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DA: Statement by Denise, Democratic Alliance shadow minister of women, youth, children and people with disabilities, on 16 days of activism (29/11/2010)

29th November 2010

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Last week, a study by the Medical Research Council (MRC) revealed that 37% of men in Gauteng admitted to having committed rape, while one in four women in the province said they had been victims of rape. Every year at this time, we remind ourselves of the terrible problem of violence and abuse that afflicts our country. The figures presented by the MRC should sharpen our focus more than ever before, in confronting those obstacles to a society free from gender and child abuse.

The 16 Days of Activism provides all South Africans with an opportunity to take heed of the domestic violence that still ravages our land, and which particularly affects women and children – even while they should be enjoying the peace of a democratic dividend. It also provides an opportunity to acknowledge what has become a political truism: that too often we fail to develop our sentiments into practical action at an individual, social or political level. Continuing with our focus on the 16 Days of Activism, the Democratic Alliance (DA) proposes that the Zuma administration consider implementing a range of practical measures that can have a profound effect on curbing domestic violence against women. We consider these to be the basics that the Zuma administration should get right if it is to help build a safer society.

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A full exploration of our recommendations for these 16 Days of Activism can be found in our discussion document, which is available online.

There is already a raft of legislation in place, ostensibly to deal more effectively with cases of crimes against women and children. However, their efficacy has been compromised by the lack of implementation of many of their basic provisions and often a lack of vision for much needed supporting mechanisms that can improve the way we address these social problems. Considering this, the Zuma administration should:

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• Adopt the Chrysalis Academy Model nationally. The Chrysalis Academy, established by the DA provincial government in the Western Cape, identifies youth at risk of abusive or violent behaviour and allows them to undergo a residential programme for 3 months before they re-enter their communities to make a positive impact on them.

• Regularly monitor police stations’ compliance with the Domestic Violence Act. The DVA, which requires police officers to keep proper records of domestic violence incidents and requires all officers to be trained in responding to domestic violence, must be enforced at all police stations. The Secretariat should improve on the monitoring and enforcement of compliance with the DVA, and urgently attend to necessary amendments of the Act, the most important of which should be removing the provision allowing for police to escape the sanction of misconduct for non-compliance. After ten years, nobody should be exempt from non-compliance, and if they have a reasonable excuse, that can be given at the disciplinary hearing.

• Ensure rape prophylactic kits are available at all police stations. Every victim of rape should be able to obtain a kit to provide her with the medication necessary to prevent HIV at any police station, and every police officer must know how to use these kits.

• Train volunteers as victim service workers. Ordinary citizens would be able to obtain training in providing practical and psychological support to victims of domestic and sexual violence. Once qualified, they would be able to go out with police on call to provide assistance to women.

• Enforce maintenance payments. During transactions where people are required to produce ID (opening a bank account, getting a driver’s license, getting a passport, etc), networked computers would be able to determine whether male applicants were in arrears with maintenance payments. If so, they would be barred from making the transaction. In this regard, maintenance payments would also be better enforced if the courts were adequately resourced with properly qualified magistrates and prosecutors who do not postpone matters indefinitely and who know what the appropriate remedies are for non-compliance, and enforce them immediately. More properly trained investigators with integrity are also urgently needed.

• Increase funding for social workers, psychologists and counsellors, both at police stations and magistrate’s courts. Many of the legal processes in abuse cases cannot take place because social workers aren’t available to do the assessments and this causes enormous backlogs. Because they are volunteers, many counsellors leave as soon as a paid position turns up, so there is little continuity. If these counsellors were paid a stipend by the national government, there would be an increased possibility of more commitment, continuity and a more professional service.

• Establish more safe houses and subsidised shelters for victims of abuse. There is nowhere for these victims to go after they have reported a crime. If they return home, their lives could be endangered. The few existing shelters don’t allow children. As such, new safe houses would have to be more accommodating to the families of abused women.

Getting the basics right requires political will. This was modelled recently by the DA-governed Western Cape which, in partnership with the Department of Justice, instituted focused measures to track down maintenance defaulters at the start of the 16 Days. The provincial government has been publishing the names of all untraced defaulters to assist in tracking them down, publishing the names of beneficiaries who can go and collect their money, operating roadblocks using special tracking technology to catch untraced defaulters, tracing beneficiaries through door-to-door searches and raising awareness through broad-based public education.

This is a practical measure that each provincial government, and the Zuma administration, could use as a model in tandem with our broader recommendations. This would enhance Operation Isondlo, which is the country’s primary maintenance default-tracking scheme. But this requires political will, starting at the top. Indeed, President Zuma should take the lead in this campaign and motivate other officials to implement strategies that decrease gender violence.

The DA is committed to the eradication of gender violence in South Africa. We support these 16 Days of Activism for No Violence against Women and Children and call on the Zuma administration to implement the practical measures we have identified above for the sake of promoting women’s rights. This is an effort that we can all agree on as we move forward together.
 

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