Brutality and cruelty meted out to women was unacceptable and had no place in South Africa, President Jacob Zuma said in Cape Town on Thursday evening, directing the country's law enforcement agencies to treat such cases with the utmost urgency.
Delivering his 2013 State of the Nation Address in Parliament, Zuma said the brutal gang rape and murder of Anene Booysen and other women and girls in recent times had brought into sharp focus the need for unity in action to eradicate this scourge.
He applauded all sectors for the awareness campaigns that had taken place already, and urged the National Council on Gender Based Violence to make combating violence against women an everyday campaign.
The multi-stakeholder council, led by Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe, was established last year.
Zuma said the country's Family Violence, Child Protection and Sexual Offences Units, which were re-established in 2010, had increased personnel.
"During the last financial year, the units secured over 363 life sentences, with a conviction rate of 73% for crimes against women above 18 years old and 70% for crimes against children under 18 years of age," he noted.
He added that the government was introducing other mechanisms to protect women, such as the Protection from Harassment Bill. He said that while the Domestic Violence Act also provided protection, it only applied to persons who were in domestic relationships.
"The Protection from Harassment Bill also deals with harassment by persons who stalk their victims by means of electronic communications."
In addition, the Combating of Trafficking in Persons Bill, passed by the National Assembly last year, was now at the National Council of Provinces. Once implemented, Zuma said, the law would assist women and children, who were often victims of this heinous crime.