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Wednesday, 9 August 2017 – On this historically significant day, when we commemorate Women's Day in honour of the heroic and courageous struggles waged by the women of 1956, Speaker Ms Baleka Mbete and Chairperson Ms Thandi Modise pay tribute to the women of South Africa for their continued struggle for justice, equality and fairness.

This year's Women's Day, 61 years since about 20 000 women of all races took a bold stance against the ruthless apartheid regime's unjust laws, coincides with our Parliament's commemoration of the 20 years of the Constitution and the establishment of the National Council of Provinces. We have reaffirmed our unwavering commitment to deepen gender equality and women’s empowerment. Our reform of the apartheid legislative architecture over the last 23 years of our democracy has not only been underpinned by eradicating racial equality but also the liberation of women, who have historically suffered the triple oppression of class exploitation, sexism and racism.

Gender equality and the advancement of the rights of women, which continues to be an integral feature of our legislative and oversight work, is at the heart of the democratic values of human dignity, equality and freedom enshrined in our Constitution. South Africa's blueprint for socio-economic transformation, the National Development Plan (NDP), stresses women’s peace and security and affirms gender equality as a permanent feature across all the spheres of the South African Government.

Through the transformative legislation that it passes, Parliament strives also for gender equality in all spheres of South African society. According to the latest statistics by the International Parliamentary Union, the South African Parliament is ranked 10th in the world with women representation at 41.8% and 35.3% in the National Assembly and the National Council of Provinces respectively. While improvements have been registered since 1994, more needs to be done to attain equality both within Parliament and other spheres of society, such as, the economy. South Africa will not attain a society that is prosperous, united and truly free unless women play a meaningful role in all sectors - not as an act of charity - but as a Constitutional right.

As we mark this day, we condemn, in the strongest terms, one of the vexing social ills that continue to blemish our Constitutional democracy and undermine our democratic gains - ongoing gender-based violence. Those who perpetrate such heinous crimes, which attacks the sanctity of our Constitution and its human rights culture, must face the full might of the law. In this regard, we urge the appropriate authorities to act expeditiously on the matter involving Deputy Minister of Higher Education and Training Mr Mduduzi Manana. Men, in particular - as brothers, husbands and fathers - must play a key role in changing behaviour and attitudes among men to eliminate all kinds of violence against women.

Parliament's Presiding Officers salute the women of South Africa on this important day.

ISSUED BY THE PARLIAMENT OF THE REPUBLIC OF SOUTH AFRICA

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