Women 'not victims in criminal justice system'
Johannesburg - Women should not be viewed as victims in the criminal justice system, but as contributors in preventing and combating crime, Correctional Services Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula said on Friday.
"The unique characteristics and attributes that women can bring to all law enforcement agencies should be viewed in a positive light so as to enhance our efforts in the fight against crime," she said in an address prepared for delivery at the Fourth Annual Conference of Women in Law Enforcement.
"Society cannot continue to view the fight against crime as one where brute strength plays a role in keeping women out of leadership positions.
"The problem-solving and communication skills that women can bring to the table within the field of policing, for instance, could prevent situations from escalating into the use of excessive force."
She said the conference took place at a time when law enforcement faced the challenge of police killings on one hand and a "heavy-handed" approach to policing on the other.
The public was also seeking "clarity" on whether rehabilitated offenders involved in serious and violent crimes should be reintegrated into society.
"Despite having to deal with these challenges, we have a duty that because of its importance to the security and peace of our country, our work must go on.
"After all, we do recognise the reality that the work that we do requires the tolerable balance of interests and expectations of society," Mapisa-Nqakula said.
Law enforcement was "particularly demanding" on women, and while there were changes supporting them at policy level, "the system still remains by and large, not designed to accommodate the specific needs of women in the workplace", she said.
A lot more needed to be done to encourage women and make them feel part of many law enforcement agencies.
"Women who join the system find the environment to be not supportive and without consideration of their circumstances, including their role as mothers and family-bearers, while at the same time they are subjected to discrimination, sexual harassment, and intimidation by fellow colleagues.
"Without this supportive environment, women do not have a chance to progress within the system."
She said it was important for the sector to reach out to women and relay the message that they were "needed", "welcome" and "valued".
"That message can only be sent by the way we treat and empower those that are already in the system."