Address on International
Day of No Violence Against Women and Children
25 November 2003
The Premier of the Northern Cape, Manne Dipico,
Premier of Free State, Winkie Direko
Mayor of Kimberly,
Representatives of the Moral Regeneration Movement,
We are gathered here today, because of our enormous
commitment, as a nation, to respect human rights in
general, and to uphold the rights of women and children
in particular. The growing number of South Africans
who support this campaign underlines the commitment
of the people of South Africa to root out the abuse
and violence on women and children.
I am therefore greatly honoured to be part of this
occasion, of marking the International Day of No Violence
Against Women, and which begins 16 days of activism
against this scourge. This day, which began with the
commemoration of the brutal murder of the Mirabel sisters
in 1981 in the Dominican Republic, for daring to speak
out in support of human rights, has really grown in
stature and worldwide observance from its noble beginning
in Latin America and the Caribbean.
We must also, on a day like this, applaud the immense
contribution of women to South African life, in all
spheres, public and private, and on that basis, galvanise
all our resources to ensure that women enjoy the benefits
of our democracy, which they also fought so hard for.
As we mark the start of this important campaign, we
must also recognize that since 1998, South Africa has
not only embraced and observed this campaign, but we
have actively intensified our own struggles around this
important matter, working towards the complete emancipation
of women and improving the quality of life.
We are marking this International Day of No Violence
against Women, not just to mourn or decry the scourge
of violence against women, but to also acknowledge the
work that this country is doing, from all sectors, to
confront this challenge and to intensify our efforts
in this regard.
Since the advent of democracy, South Africa has prioritised
the eradication of crimes against women and children,
and many pieces of legislation have been passed to provide
the legal framework for dealing with this scourge.
As we meet today, we are also doing so being proud
of the fact that our nation does not merely cry in rage
when abuse and violence against women and children occur.
We have, together, taken concrete steps of dealing with
this abuse through our courts, Parliament, the Constitution,
Chapter Nine institutions as well as specialised training
for police officers to be able to deal sensitively with
survivors and cases of violence against women and children.
We need to mention, however, that such sensitivity
does not extend to perpetrators of this scourge. To
this end, more than 40 specialised Sexual Offences Courts
have been established countrywide.
Also soon to be passed in Parliament, is the Sexual
Offences Bill which will broaden the definition of sexual
violence and further ensure that convicted perpetrators
receive the maximum penalty.
There are many other measures in place, which when
viewed collectively, give the picture of a country that
values and respects women and children. We have for
example, the Office of the Rights of the Child as well
as the Office of the Status of Women, located in the
highest office in the land, the Presidency, the latter
representing a broad mass of gender machinery, promoting
the rights of women.
The more than 170 coordinators of this gender machinery,
spread nationwide and worldwide, are drawn from people
as diverse as from Government, Gender Commission, churches,
unions, research institutions, international organisations
and institutions, political parties, human rights organisations,
professional bodies and lobby groups.
Together with these groups, we are resolved collectively
to put an end to the excesses against women and children.
Having mentioned all the successes and work in progress,
we must also acknowledge that there is still a lot of
work to be done. Most importantly, this collective work
must form part of the general thrust of the country's
Moral Regeneration Movement, itself involving all sectors
We therefore repeat our call on all South African citizens
to find a role for themselves in rebuilding families
and moral communities. A number of provinces and municipalities
have established MRM structures, allowing each and everyone
of us to participate in an organised fashion.
We emphasise this because we observe that most violence
against women and children is not perpetrated by strangers
but occurs within families, homes, relatives, and by
those known to the victims. It is only when families
and relatives start exposing these practices, some of
which go largely unreported, that we can minimise the
violence and abuse.
Today, we urge all South Africans to participate in
the 16 Days Campaign in their own ways to help us build
a caring society and strong moral communities.
Ladies and Gentlemen, in taking this campaign forward,
we need to acknowledge that most, if not all the abuse
of women and children, is perpetuated by men. For this
reason, we strongly welcome the active participation
of men in the campaign.
We are aware of men's marches and other activities
that have been embarked upon and that are pending, and
encourage these as they isolate the perpetrators, and
demonstrate that it is not all men who abuse women and
children. We are truly pleased to see men increasingly
becoming part of the solution.
From our side as government, the campaign has assumed
greater proportions this year than previously, with
the entire Cabinet taking part in awareness programmes
and communicating key government programmes to fight
Through the Office of the Status of Women, national
departments and clusters of departments have prepared
sector-specific activities that will take place throughout
the country in both rural and urban locations during
the 16 Days.
This period is also marked by three other important
international commemoration dates: The World Aids Day
on the first day of December, the International Day
for the Disabled on 3 December and the 16 Days Campaign
ends on 10 December, the International Human Rights
But work does not stop after 16 Days; we need to continue
our vigilance as government, as families and communities
and many sectors including the media.
We must at this point also thank all South Africans
who work tirelessly to promote safer communities. Last
year's campaign demonstrated the active involvement
of citizens as indicated in the funds raised. With a
generous donation from South Africans that was matched
by the Foundation for Human Rights, more than R1.8 million
was available for disbursement to NGOs throughout the
In addition, at the final count, we had received more
than 500 000 signatures in support of the campaign.
We thank you all for this much needed support.
Fellow South Africans, please do join us again this
year, as we mobilise the whole nation to intensify the
campaign to promote the rights, security and comfort
of women and children.
This campaign is certainly an important contribution
to the task of nation building. We need a proud nation,
that respects its women and children.
I thank you.