Speech by the Minister of Social Development, Ms Bathabile Dlamini on the occasion of the launch of Sonke Gender Justice One Billion Rising Campaign, Cape Town
14 Feb 2013
Mayor of the City of Cape Town, Ms Patricia de Lille,
Leaders of religious denominations here present,
Ladies and gentlemen,
Colleagues, comrades and friends.
Good morning. It is a great honour for me to join you and thousands across the country and the globe on this auspicious occasion. The launch of this One Billion Rising campaign is very timely as it occurs on the same day as the State of the Nation Address which President Jacob Zuma will deliver this evening.
This initiative seeks to highlight the scourge of violence against women and children, and to mobilise us to move from word to action, and to make our streets, homes, communities and country safer for all, especially for women and children. This campaign is based on the staggering global statistics which show that violence against women and children remain pervasive, with estimates showing that one woman in three still experiences abuse in her lifetime.
In South Africa, the statistics are just as startling. The study conducted by the Medical Research Council and Gender Links Study in 2011 found that over half of the women in Gauteng have experienced some form of violence in their life-time. In the study, 78 percent of men admitted to perpetrating some form of violence against women, with 37 percent saying they have raped a woman or a child. Nationally, over 71 percent of women are sexually abused. The full magnitude of these issues sinks in only if we put the figures into perspective. They tell one of the most shocking crimes against humanity.
The admission to the use of violence against women and children, especially by such a large number of men is perhaps the scariest of the numbers we are discussing today. Just imagine what the numbers of men who admit to rape would be in this province, the Western Cape, where rape statistics are higher and frequently more violent.
The findings of studies such as the one I cited earlier should shape the approach we take in fighting this scourge. We must also note that for each of the victim, there are scores who are physically or psychologically wounded, if not maimed for life. The brutal rape and murder of Anene Booysen in Bredasdorp has rightfully sparked national outrage and calls for tougher sentences.
Ladies and gentlemen, violence against women and children is a violation of human rights. I agree that as a society, we must increase what is termed restraint. Through our criminal justice system, we must send a strong message that rape is an intolerable crime and a serious development issue that fundamentally undermines our efforts to build a new society that is safe, equal and prosperous.
We have some of the best policies and laws in place to affect restraint through the criminal justice system. For example, the Sexual Offences Act clearly defines rape and also imposes minimum sentencing for people found guilty of such crime. We need to ensure that magistrates and judges implement the minimum sentences to the letter of the law, with reduced discretion to by-pass the minimum sentencing guidelines. Already work is underway to fast-track the re-introduction of special courts for sexual offences.
For these measures to be effective, they must be accompanied by social context training for magistrates and judges so that they do not place the burden of proof on the victims. Our laws clearly state that it is the accused that needs to prove innocence. This was made part of our law to prevent secondary victimisation of rape survivors, and to encourage rape victims to report rape and have confidence in the criminal justice system.
For the same reasons, we also need special prosecutors trained in various laws aimed at providing justice for people subjected to domestic violence, sexual violence and rape. This is necessary so that we never again have a repeat of a reported case of a prosecutor who decided to drop charges of statutory rape involving a 14-year old child who was married off by her family to a man old enough to be her great-grandfather.
We need these measures to complement the on-going work being done under the umbrella of the Victim Empowerment Programme and other initiatives such as the Thuthuzela Care Centres and sensitisation training for police and social workers who are the first port of call for victims and survivors of sexual offences. We welcome the process initiated by Government’s to review of the criminal justice system in order to make it more efficient and effective.
This will go a long way to providing justice to survivors and enforcing the minimum sentencing regulations to reduce some of high rape statistics. But on their own, these measures will not bring down the high levels of rape and violence against women that we all desire for so that women and children can live in peace and indeed be safe in our communities.
The high numbers of men, who readily admit to using violence and to rape, is a clear indication that our society is a veritable incubator for sexual violence. Unless we transform our society and confront ideologies that create and sustain the violation of women, no criminal justice system in the world will ever solve our problems. The ANC-Government remains concerned, not only about responding to rape through the criminal justice system, but also about ways of preventing violence against women and preventing rape.
As early as 2005, Government set up an Inter-Departmental Management Team (IDMT) under the leadership of the National Prosecuting Authority to look at the factors that ‘cause’ and sustain high levels of rape in the South African society. The Team commissioned the biggest qualitative study to explore rape causality. The findings of this and subsequent studies should inform the development of a comprehensive anti-rape strategy. The study was conducted by Sonke Consulting and found that rape was a systemic, socially constructed and legitimised phenomenon.
This view is supported by various international studies which show that the systemic nature of gender-based violence, including rape is found in most societies throughout the globe. Consequently, anti-rape strategies requires a multi-faceted approach that seeks to transform society and change the social and economic conditions, belief systems and values that give rise to high levels of gender-based violence.
Given that we at this most beautiful location in Cape Town, it is then worth noting that Cape Town has been described as the rape capital of the world. Places like Mannenburg and Khayelitsha, not only have the highest rates of rape, but such actions are often accompanied by the most brutal levels of physical violence.
Surely, this serves to illustrate just how detrimental the toxic mix of patriarchy, poverty, unemployment, inequality, substance abuse, and gangs can be to the well-being of women and children. Research show solutions to gender-based violence cannot be isolated from the social context within which it occurs. In South Africa for example, the brutal oppression of people for decades, and the institutionalisation of violence through the military, police, corporal punishment in schools and at homes served to legitimise the use of violence.
This combined with how masculinities are constructed give rise to this toxic mix which I referred to earlier. We therefore need to work together as a collective across race and class to socialise young boys and girls to develop respectful, non-violent relationships based on equality and mutual respect.
We need to confront the notion that promoting gender equality is all about granting privileges to women while disempowering men. Boys and girls must be taught that gender equality is about creating a more socially just world. Gender inequality perpetuates and legitimises male violence over women, which is deeply rooted in structural relationships of inequality between men and women. Rape is complex and multi-faceted, and therefore requires strategies that are able to respond to these complexities. This includes strategies that will change personal perceptions and address the realities of a deeply-rooted patriarchal society enmeshed within a history of racism, systemic poverty and where physical violence was accepted as a means to oppress, to struggle against oppression, to discipline and to raise families.
The World Health Organisation’s study on gender-based violence found correlation between exposure to other forms of violence, such as violence in the home and sexual and gender-based violence. We welcome the launch of this initiative, which will enhance our efforts to end the intersecting pandemics of HIV and AIDS and violence against women and children. By demanding a better criminal justice system, it will not only bring justice to survivors, but will deter future crimes.
Equally, we must work to end all forms of discrimination, including racism that legitimises white oppression and buttresses the economic system that sustains the triple challenges of poverty, inequality and unemployment. In turn, this system relegate the majority to the periphery of mainstream economy while maintaining the status quo of plush safe suburbs in the midst of overcrowded dormitory townships that incubate a male war on the women of this country.
Let us work together to break this chain of pervasive violence by implementing policies that seek to undo this, such as those adopted at the recent ANC National Elective Conference in Mangaung, and other on-going interventions like those in the criminal justice system. We count on your continued support in our endeavours to effect key transformation in governance and society.
We commend the work of your organisation in support of our efforts in preventing and responding to domestic, sexual and gender-based violence. In conclusion, given the links between legitimised and institutionalised violence, let us not seek what appears to be easy solutions such as calls for the re-introduction of death penalty, which is a form of state violence and legitimised revenge.
Instead, let us commit ourselves to building a violence-free and a rights-based society wherein equality between men and becomes a prevailing norm, and wherein we embrace and celebrate diversity, including sexual orientations and gender identities, wherein we normalise substantive equality between black and white, and we accept that the economic privileges of the past need to be undone so that all can have more in a more equal society. These are the ingredients of a sustainable strategy to deal with gender-based violence and rape so that we can build a better and safer society for all of us, especially for women and children.
I thank you.
Issued by: Department of Social Development
14 Feb 2013
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