Parliament, Saturday, 25 November 2023 – In marking this year’s 16 Days of Activism for No Violence against Women and Children, the Presiding Officers of Parliament have committed to ensuring that Parliament uses its constitutional powers of oversight over the executive, law-making powers, and facilitating cooperative governance and public participation to bolster national efforts to eradicate GBV.

The 16 Days campaign – a United Nations campaign held annually from 25 November until 16 December, will be launched in Mpumalanga on 25 November. This year’s theme is “Accelerating actions to end gender-based violence & femicide: leaving no one behind”.

This year’s campaign starts in the wake of another gruesome incident of gender-based violence (GBV) that made news headlines when a 30-year-old male student allegedly stabbed a 26-year-old woman several times in full view of other students in Cape Town. The incident was captured on camera and the woman was later identified as the man’s wife. He is still in custody.

Sadly, this is not an isolated incident as there are thousands of reports of women killed at the hands of men.

The Presiding Officers said it was unfortunate that the rate at which women and children are killed in South Africa every day is estimated to be five times higher than the global average.

Last week, the Minister of Police Mr Bheki Cele and the South African Police Services senior management released quarterly crime statistics for July to September, which showed that there has been a 1.5 per cent drop in sexual offences compared to the same period in the last financial year.

Although sexual offences showed a decrease in this period, the statistics show that there were 10 516 rape incidents reported to the police between July and September and most of these incidents were at the home of the victim or the perpetrator. The SAPS’ statistics also showed that there were 1 514 incidents of attempted murder, involving female victims reported from July to September and that women were recorded as victims in 14 401 cases of assault with the intent to do grievous bodily harm.

It is against this background that the Presiding Officers of Parliament led by the Speaker of the National Assembly, Ms Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula and the Chairperson of the National Council of Provinces, Mr Amos Masondo, urge all South Africans to double their efforts to help fight the scourge of violence against our women and children.

Acknowledging the government’s efforts to fight the scourge of GBV, the Presiding Officers believe that the compendium of GBV legislation that Parliament has passed so far will have a positive effect in the long term.

In January last year, President Cyril Ramaphosa signed into law three pieces of legislation passed by Parliament. All three pieces of legislation are meant to strengthen government’s efforts to address the scourge of GBV. For example, the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences and Related Matters) Amendment Bill aimed at preventing sex crimes provides, among others, for the inclusion of details of all sex offenders on the National Register for Sex Offenders. Previously, details were limited to sex offenders perpetrating crimes against children and those living with mental disabilities. Another piece of legislation – the Criminal and Related Matters Amendment Bill – seeks to prevent secondary victimisation of survivors in court proceedings and provides, among others, for complainants to give evidence through an intermediary. The Domestic Violence Amendment Bill, in turn, provides for electronic applications for protection orders and domestic violence safety monitoring notices, among others.

In addition to the three GBV Bills that Parliament passed in 2021, the National Assembly last month approved the National Council on Gender-Based Violence and Femicide (NCGBVF) Bill. The Bill is the outcome of the Presidential Summit Declaration against Gender-Based Violence and Femicide of 2018 that was aimed at preventing and eliminating the abuse, violence, and murder of women in South Africa.

When signed into law, the NCGBVF Bill will launch a National Council that will manage a procedural approach to gender-based violence and femicide cases in collaboration with relevant stakeholders. The Council’s priorities will be aligned to various national frameworks and this will help ensure information on best practices concerning the prevention and elimination of GBV is readily available and accessible to all appropriate interested parties.

Once the National Council is established, the Bill further proposes that a National Strategic Plan be developed within six months and reports on the progress of its implementation will be presented to an Inter-Ministerial Committee on GBVF. The Bill also recommends that the plan be reviewed every five years.

What is especially troubling is that most of these dreadful incidents took place in the residences of either the victims or the offenders, underscoring the pressing necessity to combat violence within domestic environments. The Presiding Officers of Parliament urge the public to unite with law enforcement authorities and support the comprehensive initiatives aimed at eliminating violence against women. It is crucial that we collaborate to establish safer households and communities, provide women with the opportunity to live without fear and with the ultimate goal of consigning these distressing statistics to history.

Enquiries: Moloto Mothapo