The Presiding Officers of Parliament, led by the Speaker of the National Assembly (NA), Ms Thandi Modise and the Chairperson of the National Council of Provinces (NCOP), Mr Amos Masondo, join South Africans and the world in commemorating the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence (GBV).
The campaign aims to raise awareness of the negative impact that violence and abuse have on women and children and to rid society of abuse permanently. GBV has been described by President Ramaphosa as a "pandemic", and like a disease, it continues to cripple our society, depriving women and children of their right to be safe and continue with their daily lives without fear of being murdered or raped, if not both. It is a human rights violation which can lead to psychological trauma on its victims.
This year's campaign comes at a time when the world is dealing with the Covid-19 pandemic which brought along hard lockdowns in many countries, including South Africa. In South Africa, the country's lockdown resulted in an increase in GBV cases because victims were locked in with perpetrators. Most perpetrators are close family members or friends of the victims.
"We cannot ignore the fact that gendered power inequality rooted in patriarchy is the primary driver of GBV. As a society, we need to deal with this as a matter of urgency so that the men of tomorrow understand that their gender does not entitle them to women's bodies or make them inherently superior in any way to the other gender. Women should not have to fight gender-based violence alone; men must own up and be part of the solution," said the Presiding Officers.
In an effort to facilitate debates on gender issues, last week Parliament, in partnership with the South African National Aids Council and the Department of Social Development under the banner of the Takuwani Riime Men's Movement, hosted a two-day Men's Parliament. This event brought together about 250 men and boys from across the country to engage them to become agents of change and integral partners in the prevention and response in tackling the spread of HIV, GBV and femicide and other social ills.
"As Parliament, we are also currently processing three crucial Bills that will change the landscape in terms of how government departments, law enforcement and the courts deal with cases of violence against women and the vulnerable. The three Bills are the Domestic Violence Amendment Bill; the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences and Related Matters) Amendment Act Amendment Bill; and the Criminal and Related Matters Amendment Bill."
"These Bills will, among other things, provide for how acts of domestic violence and matters related thereto must be dealt with by certain functionaries, persons and government departments, regulate the inclusion of particulars of persons in the National Register for Sex Offenders, introduce a new offence of sexual intimidation, regulate the reporting duty of persons who are aware that sexual offences have been committed against children, and also regulate sentences in respect of offences that have been committed against vulnerable persons," emphasised the Presiding Officers.
Parliament is confident that these Bills are a move in the right direction in an effort to fight this scourge. The law needs to be tightened to ensure that these perpetrators are taken out of society. Women and children cannot continue to die at the hands of those who are supposed to be protecting them.
Presiding Officers are calling out to every man in this country to stand up and fight this GBV pandemic. It has gone on for too long and it is time we all, by word and bold action, bring it to a complete end.