Speech By Minister Lulu Xingwana in NCOP During Debate On 16 days of Activism against Gender Violence

24 November 2011

Honourable Members

Tomorrow, we mark the official start of the 16 Days of Activism
Campaign for 2011. This is the 12th year that South Africa is
participating in this international campaign that is endorsed by the
United Nations. The Campaign starts tomorrow to coincide with the
International Day for No Violence against Women.

Over the past 12 years, the 16 Days Campaign has had a major impact in
raising the awareness about the challenge of abuse of women and children
in our country. This increased awareness encourages reporting of these
crimes. No one should suffer in silence.

While it started with a focus on gender based violence, the 16 Days
Campaign has evolved to include issues relating to violence against
children as well. Since the establishment of the Ministry for Women,
Children and People with Disabilities, the campaign is being broadened
to also look at issues of violence against people with disabilities.

The international theme for the 2011 Campaign is: “From Peace in the
Home to Peace in the World: Proliferation of small arms and their role
in domestic violence”.

Five sub-themes under this theme have been identified as follows:

  • Bringing together women, peace, and human rights movements to challenge militarism
  • Proliferation of small arms and their role in domestic violence
  • Sexual violence in and after conflict
  • Political violence against women, including Pre/During/Post-election violence
  • Sexual and gender based violence committed by state agents, particularly police and the armed forces.

Militarization and violence by state agents remains a major challenge particularly in regions affected by conflict including in some parts of our continent. In South Africa, we are focusing on the sub-theme on the proliferation of small arms and their role in domestic violence. Domestic violence is a reality in every country of the world. The violence becomes even more dangerous when guns – legal or illegal -are present in the home, as they can be used to threaten, injure or kill women and children.

According to the International Action Network on Small Arms (ANSA), women are three times more likely to die violently if there is a gun in the house. Not only do small arms facilitate violence against women, they are also used in many contact crimes, robberies and other violent crimes that remain prevalent in our country.

We are encouraged by progress in the efforts of Government to combat crime as confirmed by the decrease in a number of serious crimes in our country over the past year. We are, however, concerned that the combined figures of all sexual offences, including rape and indecent assault, indicate an upward trend of 2,1% in 2010/11 compared to 2009/2010. Cases of murder of women increased by 5,6% and sexual offences against children increased by 2,6% during this period.

We are confident that the strengthening of law enforcement measures, particularly the re-establishment of Family Violence, Child Protection and Sexual Offences (FCS) units within the SAPS will assist in turning the tide against these crimes. In addition, the Department for Women, Children and People with Disabilities is establishing the National Council against Gender Based Violence to coordinate a multi-sectoral response to this scourge, and drive the 365 National Action Plan to End Violence against Women and Children. This should streamline our national effort and enhance the impact of programmes to stop violence and abuse. The council will be chaired by our Deputy President. As our government has prioritized crimes against women and children, the council has to be led from the Presidency, the highest office in the land.

The opening event of the 16 Days Campaign this year will take place in Attridgeville township, in Tshwane on November 25. On the next day, we will have a sod turning ceremony for a memorial park in honour of Masego Kgomo. Masego was a 10 year-old girl from Soshanguve who was raped and murdered and her body parts removed for muti purposes. We will also meet will meet will traditional healers and other stakeholders to discuss measures that need to be taken to stop incidents of ritual or muti killing.

On November 28, we will be at Pretoria High Court where Masego’s murderer is expected to be sentenced. Our Department has submitted a motivation to the court to impose the heaviest possible sentence in this case.

Department will also focus on the other harmful cultural practice called ukuthwala (forced marriage of girls to older men) which has affected many children. The Campaign will cover the challenge of attacks on lesbian women. We will seek to raise community awareness about the need to address this practice termed “corrective rape”, which is a violation of Constitutional right to sexual orientation.

Other key days commemorated during this 16-Day period include World Aids Day on 1st December in Nelson Mandela Bay in the Eastern Cape and the International Day for Persons with Disabilities on 3 December which will take place in Mangaung, in Free State. The closing event will be in Ermelo, Mpumalanga on December 10 and will be addressed by Deputy President.

We are working together with various government departments, provinces, municipalities and civil society organizations to ensure that we take the 16 Days of Activism Campaign to an even higher level this year. The Campaign should begin to address key underlying factors behind the high prevalence and vicious nature of the incidents of violence against women and children.

I hope that as Parliament rises, Honourable Members will all be out in their communities and constituencies highlighting the challenge of abuse of women and children. Let us use this opportunity to encourage reporting, effective investigation and appropriate interventions against incidents of abuse

We cannot look away. Let us all act against abuse of women and children.

Thank you