilities; sex workers; LGBTQIA+ groups and young people must be prioritised in realising sexual and reproductive health rights.
  • Victims of gender violence often have to deal with stigma and cultural settings that may impose on the victim and pressurise into either not reporting or withdraw the case, while for some financial dependence dictates. Therefore, emancipation is crucial and should be prioritised.
  • Funding is essential in addressing GBV, the success and sustainability of implementation continues to depend on funding, therefore greater attention must be given to funding strategies and resourcing.
  • The narrative of dialogues and talks about talks that seem not to wield results needs to be changed. The driving narrative should be implementation, review of policies and monitoring and evaluating against programs.
  • Challenges relating to the implementation of laws that defend and advance the rights of the most vulnerable in society, persist which in turn impact on the gains made in the development of progressive legislation.
  • Gaps have also been identified in the method or approach by both the State and Society towards dealing with GBV and Femicide, where focus is on the effect and not the cause, compromising the interventions and programmes in the process.

The Women's Charter

2019 marks 65 years in 1954, of the founding Conference of the Federation of South African Women which launched the Women's Charter.

The Charter was at the time the guide, demanding the removal of all material oppression against women across society starting in the home, workplace, places of worship, institutions of education and broader community.

The Charter recognised historical and also systematic chauvinistic and sexist ideas levelled against women as being central to the oppression of women, and further contributed towards the poverty and inequality that women face.

ARTICLE 10: VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN

Women's Month and the programmes underpinning it are evidence of the ongoing work to deal with the scourge of Gender Violence and Femicide and also gives South Africans and male counterparts the space to take stock of what has been done and what still needs to be done, importantly for our Fathers, Partners and Brothers to take a stand against patriarchy in all its form.

The Women's Parliament was important in reviewing the Women's Charter, which under Article 10 clearly highlights advances made against our policies as we had resolved at our 54th Conference, further set out in the elections manifesto to; achieve social cohesion and nation building, localised through education, sport, recreation, arts, cultural and heritage activities as well as clubs which are important programs in combating substance abuse, gangsterism, violence against women and children as well as other social ills.

In response to the violence against women, the Ministry of Police launched a six-point plan which is a direct response in dealing with the scourge, while ensuring that victims are not further victimised and are treated with respect and dignity.

The six-point plan assists in measuring how many Police Officials dealing with victims have been trained to handle and interview victims professionally and with compassion; throughout the country and in each Police Station. The plan ensures that the environment is designed to make victims feel safe and supported, that the rooms where interviews are conducted are safe and victim friendly; and that health and medical kits are always available in every Police Station and the process of examination and evidence collection is handled professionally.

Further, that each investigation at all times is conducted by Family Violence, Child Protection and Sexual Offences Investigation Unit (FCS) or a detective with relevant training and support systems that help victims and families such as legal, after care and medical with continuous feedback as well as updates on progress of the case.

PRIORITIES

  • Violence starts in the home and we have seen that is also takes place in schools, therefore government to take stronger leadership in fast-tracking an action program for ensuring gender equality, national building and social cohesion.
  • Media and Communications play a critical role in setting the agenda of non-tolerance to GBV and therefore should serve to disseminate the non-tolerance of GBV and expose perpetrators.
  • There is a lack of public awareness and knowledge of relevant laws and institutions that offer legal services pro-bono to the public is often unknown, it will therefore be of importance to have legal literacy drives for the public to understand their rights and how to go about exercising them.
  • The strengthening of gender machinery, means dedicated resources to existing centres like Thuthuzela Care Centre and Khuseleka One Stop Centre for continued support in a form of social work services, health care services, police, psychological services, education and awareness.
  • Education and Curricula should drive the information sharing and discussions around GBV, Femicide and other social ills.
  • Reports including Statistical data should be reflective of commitments and interventions made.
  • Strong messages communicated in confronting GBV must be clear and coherent.

South Africans can rest assured that the review of the Women's Charter and priorities are ongoing and will continue to hold all stakeholders accountable in ensuring we strongly fight against all forms of manifestations and remnants of GBV and Femicide.

The ANC-led government declares this scourge a national crisis and should continue to strengthen the national gender machinery as a response to addressing gender-based violence and Femicide in South Africa.

Zimbokodo, let us draw courage and strength from our path charters who refused to be onlookers in their national discourse.