President Cyril Ramaphosa on Tuesday described gender-based violence as a stain on Women’s Day celebrations.
He was addressing the community of Richmond, in the KwaZulu-Natal Midlands, during the government’s official commemoration of the day.
While the day is in remembrance of the bravery of thousands of women of all backgrounds and cultures who marched to the Union Buildings in 1956 to protest against the abusive pass laws, Ramaphosa said women in SA today still have little to celebrate.
“Hardly a day goes by in this country without a report of women being attacked, being violated, and being killed by men.
“This cannot continue, the women of SA have had enough of being afraid,” said Ramaphosa.
He said women were afraid to go out after dark, afraid of being attacked in their own homes, of being preyed on in classrooms and afraid for the safety of their children and relatives.
The president attributed the daily violence experienced by women to men who have no respect for women, who feel they can do what they like with their girlfriends or partners because they buy them airtime or groceries.
“It is a problem of men who lack the maturity to accept the end of a relationship and hunt down their ex-wives or ex-girlfriends.
“It is a problem of men who think culture, custom and religion empowers them to hit their wives, sisters, and daughters and to deprive them of their rights.”
Ramaphosa also criticised men who use their positions of influence and authority to prey on and take advantage of women.
The president also blamed alcohol abuse. “Here, in Richmond, like in many places around the country, sexual assaults and other violent crimes are connected to alcohol abuse, and many take place in or around places where alcohol is sold — taverns and shebeens.”
The government was determined to strengthen the fight against gender-based violence through legislation, he said.
Laws passed to protect victims of domestic violence include:
- Empowerment of police to enter premises without a warrant and, if necessary, arrest a suspect.
- Police can also remove dangerous weapons from a suspect. Complainants can apply for protection orders online.
- New provisions expand the scope of the National Register of Sex Offenders, and place a legal responsibility on people to report any sexual offences committed against vulnerable people.
- There are now far stricter conditions under which a suspect may be granted bail.
However he emphasised the government cannot dismantle the culture of gender-based violence alone.
“Silence is no longer an option. Silence is the dark corner in which women and children are abused, beaten, raped, and killed.
“Silence is the dark cloud under which men allow their friends to ill-treat women, children, and members of the LGBTQIA+ community as a display of their manliness.”
Ramaphosa described the silence as a cancer that eats away at women who protect their husbands, sons, partners, and boyfriends who abuse them, their children, and other women because they are financially dependent on these men.
“On this Women’s Day I want to call on every South African to play their part in the fight against gender-based violence and femicide by speaking out.”
President Cyril Ramaphosa, flanked by minister of women, youth and persons with disabilities Maite Nkoana-Mashabane and KZN premier-designate Nomusa Dube-Ncube at a Women’s Day celebration in Richmond near Pietermaritzburg. Photo: SANDILE NDLOVU