Political squabbling overshadows debate on violence against women, children

2016-11-22 21:03
Susan Shabangu (Netwerk24)

Susan Shabangu (Netwerk24)

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Cape Town - MPs debated issues around the 16 Days of Activism for No Violence Against Women and Children campaign on Tuesday in a dialogue that was overshadowed by squabbling between political parties.

Members of Parliament met for a joint sitting of the National Assembly and the National Council Of Provinces in the House led by Minister for Women Susan Shabangu.

ANC MP Grace Tseke told the House that it was time for Parliament to act against the abuse of women by their intimate partners.

"Let's all say 'enough is enough'. Let all males say 'count me in' in fighting this disease continually affecting our country.

"Let the voice of our beloved president Nelson Mandela be the first to be heard when he said 'To deny people their human rights is to challenge their humanity'."

She said the campaign was important and that activism should take up 365 days of the year. The theme for this year was "Count me in".

Sexual offences court praised

"A failure to view violence as a societal problem results in all efforts failing to eradicate this scourge in our communities," Tseke continued.

Tseke praised the government's implementation of a sexual offences court, which showed that rape and gender violence was now seen as a priority crime.

She also called on government to go back to basics when it came to prosecuting gender violence cases and for the minister to host more national dialogues to encourage victims.

"Perhaps it is time for all victims to break the silence and start talking about this scourge; perhaps it's time courts hand out harsher sentences to all perpetrators.

"We need to start walking the talk. The message must be one but with different voices."

Former ANC Youth League leader Patrick Wisani, who has recently been convicted of murdering his girlfriend after sjambokking her to death, was a running theme among opposition party speeches.

Zuma an 'example'

DA MP Denise Robinson was eventually asked to leave the House after suggesting Wisani's attitude towards his murder case represented the ruling party's attitude towards women in general.

She suggested Wisani was following the example of party leader President Jacob Zuma who was accused of rape in 2006 by Fezekile Ntsukela Kuzwayo.

The DA followed her and walked out of the sitting.

Read more: DA walks out of gender violence debate after 'JZ 783' comment

Before she was asked to leave Robinson said government departments, police and social workers needed to work together to fight rape and violence.

"We need to stop feeling outraged after the fact and start taking preventative measures."

She said social workers are overworked and underpaid and challenges in the field needed to be addressed.

Rape culture

EFF MP Hlengiwe Hlophe said women and children have suffered the most in post-democratic South Africa and said the ANC government was "very comfortable" with the status quo.

The government has particularly failed women and children in the townships and its attempts at remedying the situation have been "superficial, half-hearted" and based on an incorrect understanding of the root cause of violence against women, she said.

"This is why rape culture is embedded across our universities. This is why it is always assumed the victim is lying.

"No one is protecting women this side," she said referring to the ANC benches.

A solution for women and children in this regard would lead to the emancipation for all people, she said.

IFP MP Liezl van der Merwe said far too many lives had been lost because of abuse against women. She cited the momentary shock the nation felt over the rape and murder of Bredasdorp teen Anene Booysen and how South Africans then "went back to our everyday lives".

Bursaries

She said blaming government alone would not help as many South Africans were products of broken homes and a broken political system.

The victims are therefore relying on government to protect them. She asked what had changed since the campaign was implemented in 1997.

Shabangu wrapped up the debate, highlighting the department's stance on the issue and the measures it is taking to escalate the fight.

She said her department was working with the departments of education, social development and justice to educate women on the role of the courts in abuse cases.

They would also help educate women on the role of watchdogs like the Independent Police Investigative Directorate in assisting in cases of police brutality.

Bursaries would also be offered to help educate women and give them artisanal skills, an industry where women are underrepresented, she said.

Read more on:    parliament  |  16 days of activism  |  gender violence

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