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SA: Cyril Ramaphosa, Address by President, at the Presidential Summit on Gender-Based Violence and Femicide, St Gerogies Hotel, Pretoria (01/11/2018)

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SA: Cyril Ramaphosa, Address by President, at the Presidential Summit on Gender-Based Violence and Femicide, St Gerogies Hotel, Pretoria (01/11/2018)

President Cyril Ramaphosa

1st November 2018

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Programme Director, Minister Susan Shabangu,
Minister of Women in the Presidency, Ms Bathabile Dlamini,
Minister of Justice and Correctional Services, Adv Michael Masutha,
Chief Justice, Hon Mogoeng Mogoeng,
Speaker of the National Assembly, Ms Baleka Mbete,
Representatives of civil society,
Fellow South Africans,
 
We are gathered here – as South African women and men – to respond to a crisis that is tearing our society apart.
 
It is a crisis that affects every community in our country and that touches the lives of most families in one way or another.
 
Gender-based violence is an affront to our shared humanity.
 
The unrelenting murder of women – for no reason other than that they are women – is steadily corroding the soul of our nation.
 
Survivors of sexual violence and abuse – be it physical, psychological or economic – often live with these scars for the rest of their lives.
 
When abuse occurs in a situation of trust, whether in the family, the church, in schools or elsewhere, the sense of betrayal is intensified.
 
The physical and psychological effects may recede, but they very rarely disappear.
 
One moment of violence can have permanent consequences.
 
Most of us know someone who is a survivor of gender-based violence or who has in some other way been affected by this evil.
 
In August, I made a commitment that we shall convene this Summit to develop a national plan of action against gender-based violence.
 
This promise was made following the activism, borne out of pain and anger, of those who held marches around the country to highlight the scourge of gender-based violence and femicide in this country.
 
We are agreed that we need a multi-sectoral approach that responds to the demands of the marchers, and strengthens the broader interventions that address the causes and effects of such violence.
 
We are here today to listen and learn from the experiences of survivors; to hear their voices and to have the lived experiences of women and children inform our responses to gender-based violence.
 
Gender-based violence is a global phenomenon.
 
The World Health Organisation tell us that 35% of women worldwide experienced either physical or sexual intimate partner violence or non-partner sexual violence in 2013.
 
This is an alarming figure that underscores the need for global cooperation in overcoming gender-based violence.
 
In South Africa, we know that the problem is even more severe.
 
We are a country with relatively high levels of violence and criminality.
 
Slightly more than 20,000 people were killed in the past year, the majority of the perpetrators and victims were men.
 
The most recent data from the World Health Organisation shows that South Africa’s femicide rate was 12.1 per 100,000 in 2016.
 
This was almost five times higher than the global average of 2.6 per 100,000.
 
According to the SAPS Crime Statistics report of 2018, femicide increased by 11% over the last two years.
 
Stats SA reports that 138 per 100,000 women were raped last year, the highest rate in the world.
 
We cannot, and we will not, rest until we have brought those figures down to zero.
 
We are aiming for a femicide rate of zero per 100,000.
 
We want to reach a point where no woman, child or man has to experience the violence, violation and trauma of rape.
 
There is no acceptable level of gender-based violence.
 
We want to eradicate it.
 
Ladies and Gentlemen,
 
Women are often violated by their intimate partners, often in the privacy of their homes.
 
They are slapped, hit, raped, assaulted and emotionally abused and killed because they are with a man who feels entitled to exert power and control over them.
 
There is a danger that society begins to normalise such practices.
 
That is why we need to be vigilant.
 
Condemnation needs to be constant and consistent, perpetrators need to be prosecuted.
 
It requires that we address societal issues of patriarchy, economic relations and changing the way of thinking about gender relations.
 
Patriarchy means that men feel entitled to exert economic and other forms of power over women.
 
This can lead to situations where women may find themselves tolerating the injustices perpetrated against them simply because they may have inadequate economic or emotional resources to walk away from a dangerous relationship.
 
Social perceptions about the roles of girls and boys, and preconceived notions of how women and men should behave, are often harmful to the development of both sexes.
 
When we improve the way we raise our children we can go a long way to preventing violence against girls and boys.
 
We must raise boys and girls with the knowledge and understanding that no person has the right to treat them as inferior or to harm them in any way and that boys and girls are equal in all respects.
 
A society that does not support notions of authority and control over women, and does not tolerate violence against women, is more likely to reduce gender-based violence.
 
We must name and shame those who perpetrate violence against girls and women.
 
Most importantly we must ensure that our law enforcement officers are trained to investigate the cases of abuse to get convictions in these cases.
 
There are several intersections between violence experienced by women and violence against children.
 
The effects of trauma on children are quite severe and last well beyond the immediate instances of violence.
 
Children who experience violence are more likely to experience violence or become perpetrators of violence in adulthood.
 
The Department of Basic Education needs to complete its curriculum transformation programme, especially the auditing of learning materials for latent sexism and racism.
 
The Department also needs to urgently speed up its programmes aimed at offering psycho-social support to vulnerable learners.
 
The programme to train officials and educators to recognise abused and at risk learners was started in two provinces in 2015 and needs to be mainstreamed by including such training in the pre-service training curriculum.
 
Alcohol and drug abuse is a major risk factor associated with gender-based violence.
 
Researchers suggest that alcohol and drugs either induce violence or are used as excuses for perpetrating violence on women and children.
 
Our country has significant substance abuse problems and we need better policies and programmes to prevent substance abuse.
 
Our society is too tolerant of violence against women, often forcing women to withdraw charges against the perpetrators.
 
Very often families exert the most pressure on women and children not to press charges against abusers.
 
A critical component of prevention strategies for gender-based violence is the empowerment of women.
 
Studies that were conducted here in South Africa show that where interventions are linked to the economic and social empowerment of women, intimate partner violence is decreased.
 
Where women become more economically, socially and culturally empowered they develop greater capacity to extricate themselves from abusive situations.
 
We need to invest more in research that develops evidence-based interventions to end gender-based violence.
 
Research shows contradictory results about whether the economic and social empowerment of adult men makes a marked difference on whether they continue to perpetrate violence.
 
However, better results are found where education programmes target boys and young men.
 
Boys and young men who participate in school-wide programmes targeting change in social attitudes tend to show a marked reduction in peer violence.
 
This points to the need to target our education programmes at young children in order to make a difference in attitudes from the start.
 
Despite having progressive laws and being a signatory to many international instruments – such as the Convention for the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women and the UN Declaration of Basic Principles of Justice for Victims of Crime and Abuse of Power – our country does not have an effective, coordinated response to the scourge of gender based violence.
 
This failure to implement our laws and policies effectively is doing a complete disservice to survivors of gender-based violence and others affected by violence.
 
Protection orders can be obtained in terms of the Domestic Violence Act and, once issued by a magistrate, are enforceable throughout the country, but very often survivors have to flee to other parts of the country where it becomes difficult to obtain copies of those orders without going through the whole process again.
 
We should examine the possibility of introducing a national registry for protection orders.
 
Government has responded to two specific demands raised during the August marches – conducting a review of national plans to end gender-based violence and the development of a National Action Plan on gender-based violence.
 
Together with civil society organisations, we have undertaken a review of our Programme of Action on Violence against Women and Children, and plan to launch the revised POA 2019–2023 during the 16 Days of Activism.
 
A frequent complaint is that the police and the court system are not equipped and capacitated to effectively assist survivors of gender-based violence and sexual assault.
 
This is tragically borne out by the numbers of women and children who tell stories of being turned away by the police when they go to report crime, the number of rape and sexual assault cases which are never prosecuted, and the low percentage of successful prosecutions of these cases.
 
As we work to address this, we need to hear from those who interact with our criminal justice system.
 
Please tell us what is working, where we need to improve, what needs to be scaled up and what must be done away with.
 
We are asking you, who deal with these issues on a regular basis, to work with us in developing effective response and support mechanisms.
 
The Thuthuzela Care Centres, our unique one-stop, integrated response to incidents of violent sexual acts against women and children, aim to reduce secondary victimisation, improve conviction rates and reduce the cycle time for finalisation of cases.
 
This is one of our more effective interventions and we must develop concrete proposals on how we can strengthen the operations of these centres.
 
We agree with the demand that we must continuously ensure that lay counsellors at these centres undergo ongoing training to deal with the needs of victims of violence.
 
One of the specific demands raised by activists was to establish a central, national coordinating structure for gender-based violence.
 
We should discuss here what form this should take, what must its mandate be and who should be on this structure.
 
Government has done extensive work in this area and as part of the review of the POA on Violence against Women and Children, the Department of Social Development has identified a number of possible models that are being assessed for their effectiveness and efficiency.
 
We now need to engage with the proposals from civil society and see where we find each other.
 
We must seriously re-examine how we talk about violence against women and children and how our discourse reflects societal norms.
 
It was extremely distressing to hear ordinary South Africans question why a parent would let a child play by herself after a six year old was recently raped at a well-known restaurant.
 
The degree of victim blaming evident in this statement is appalling.
 
We find similar or worse victim blaming in statements such as “Why does she stay with him if he beats her?” or “Why did she wear a mini-skirt to the taxi-rank?” or “How drunk was she?”
 
The language we use, too often, places the responsibility on the victim to not be raped or hit instead of placing the blame where it belongs: on the perpetrator.
 
This expression of patriarchy makes it even harder for survivors of gender-based violence to seek justice.
 
As a society, we must applaud the courage of women like Cheryl Zondi who are prepared to testify about their ordeals.
 
As a society, we must express our deep gratitude to them for leading the way in the struggle against sexual violence and affirm our commitment to support and protect them.
 
Let us pledge here and now to begin to change the way we communicate about gender-based violence and sexual assault.
 
Our language must empower and support the voices of survivors.
 
The communication commission at this Summit needs to propose how we educate the media, and more importantly, broader society on how to communicate in gender sensitive ways.
 
South Africans have consistently shown that we have a great capacity to deal with big, contentious issues through meaningful and respectful dialogue.
 
Let us now do this again.
 
Let us put aside the issues that divide us and work together for the greater good.
 
I call on all South Africans to become champions of the fight against gender-based violence and femicide.
 
This is a societal problem that requires multi-faceted, society wide responses.
 
Personally, I pledge to you that government is here, we are listening and will continue to respond to your concerns.
 
We are looking to this Summit to provide clear direction on a comprehensive national response to gender-based violence.
 
I am convinced that by working together, by confronting difficult issues, and by mobilising all South Africans, we shall create a society where women and children feel safe and are safe at all times and in all places.
 
I thank you.

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