25 November 2010
Violence against women and children was an attack on South Africa’s Bill of Rights and Constitution that could no longer be tolerated, Justice and Constitutional Development Minister Jeff Radebe said at the launch of the 16 Days of Activism campaign in Khayelitsha, Cape Town on Thursday.
“I want to tell you today that eradicating violence against women is among our core business as government,” he said, adding that perpetrators should not be given any room to manoeuvre.
A recent survey by the government found that women who wanted to report abuse often had to wait three to four hours in police stations repeating the same story to several police officers; that medical examinations were held days later; that doctors rarely treated survivors for HIV or offered medical assistance; and that women faced more risk of being raped when they walked back from hospital.
Radebe said that, further to this, when the case involved a partner or ex-boyfriend, many police officers discouraged women from laying charges.
Sexual Offences Courts, Thuthuzela Care Centres
In a bid to counter such incidents, the department has set up 54 Sexual Offences Courts with dedicated waiting areas away from the accused, while children are able to give testimony via closed-circuit television.
The minister also opened the 27th Thuthuzela Care Centre in Pietermaritzburg earlier this week. These centres link women who have been sexually abused to health workers, social workers and prosecutors.
The centres have been one of the government’s most successful programmes, said Minister of Basic Education Angie Motshekga, adding another one would be opening soon in KwaZulu-Natal.
She said women had been intensifying their efforts to make gender equality a societal issue.
A victim’s testimony
Motshekga’s address was followed by testimony from a Cape Town woman who had been a victim of domestic abuse. The woman, who asked to remain anonymous to protect her children, spoke out about the 19 years of abuse she suffered at the hands of her husband.
“I’ve been abused in all ways possible – sexually, physically and financially,” said the woman, who left her husband two months ago when he began abusing her children.
She recounted one incident where her husband dragged her by her hair to the kitchen, where he choked her until she blacked out. He then raped her before cleaning her off with a t-shirt.
She was now picking up the pieces of her life and was writing a book about her abuse.
Illegal to do nothing
Also speaking at the launch, Minister for Women, Children and People with Disabilities Lulu Xingwana said it was the responsibility of all in the community to report incidences of abuse of women and children to police or social workers.
“The Children’s Act in particular makes it illegal for someone not to do anything if they are aware of the abuse,” said Xingwana.
Western Cape Minister of Social Development Patricia de Lille said her department would be running a campaign in the province during the 16 Days of Activism, targeting men who were not paying maintenance for their children.
De Lille, who estimated the value of maintenance defaults to be over R9.5-million, said her department, together with the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development, would publish the names of the defaulters daily.
Twelve roadblocks would also be set up in the Western Cape for next 16 days to track down defaulters.
In addition, De Lille said community development workers were out in the community to help trace about 300 mothers who were not claiming disbursements totalling about R3-million.