Address by the Deputy President, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, at the Launch of 16 Days of Activism for No Violence against Women and Children Campaign, Katlehong Stadium, Gauteng, 25 November 2005

Gauteng Premier, Mbazima Shilowa
Deputy Minister of Correctional Service, Ms Cheryl Gillwald
Chairperson of the National House of Traditional Leaders, Inkosi Mzimela
Ekurhuleni Mayor, Councillor Duma Nkosi
Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) President, Willy Madisha
Business Unity South Africa (Busa) President, Patrice Motsepe
South African NGO Coalition (SANGOCO) Executive Director, Zanele Twala
Member of the Presidential Working Group on Women, Gloria Serobe
Leader of the National Forum of Religious Leaders, Mr Singh
Distinguished guests

Thank you for organising and hosting this event. To the national government, provincial and Ekurhuleni Metro and all our parties. Thank you for the metro launch of the 16 Days of Activism of No Violence Against Women and Children Campaign for 2005. Today, we will also light the Torch of Peace, whose flame will burn on. This is the flame of no violence and peace that must burn through the year in our hearts and in our lives.

Throughout the year, the Torch of Peace will be handed to various sectors, for example it will be handed to Transport to begin the Arrive Alive campaign in December. The torch will be lit in August for the Women's Month, which in 2006 will be the 50th commemoration of the Women's March to the Union Buildings. This touch has to mean something to all of us.

The Bill of Rights affirms women's rights, it says "Everyone is equal before the law and has the right to equal protection and benefit of the law". It further states that "everyone has inherent dignity and the right to have their dignity respected and protected, to be free from all forms of violence from either public or private sources; not to be tortured in any way".

But the real beginning for respect of women and children and indeed humanity starts at home with partners, parents, relatives and friends who cannot and should not be abusers and perpetrators.

The safety of our citizens and the respect of human dignity are enshrined in our Bill of Rights. Our government has therefore put in place mechanisms to enable the realisation of these rights but the responsibility of ensuring the safety of women and children in our homes and our bedrooms, in our playing fields and schools, indeed everywhere is our joint responsibility as citizens.

The laws of the country must be there as a second line defence, the first line has to be a safe home and a safe family. Relatives and families must all be guardians and protectors. The democratic government since its inception in 1994 has consistently upheld basic laws and tried to promote the rights of especially those perceived to be the most vulnerable and weak in society, notably women and children.

Because you can judge the nation's development by how it treats its most vulnerable men. We believe most men in our society are not abusers but men who are silent and inactive when they see abuse become enablers of abuse. Parents and relatives who witness abuse and take no action are also guilty of allowing this crime to be perpetrated.

As we meet today as united people we must send the strongest message possible that people who abuse, rape and torture women and children cannot be tolerated or accepted in our midst. Such people have no place in our society. They belong in prison and we will do everything in our power to ensure that they face the full force of the law and are put away where they cannot hurt innocent people, little girls, little boys, women, old people even men.

Thank God we have mandatory sentences for rape. If you rape you go to jail. Ayixoxisi leyo. Siyabonga ukuthi umthetho wethu ushokanjalo. We are getting encouraged by the response of our people when it comes to condemning domestic violence. More people are becoming vocal on these issues in churches, schools, and sporting fraternity. Each year, more and more South Africans are heeding the call, thus intensifying the national movement against women and child abuse. More men are showing that they share the concern of women. Those are real men, real fathers, real heroes and we march solidly forward with them. But the buy in is not yet enough and not intense enough. Much still need to be done by every citizen. Even government can still do more.

We also know government alone cannot succeed. Because most abuse takes place in the homes, families and communities should help expose offenders. As we sit in our homes today when we hear this message let us make today the day we stand up and report abuse in our homes. Tell somebody today, if you do not, you are slowly killing those who are facing abuse. If you are facing abuse in your hands, speak now

Tell somebody. Tell your teacher, your friend, your priest, the mayor even the President wants to know, I want to know. When you see a dangerous trend take a stand, rather err on the side of caution.

We have heard young men and boys who believe that to abuse women is a way of life. That we cannot accept and do nothing. They must know there is consequence to such actions. Schools, homes and churches lets tell the children that abuse is punishable, crime with mandatory sentences.

Let us tell them about the Domestic Violence Act. This legislation ensures that women to protect their rights, when it comes to abuse experienced in their homes. Women must not regard domestic violence as a private matter.

This act has also helped in transforming police stations to be more user-friendly to women facing issues of domestic violence and to be generally more sensitive when they dealt with issues of domestic violence. It is helping women to be treated with respect and dignity after the trauma of being a victim of violence.

So women must not fear going to their police. In addition, specialised training for police officers makes them more sensitive in dealing with cases of violence against women and children. Again much more can be done many more police can embrace the act in letter and spirit. We salute those who are already heeding the call who work tirelessly.

The government has set up Thuthuzela Centres that are aimed at reducing secondary victimisation. Conviction rate in the Thuthuzela Centre 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.

Government is busy with the introduction of additional laws that will take the struggle against such violence to new heights. When the Sexual Offences Bill is finalised, it will broaden the definition of sexual violence and help ensure even heavier sentences for convicted offenders.

I will again want to emphasise the laws must be additional to safe homes. Better and well brought up youngsters. President Thabo Mbeki challenged us in December last year "to stand and work together in order to defeat the demon of women and child abuse".

I'm proud to say to you that the energy and effort of all the partners here today shows that we have heeded his call to action. The participation of a wide range of sectors in this year's campaign indicates that we have indeed heeded his call.

I am here today to remind each one of us of our common responsibility to act against all forms of abuse, particularly abuse directed at women and children. We have a duty to ensure that our homes, our communities and our workplaces are safe places in order to enable meaningful development and a better life for all. That the law will not discriminate or look the other way. All allegations will be fully investigated and all offenders brought to book. Sixteen Days of Activism is a call to action. We urge everyone - at home, school, work and in the community - 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 will help move perpetrators to change their ways; it will help bring more people into the fight against abuse.

We also urge you to sign your personal pledge at your local post office, which will be posted on the Wall of Solidarity at the SABC. You must also, please, make your voice heard by participating in the cyber dialogues through your Multi-Purpose Community Centres (MPCCs) or any connected computer.

Activism means that each of us should abstain from inflicting hurt and pain through our words or actions on any other person. Activism means that we respond by reporting any instance of violence directed at women and or children by anyone, even where it is perpetrated by parents or care-givers. The campaign needs eyes and ears if it is to be successful.

Parents take responsibility too many children are stolen and abused because the parent was negligent, drunk or too trusting of people. Too many parents also ignore the signs and warning of abuse. Too many parents are perpetrators. They kill their children's future, spirit and capacity to cope with life. Caregivers must stop exploiting children. Churches, teachers who destroy young lives. If you are one seek help because that is illness and it is evil. Abuse at work by bosses is illegal. HIV and AIDS spread is partly due to abuse. Women tolerate abusive relations for economic reasons; we must therefore fight feminisation of poverty. The growth in the numbers of HIV positive is mostly amongst women who are middle aged and married. Because husband ignore safe sex.

We call on everyone to use the 16 Days of Activism to strengthen the ongoing fight against women and child abuse. We should use the 16 days to commit ourselves and persuade others to give practical meaning and support throughout the year to the call not to commit acts of abuse. Increased violence over the festive period requires an extra effort to reduce it and ensure that services and support are accessible for victims.

Gender equality is in the interest of all. Men have everything to gain from a more equitable society. I commend all those men who live gender-equitable lives. I ask them to come forward and make this public not hiding behind closed doors when they are simply being good fathers.

Forward with active and caring fatherhood.

Men must not "lash-back" at women for being liberated and repress them. What father wants their daughters to grow-up to be treated like second citizens in their own home and country. Women have a decisive contribution in making the world a better place for all and that means women's dignity must be upheld.

Abuse of men and boys is also wrong. Violence must not be used to beat women to submission and desperation because "you empower the women you empower the nation". You abuse women you dim the lights of good health for the nation and happy families. You abuse a child you kill a flower, you kill innocence.

Men should see that they stand to gain an enormous amount from gender equality. In a gender-equitable society they will not have to worry about the safety of the women they care about, nor will they automatically be seen as potential perpetrators. Instead, they will enjoy happier, more satisfying relationships. Society as a whole will benefit. A better life will be for all.

I appeal to all in all positions and ordering people to be champions for peace, gender equality and the celebration of human dignity. We salute the many caregivers, non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and servants volunteers who are in the fight; thank you! In shelters, home based care, councillors, hospitals, police stations.

I urge you to support NGOs who are dealing with issues of child and women abuse by sending an sms - saying 16days - to 31616, each SMS will cost R5. Let us all send our sms now!

I look forward to seeing you, yes each one of you, prominently and visibly in the many events that are being held across the country for this year's campaign. Together let us build a South Africa that truly cares for women and children!

I thank you.

Issued by: The Presidency
25 November 2005


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