Address by Deputy President Phumzile Mlambo Ngcuka in Parliament on 16 Days of Activism for No Violence Against Women and Children, 16 November 2005.

Madame Speaker,
Honourable Members,

Our democratic South Africa has to leave no stone unturned in dealing with the challenge of violence against women and children. I am glad that we are having this debate to highlight the issues and I,Äôm privileged to have the honour to open the debate on 16 Days of Activism for No Violence Against Women and Children Campaign.

In a poem called Liberation, Abena Buia says,"We are all mothers, and we have that fire within us, of powerful women, whose spirits are so angry" When they are disturbed, and you shall not escape, what we will make of the broken pieces of our lives".

As South Africans we know the reality of the impact of brutality from the police state we were subjected to, as women, men and children, and whole communities. Our embrace of reconciliation is borne out of our desire never to return to that state of affairs, too many bear the scars and that is why we are resolute in our commitment to build a culture of peace in our country, indeed our continent where all will be safe.

It is in this spirit that South Africans, both the Government and our people have embraced the United Nations (UN) campaign of No Violence Against Women, and with the Southern African Development Community (SADC), have expanded the campaign to be the campaign of No Violence Against Women and Children. Our people all over South Africa, men and women, business, Government have embraced this noble campaign.

Each year, from 25 November to 10 December, Government joins with civil society in the international campaign of 16 Days of Activism for No Violence Against Women and Children. This is our commitment to Friendship, Peace and Security not for some but all particularly the most vulnerable.

We need to continue building this partnership with civil society - Government alone cannot succeed in the fight against women and child abuse. We need whistle blowers from within society and we need caregivers to support and not isolate survivors and even we need prevention efforts.

Because most abuse cases take place in the home, families and communities should assist in exposing offenders. In particular, we need families as first line of defence. Women whose children are abused by step parents and relatives, families whose makotis are beaten by husbands and boyfriends.

Men and boys should learn that women and children should be protected and not abused. We need our education system and social institutions to play a greater role.

In the context of HIV/AIDS in our society where women, because of power relations, bear the biggest burden and babies of positive women become casualties in gender relations matter.

The tragedy of HIV/AIDS is one illness where infection can happen even without the parties knowing. It has a stigma, the illness can be draining to affected and infected and above all it creates orphans who live to become vulnerable as children and adults and it is going to be us society who must show care and take some responsibility.

Government is doing all it can through the law and in other ways to fight violence against women and children and we thank the partners who are making a sterling contribution but we need more.

The Sexual Offences Bill broadens the definition of sexual violence and helps ensure heavy sentences for convicted offenders. The public must feel the impact of this legislation.

Specialised training for police officers makes them more sensitive in dealing with cases of violence against women and children, and it is important and appreciated that police men and women have been trained.

There are now 40 sexual offences courts across South Africa and more are being set up. The campaign has increased the awareness among the populace and this is evidenced by increased reported incidents of abuse.

The Government has set up Thuthuzela Centres that are aimed at reducing secondary victimisation.

Conviction rate in the Thuthuzela Centres has improved to between 85 and 90% in those centres linked to sexual offences courts. This is marked improvement as in normal sexual offences courts is 63%.

The finalisation of cases cycle from reporting to conclusion has been reduced to within six months. But let us be sure that every home is a site of struggle and a place of safety for women and children so that a home is truly a home! I urge you in the whole of South Africa in all the homes to speak out and make that crucial decision. To abusers, you should seek help and own up. Take that step now don't hurt another child or woman.

Everyone at home, at school, at work and in the community, it is urged to wear the white ribbon every day for 16 days from 25 November to 10 December to show they do not accept women and child abuse. Wearing a white ribbon will let victims and survivors know we are united in support; it might encourage perpetrators to change their ways; it will help bring more people into the fight against abuse.

We should use the 16 Days of Activism to commit ourselves and persuade others to give practical support throughout the year to the call to not commit acts of abuse.

Increased violence over the festive period requires an extra effort to reduce violence and ensure that services and support are accessible. Parents look after your children. Don't let alcohol deter you and cause you to neglect your children. Don't leave your children alone with strangers or friends and relatives you cannot say you trust absolutely.

Together let us build a South Africa that truly protects women and children! I therefore applaud Parliament for putting forward this important matter in their agenda today. As a member of this House, I look forward in working with you all, throughout the year, in making sure that we all live in a South Africa which is truly free from fear of any form of violence, including Violence Against Women and Children.

Issued by: The Presidency
17 November 2005

 

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