Address by President Jacob Zuma, at the closing ceremony of the 16 Days of Activism Campaign on No Violence Against Women and Children

Thursday, December 10, 2009

QwaQwa Campus, Free Sate University

10 December 2009

Programme Director, MEC Sisi Ntombela,
Free State Premier, Ace Magashule,
Minister for Women, Children and Persons with Disabilities, Noluthando Mayende-Sibiya
Ministers, MECs, Executive Mayors, Mayors and Councillors present
Our Honoured Traditional Leaders present,
Members of our Faith-based organisations, NGOs and Activists present,
Distinguished Guests,
Members of the Media,

Bagaetso Dumelang! Molweni Sanibonani!
Today we officially close the campaign of 16 Days of Activism on No Violence against Women and Children.

I must make it clear from the beginning that today marks only the closing ceremony of this campaign. The fight itself against the abuse of women and children should carry on for the entire 365 days of the year.

With this year's theme of "Don't Look Away, Stop Abuse", Government and all sectors of society embarked on the National 16 Days Activism Campaign on No Violence against Women and Children.

This has become a United Nations-endorsed campaign that takes place annually from the 25th of November, which is the International Day of No Violence against Women to 10 December today, International Human Rights Day.

We also recently marked World Aids, on the 1st of December at the Tshwane Events Centre. The day's activities allowed for an increased focus on the link between sexual violence and the spread of HIV infection as well as incidents of abuse experienced by persons with disabilities.

As you know this year marks the 10-year anniversary of the 16 Days Campaign in South Africa. It should be well-known that we are pleased that this Government, and the past ANC administrations have been steadfast in creating an environment conducive to the empowerment of women and children, particularly the girl-child.

This has resulted in progressive legislation that guarantees the promotion and protection of human rights in general, but women's rights in particular.
While these measures have generally impacted positively on their lives, we nevertheless acknowledge that a number of challenges still remain.

These exist both in implementation as well as in transforming societal attitudes and harmful practices that manifest themselves negatively against women and the girl child.

In particular, prevailing attitudes regarding the place of women in society and the different notions of masculinity continue to present a barrier to the general pursuit of women's rights and gender equality.

One of the worst manifestations of this in our society is gender-based violence, especially violence against women and girls.

The crime statistics released by the Police Department in September this year indicated an unfortunate increase in sexual offences, with much more cases of rape being enrolled for the first time in the magistrate courts across the country.

I must also point out that this disjuncture between the high levels of awareness and persisting abuse was a major focus of the National Stakeholder Summit which marked the start of the campaign on Wednesday November 25.

The Summit discussed measures needed to build on the current high levels of awareness and turn that into tangible behavioural changes and therefore, the reduction of cases of abuse.

The Summit discussed a number of interventions needed to ensure an effective response to the growing scourge of gender violence and violation of children's rights.

We have asked the Ministry of Women, Children and Persons with Disabilities to take these recommendations forward.

Working together with other government departments and civil society partners, the Ministry must ensure that this campaign is sustained throughout the year through the 365 Days Campaign.

Government is firmly committed to lead a coordinated effort to sustain the campaign into its next decade. This campaign has increased awareness of the detriments of violence on women, children and society as a whole.
It continues to seek to entrench the Bill of Rights and other pieces of legislation that guarantee the dignity of each person.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

As we close this campaign, it is important for us as government and also for stakeholders, to popularize the laws that have been put in place to protect women and children.

Since the advent of democracy in 1994, Government has placed legislation to redress the wrongs affecting women and children in particular. These include:

* Promotion of Equality and Prevention of Unfair Discrimination Act, of 2000 which was passed to ensure that Constitutional rights are enjoyed by all persons. This Act ensures that women have equal enjoyment of rights and freedoms, in addressing the wrongs of the past.
* The Employment Equity Act, 1998 was passed to ensure that discrimination in employment, occupation and income within the labour market that resulted from apartheid laws are curtailed.
* It encourages equitable representation of women and other historically disadvantaged persons at all levels of public and private entities.
* The Maintenance Act, 1998 was legislated to guarantee the rights of a child to a living standard which is adequate for physical, mental, spiritual and social development. The Act ensures that maintenance for the child is recovered from the parents or other persons financially responsible for the child.
* The Domestic Violence Act, of 1998 was enacted to afford survivors of violence maximum protection from domestic abuse. Women, who are at the most receiving end of domestic violence, now have a legal recourse that will ensure their protection.
* The Children's Act, 2005 and Children's Amendment Act, 2007 was enacted to amongst others, protect a child from maltreatment, neglect, abuse or degradation.

Government will continue to implement and support many other interventions that protect the human dignity of women and children.

As you might be aware, the Children Rights Charter is being reviewed and updated also to include emerging challenges such as use of children as subject of pornography and children's exposure to pornographic material.

Government has also responded to the practice of forced marriage of children to adults under a pretext of a traditional practice called "Ukuthwala".

Government is committed to ensure that traditional and other practices are in line with the Constitution and relevant legislation.

We are pleased further that the process is underway towards the re-establishment of specialized police units dealing with domestic and sexual offences and other crimes against women and children.

The establishment of specialized units will mobilize the expertise needed to enhance management and successful prosecution of crimes against women and children.

There are currently 17 Thuthuzela Care Centres established across the country in communities with high incidents of sexual violence.
The Centres provide health and welfare services as well as initiate processes for effective reporting and prosecution of offences in a dignified and caring environment by qualified professionals.

Other measures include:
19 Victim empowerment projects funded by the Criminal Asset Recovery Funds.
Development of the Directory on Services for Victims of Violence and Crime which contains services provided by over 1 500 government and civil society organisations in all provinces.
The directory empowers people to access services that are available in their area.
Victim friendly facilities which have been established in high contact crime police stations.
The development and sustaining of dedicated Sexual Offences Courts.
The Domestic Violence Act provided for shelters to be established. There are currently 96 shelters in South Africa, from 39 in 2001.

It is therefore very pleasing to note that the rights of the Victims Charter are being translated into reality within the Criminal Justice System as a whole.
We have directed the law enforcement agencies to ensure that they put women and children high on the agenda of law enforcement and protection during the festive season. They must act swiftly to protect women and children when cases of violence are reported.

We will continue to mobilize the expertise needed to enhance management and successful prosecution of crimes against women and children.

The criminal justice system needs to also strengthen its focus on the needs of the survivors of abuse. Investigating officers need to engage closely with the survivor when investigating for purposes of bail applications because of its potential to cause severe distress to the survivor.
We have seen survivors becoming anxious when the alleged perpetrator is released on bail especially because the accused is often known to the complainant.

To reinforce HIV prevention efforts, rape survivors should fully utilize the provisions of the Sexual Offences Amendment Act, where survivors have a right to request compulsory HIV testing of an alleged offender. This application should be brought within 90 days of the alleged sexual offence.

Survivors themselves have access to treatment within 72 hours of a rape incident. As government, we have to ensure that antiretroviral drugs are always available for prevention of HIV for rape survivors.

I would like to appeal to the country to work together to prevent cases of abuse, to ensure that perpetrators face the full might of the law and that survivors get the support needed for them to deal with the trauma.

Let us work for a South Africa where women and children can walk the streets of our country with no fear of being attacked. Let us ensure that all our people enjoy freedom, security and respect for their human rights.

In this fight, we cannot be alone. International cooperation in addressing challenges of violence against women and children continues to grow.

Our collective efforts in South Africa have been ably assisted and guided by a range of international and human rights instruments, including the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) and the Beijing Declaration and its Platform for Action.

Our Bill of Rights also ensures the foundation for a non-sexist and human rights based society, which has been incorporated into the transformation agenda of Government.

In addition, the SADC Protocol on Gender and Development states that SADC Member States shall by 2015 have enacted legislation that fight sexual harassment.

The government and all sections of our society have done all we can to inculcate a culture of respect, love and compassion for our women as well as protection of our children.

But more needs to be done.

Thank you again for this opportunity to close this ceremony of 16 Days of Activism Campaign on No Violence against Women and Children.

Together we can turn the tide against violence and the abuse of our women and children.

Thank you

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