Statement by Comrade Tebogo Letsie (MP) during the Debate on Women’s Day

Women’s rights and the protection of women and children in our society

The law and the protection of victims of sexual violence

31 August 2021

Fellow South Africans.

The DA, EFF, VF Plus, ACDP once again misses the point by politicizing a very serious and sensitive pandemic that continues to claim lives and dignity of our women and children, Letlhabisa ditlhong, shame on you

As we close off Women’s month, I wish to take a moment to reflect on Women’s Charter of 1954 which was adopted at the Founding Conference of the Federation of South African Women. The women of South Africa, from all walks of life boldly declared:

“We resolve to struggle for the removal of laws and customs that deny African women the right to own, inherit or alienate property. We resolve to work for a change in the laws of marriage such as are found amongst our African, Malay and Indian people, which have the effect of placing wives in the position of legal subjection to husbands, and giving husbands the power to dispose of wives' property and earnings, and dictate to them in all matters affecting them and their children. We recognise that the women are treated as minors by these marriage and property laws because of ancient and revered traditions and customs which had their origin in the antiquity of the people and no doubt served purposes of great value in bygone times.”

Throughout history, women have been marginalised, regarded as the weaker gender and incapable of fulfilling the duties which were traditionally considered as being for men. History teaches us that women, in most parts of the world including South Africa, were considered perpetual minors without rights to property, to inherit, to vote, to hold legal power and to hold certain occupations. Married women were legally dead in the eyes of the law. History teaches us that women were relegated to the lower rungs of society. Throughout all of this, history also teaches us that the bodies of women have been considered and treated as objects. The war against women’s bodies continues.

Patriarchy remains deeply entrenched within the fabric of our society and continues to serve as a catalyst to breed and legitimise most violations and discrimination against women. It is therefore imperative that we challenge and dismantle patriarchal attitudes.

The fight against patriarchy is not just a woman’s struggle. It is everyone’s struggle.

While there has been great progress in the emancipation of women in South Africa through legislative and other means since the advent of democracy, women remain disproportionately represented among the country’s poorest. The gender gap continues to persist in economic, social and political spheres.

Economic empowerment remains the most important contributing factor to achieving gender equality. Unleashing the entrepreneurial potential of women which drives growth through innovation, education, training and job creation continue to be some of the most effective ways to ensure lasting empowerment. The economic empowerment of women is a prerequisite for reducing poverty in our country and dismantling patriarchy. It is our collective responsibility to change the social constructs of patriarchy

Chairperson,

The 54th National Conference further resolved, inter alia, that the full might of the criminal justice system, including the denial of bail and sentence regime should be utilised in combatting of violence against women and children, particular in relation to domestic violence and sexual offences. The ANC in its 2019 election manifesto committed itself to eradicating gender-based violence. Following the Presidential Summit, in 2020, three Bills which are commonly called the “three GBV bills” were tabled before the Portfolio Committee on Justice and Correctional Services and the public was invited to make submissions. These bills were passed in the National Assembly this year and referred to the National Council of Provinces for concurrence.

These three Bills are:

The Criminal and Related Matters Bill which seeks to, among others, introduce stricter bail and sentencing provisions. Alive to the fact that a child witness must be protected from undue mental stress or suffering while giving evidence, the Bill seeks to provide for the appointment of intermediaries and regulate the giving of evidence through intermediaries in proceedings other than criminal proceedings.

The Domestic Violence Amendment Bill, seeks to address the gaps and anomalies which have manifested themselves since the Domestic Violence Act came into operation in 1999. The Domestic Violence Act provides women the highest form of protection from domestic violence, placing responsibility squarely on organs of state, particularly the SAPS to ensure that survivors of domestic violence are able to apply for protection orders. Which can be obtained electronically because we are in the era of 4IR

The Criminal Law (Sexual Offences and Related Matters) Amendment Bill seeks to extend the protection afforded to victims of gender-based violence and to introduce a new offence of sexual intimidation and to extend the ambit of the offence of incest. The Bill seeks to further regulate the inclusion of particulars of persons in the National Register for Sex Offenders and proposes amongst others to expand the register scope to include the details of all sex offenders and not only offenders against children and persons who are mentally disabled, It increases the period for which a sex offender’s particulars must remain on the register and further regulate the reporting duty of persons who are aware that sexual offences have been committed against persons who are vulnerable, children in particular.

Hon. Speaker

In his Women’s Day 2021 address, the Real Commander In chief President Matamela outlined that, as part of the work to provide justice and support to survivors of gender-based violence,

3,500 Family Violence, Child Protection and Sexual Offences investigating officers have received specialised training to do their work. He also indicated that twelve public buildings have been renovated and repurposed to be used as shelters, and work has been done to ensure that all police stations in our country have sexual assault evidence kits. It should be noted that 97 courts are ready for designation as sexual offences courts, however consultations with the Chief Justice are still underway.

Over the years, the Department of Justice and Correctional Services has progressively rolled out sexual offences courts. Because of the intrusive nature of sexual violation, many survivors of sexual abuse choose not to report this crime, mainly because of shame or fear of not being believed. The sexual offences courts are therefore established to give them an experience defined by solace, care, compassion and justice so as to encourage reporting and healing. SOCs are intended to reduce the turnaround time in the finalisation of these cases, eliminate secondary victimisation, and improve prosecution and adjudication of these cases.

The sexual offences courts offer a sequential and coordinated flow of victim-centric support services, which include information, private waiting room, court preparation, pre-trial emotional containment, private testifying, intermediary, post-trial emotional containment, to name a few. We also want to employ on victims on GBV-F not to withdraw cases against perpetrators as this makes us look bad by supporting them from the beginning

The National Prosecuting Authority, in collaboration with the Department of Health, has established Thuthuzela Care Centres established throughout country, which primarily deal with survivors of sexual violence. The Thuthuzela Care centres are the best practice model and critical in the fight against gender-based violence. The NPA reported an increase in the imposition of life sentences by SOCs in cases reported in TCCs over past financial years.

We call for a social compact to fight patriarchy, gender-based violence and femicide. Women’s lives matter. Even as we differ politically, we are in agreement that human rights must be protected and the lives of women, children, persons living with disabilities and the LGBTQIA+ community must be protected.

Finally I want to challenge all these animals who sometimes musquarade as Men to place their rights hands on the left chest, close their eyes and say “ God, Raloya, eseng ka meriana but ka diketso ledipelo tsempe, rekopa ore thuse rekgone gonna batho, re treate basadi le bana sentle, AMEN”

As we close this debate, we need to agree that this matter cant be relegated to the next individuals, we need to play our part inside our homes, our streets, our communities and in this country 24 hous a day, 7 days a week, 12 months and 265 days a year

Thank you