Remarks by the Minister of Women, Children and People with Disabilities on the interactive dialogue with Young People on Sexual Violence against adolescents, Meadowlands
28 May 2012I am honoured to be with you this afternoon - the pride and future of our country. We have converged here this afternoon as government, Non-Governmental Organisation (NGOs) and international agencies to have a dialogue with you on an issue that continues to touch the conscience of the entire nation.
The current spate of sexual violence perpetrated against young children is a matter of grave concern and a painful reminder of the disregard for human life and the rights of children. Even more chilling is the rising trend in which children with disabilities have been targeted for abuse. The recent exposure of incidents of child-on-child violence and the rape of young children with disabilities must compel all of us to pose serious questions about the moral state of our nation.
We are meeting here to reaffirm our collective commitment to reclaim our streets and create a society that is safe and secure for our children. Today’s dialogue must go down in history as a decisive moment in our joint efforts to defeat child and women abuse.
The sad reality is that our society has a fair number of people who prey on the innocent, the weak and the vulnerable. They derive pleasure from harming those who cannot defend themselves. We are here to make a clear and unambiguous statement that the barbaric actions of child and women abusers have no place in our free and democratic society.
We are here to make a solemn pledge that government and its social partners will work with you to create communities that are safe and secure for all our children. You deserve to walk the streets of your motherland freely in the knowledge that your life and dignity are respected. The protection of children, women and people with disabilities from sexual violence is a moral and constitutional obligation that every South African carries on his\her shoulder.
The abuse of children with disabilities often goes un-reported. Yet, even if they do speak out, they are unlikely to be assisted because of prejudice against people with disabilities. In addition, our justice system needs to be capacitated to enable it to handle cases involving disabled people with the sensitivity and competence necessary to achieve justice.
Former President Nelson Mandela reminds us that “there is no keener revelation of a society’s soul than the way it treats its children”. For us the behaviour of child and women molesters poses fundamental questions to members of the human race. All civilised human beings throughout the world protect their women and children. Even animals make an effort to protect the weak among them. From time to time, they can be seen protecting their young ones from predators with all the might they have. To them seeing their young ones hurting is unacceptable.
The question that the human race must answer is: If animals find it unacceptable to abuse their young ones, why is it that some among us derive pleasure from seeing their own flesh and blood in pain? Has the human race degenerated to levels that are below that of animals? Could it be that we as human beings and specifically as South Africans have regressed to a point where our society has turned into something worse than a jungle?
What happened to the spirit of ubuntu that has been the hallmark of our society for many centuries? Have we, as a society, lost the sense that children are our future and need to be protected at all times? All of us have a responsibility to help expose those who harm the most vulnerable in our society.
The scourge of child and women abuse undermines many of the hard-earned gains of the liberation struggle. Child and women abuse deny women and children their birth rights. It condemns them to a life of fear and prevents them from being productive members of society.
Women and children long for the day when they can walk the streets without fear of being raped or brutally assaulted. They long for a day when they can walk the streets without having to look behind them to see who is following them. They long for a day when society will protect them against sexual molesters.
The involvement of children as perpetrators also points to the moral degeneration of our society. The question that we must pose to ourselves is: What kind of adults are we raising? We must also strive to restore the moral fibre of our society. We are therefore calling for moral regeneration as part of creating a society that respects and values people’s rights and lives. We need moral regeneration programmes that target young people as part of creating a society that respects and values people’s rights and lives.
Many of these incidents of sexual violence by children against other children point to a loss of ubuntu and moral values. We believe that if our families, schools and religious institutions can focus on building the moral and ethical character of young people, we will be able to lay a firm foundation for a future society that respects human life and upholds high moral values.
Consistent with my Budget Speech message, we must acknowledge government’s efforts to create a safe South Africa for our children. In this regard, we are all encouraged by the Minister of Police’s efforts to strengthen and resource the re-established Family Violence, Child Protection and Sexual Offences (FCS) units at police stations. This will expedite responses to these crimes.
The National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) has increased Thuthuzela Centres to over 40 around the country to provide an integrated response, care and support to the victims of violent sexual crimes. We also commend the Minister of Health for recruiting and training forensic technicians to staff a fourth forensic laboratory. This will go a long way in processing vital evidence.
Additional sexual offences, children’s courts and personnel can assist to speed up and reduce the backlog of sexual offences and all cases relating to children. We are engaging with the Department of Justice and advocating for our justice system to impose the heaviest possible sentences and no bail for perpetrators of violent crimes against women and children, including those with disabilities. This would send a clear message that our society will not tolerate people who commit these atrocities.
Cabinet has set up an Inter-Ministerial Committee to co-ordinate responses by key departments to this rising scourge. Our department has also set up the National Council Against Gender-based Violence which will lead a national multi-sectoral response to this violence. Government is committed to defeating this scourge and committing the necessary resources in this direction.
We also believe that we must empower children with information so that they can protect themselves against potential abusers. We must also ensure that our law enforcement agencies act firmly against those who harm our children.
While government and civil society have a critical and primary role to protect you against sexual violence, you must never underestimate the power that you have to protect yourselves against abuse and violence. You need to take the lead in the fight against sexual violence. You have the power. You must report suspicious activities and people immediately to the authorities. Any delay may mean the difference between life and death.
As young people, you must begin to own up to responsible use of online technology. It is in your interest to use social networking sites responsibly. Be careful about those you chat with online. Do not agree to meet strangers in secluded places. Do not visit, download, accept or distribute pornographic sites. Not only is this illegal, it is also harmful to you. It promotes moral regeneration and the objectification of women. Report any such activity to the police, your teachers and parents.
My dear children, today is not about speeches. It is your platform to engage us on this critical topic. Ours is to respond to your concerns, inputs and advice on how this scourge can best be confronted. We believe that the active participation and perspective of children and adolescents themselves is an essential element towards this end. We recognise that the voices of children and adolescents may not have been heard enough. We are here to say your views and perspective matter.
Today’s interactive dialogue is the first step of a participatory process that involves young people like you. Your views will be used to influence the agenda and programmes of the National Council on Gender Based Violence that was been approved by Cabinet last year. This Council, which is chaired by the Deputy President, will lead a co-ordinated and multi-sectoral fight against gender-based violence.
Let the dialogue begin!
I thank you.
Issued by: Department of Women, Children and People with Disabilities
28 May 2012
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