19 February 2013

South Africa: Remarks By Minister Lulu Xingwana At the Court Appearance of Oscar Pistorius

Photo: L'Express
Oscar Pistorius

press release

We have come here to support the family of Reeva Steenkamp whose young life was so cruelly taken away from us on day that is dedicated to love.

As we think about Reeva Steenkamp, we must boldly declare with one united voice, that the spate of gender based violence taking place across the length and breadth of our land must stop. We are here to communicate a clear and unequivocal message that violence against women will not be tolerated in our free and democratic society.

We are confident that our criminal justice system will do everything in its power to ensure that Reeva and other victims of crime get justice. We have confidence that those found guilty of this heinous crime will face the full wrath of our criminal justice system, irrespective of their stature in society. Together, we must say: enough is enough!

We wish to reiterate our call to our courts to ensure that they impose the heaviest possible sentence against those found guilty of women and child abuse. This will send a clear message to all would-be perpetrators that our society and justice system will not tolerate these crimes.

As South Africans, we must be concerned at the growing reports of women who continue to die at the hands of their partners or abused by people who were supposed to protect and love them.

Domestic violence becomes even more deadly when guns - legal or illegal - are present in the home, because they can be used to threaten, injure or kill women and children. Indeed, women are three times more likely to die violently if there is a gun in the house.

As a country we need to wage a sustained and effective campaign against the availability of guns in the homes. The reality is that Reeva Steenkamp would have been alive if there was no gun in Oscar Pistorius's house. This tragedy is a vocal call to our nation to intensify gun control in order to protect the lives of women and children.

We must also make a solemn commitment that we will fight and defeat the scourge of alcohol and drug abuse which exacerbate the problem of violence against women and children. Research shows that alcohol or drugs can increase the user's sense of personal power and domination over others.

While research has not conclusively proved a direct cause and effect between alcohol abuse and domestic violence, in reality, some abusers rely on substance use (and abuse) as an excuse for becoming violent. Alcohol allows the abuser to justify his abusive behaviour as a result of alcohol.

An abuser's use of drugs may have an effect on the severity of the abuse or the ease with which the abuser can justify his actions. Part of our programme to fight domestic violence must include the fight against drug and alcohol abuse.

A successful war against gender-based violence is dependent on the partnership between government and various sectors of society including the media. As government, we believe that the unacceptably high levels of gender-based violence require the collective efforts of all South Africans.

We must therefore mobilise all members of the community to also join in this effort. When we know that someone is being abused in our own home or in our neighbour's house, we have a duty to report it. We also have a duty to stand in court as witnesses to make sure that these abusers are prosecuted successfully.

Enough is enough! Fighting together, we can defeat gender-based violence.

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