The spate of rapes and violence against women and children that is gripping our country remains a matter of grave concern for all of us. This scourge is a threat to our hard-earned freedom, for it condemns women and children to a life of fear and prevents them from becoming productive members of society.
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. Research shows that most gender violence in South Africa happens in intimate partner relationships. We must all 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 is exacerbated by easy access to guns. We are making a call for stricter gun control. As a country we need to wage a sustained and effective campaign against the availability of guns in our homes and streets. Indeed, women are three times more likely to die violently if there is a gun in the house.
Our focus must be on the following:
Mobilise all members of the community to join this fight. 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.
Reiterate our call to the courts of our land to impose the heaviest possible sentence against perpetrators of women and child abuse. By giving women and child abusers harsher sentences, our courts are continuing to play a role in sending a message to these abusers that their actions will not be tolerated. We are encouraged by the courts that have already demonstrated firmness in dealing with violence against women and children.
The Ulundi and Nongoma Regional Court Judges sent three rapists to long terms in jail for rape last year. Again the Nongoma Regional Court convicted and sentenced a 27 year-old man to life imprisonment for raping a 20 year old victim. In 2011, the North Gauteng High Court sentenced the murderer of little Masego Kgomo to life imprisonment.
We welcome the re-establishment of the sexual offences courts which will help in the speedy prosecution of gender-based violence. We also note the Minister of Health's announcement to recruit and train more forensic technicians to staff a fourth forensic laboratory. This will go a long way in processing vital evidence.
Ensure that policies, legislation and other measures that sought to eliminate the abuse of women, children and people with disabilities are effectively implemented and monitored.
The 25th of each month was declared the International Orange Day by the United Nations. The campaign is aimed at ensuring that violence against women and girls is observed on a daily basis and that the awareness is incorporated into our 365 days Action Plan against Gender-Based Violence. We will utilize this day as a platform to ensure that the campaign against gender-based violence takes place throughout the year. Yesterday, we met in rural Kwazulu-Natal with women groups, government departments, NGOs, UNWomen to mark the national launch of International Orange Day.
Government has established the National Council Against Gender Based Violence (NCAGBV) to provide strategic leadership, coordination and monitoring of gender-based violence initiatives in South Africa. The Council is convened at a high level. The Deputy President is the patron and the Minister of Women, Children and People with Disabilities will be its champion.
The Council will meet four times a year. We believe that the time is now for collective action to eradicate gender-based violence. This requires determination and commitment by government and all sectors, including the media.
The National Council Against Gender-Based Violence will focus on the following key pillars to end violence:
Coordination and Communications
Advocacy, awareness-raising and social campaigns
We are confident that the Council will be able to discharge its mandate more effectively. It is constituted by government departments or agencies such as Justice and Constitutional Development, Education, Health, Correctional Services, Social Development, SAPS, NPA as well as NGOs and civil society organisations like POWA, COSATU, Gender Links, Sonke Gender Justice and many others including religious, traditional leaders and people with disabilities. The Council will use its collective strength to ensure that women and girls are able to fully realise their rights as citizens and to live in safe communities.
We would like to applaud the initiatives by various organisations which are aimed at eliminating gender-based violence. We wish to commend government departments, civil society, the media, especially the Sowetan and others, for running a sustained campaign against rape on a daily basis. We wish to encourage other media houses to emulate this noble example.
We also welcome the Campaign Against Rape and Violence Against Women initiative led by the Department of Basic Education in which we are mobilising 10.2 million learners against rape and violence.
I thank you.
Issued by: Department of Women, Children and People with Disabilities