'Horrific attacks on women reflect collective failure to respond to the cries of most vulnerable' - Cabinet

An anti-femicide protester in Cape Town. (Tammy Petersen, News24)
An anti-femicide protester in Cape Town. (Tammy Petersen, News24)

On Wednesday morning, a group of people - mostly young women - protested outside Parliament against femicide and rape.

On the other side of the fence that surrounds Parliament, VIP protection police officers milled about between the shiny, mostly black, mostly German, always expensive, vehicles parked around Tuynhuys. This scene is a tell-tale sign that a Cabinet meeting is underway.

While it is not known if the laments of the women protesting outside the gates of Parliament could be heard inside the Cabinet room in Tuynhuys, the cause of their pain was on the agenda of the meeting.

This is what Cabinet discussed on the matter, according to a post-meeting statement released on Friday: "Cabinet joins the nation in mourning the killings, rape and abuse of women by men that continue to take place in our country. These horrific attacks on women reflect our collective failure to respond to the cries of the most vulnerable in our midst.

"At its core is the manifestation of a profound lack of adequate response to the continued daily violation of babies, children, the elderly, women living with disabilities, the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender/transsexual, intersex and queer/questioning community and migrant women.

"Cabinet has called for the imposition of the maximum sentence to the perpetrators. Notwithstanding the fact that there is a high conviction rate (74%) of GBV and over 4 000 perpetrators who have received life sentences, more still needs to be done. One woman killed, raped and abused is one too many.

"The national Register of Sexual Offences will be placed before Parliament for consideration for amendment to the Sexual Offences Act. These amendments will ensure that the register is extended to cover offenders who have committed any sexual offence, as it stands currently the register is limited to only individuals who are convicted and sentenced for violating a minor or an individual who is mentally disabled."

Inter-ministerial committee established

Cabinet expressed its condolences with the families and friends of Uyinene Mrwetyana, Leighandre Jegels, Nolunde Vumsindo, Meghan Cremer, Jess Hess, Ayakha Jiyane and her three siblings, and all women and children who had been brutally murdered by men.

"Cabinet temporarily adjourned and released a delegation of ministers from an ordinary sitting of Cabinet to meet with hundreds of protestors who had gathered at Parliament to protest against GBV.  

"Cabinet has also established an inter-ministerial committee that will work together with civil society to bring an end to GBV. This committee consists of Minister in The Presidency, Mr Jackson Mthembu; Minister of Police, Mr Bheki Cele; Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, Dr Naledi Pandor; Minister of Human Settlements, Water and Sanitation, Ms Lindiwe Sisulu; Minister of Defence and Military Veterans, Ms Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula; Minister of Justice and Correctional Services, Mr Ronald Lamola; Minister of State Security, Ms Ayanda Dlodlo, Minister of Social Development, Ms Lindiwe Zulu and Minister of in the Presidency for Women, Youth and Persons with Disabilities, Ms Maite Nkoana-Mashabane.

"This committee will mobilise society as a whole against the phenomenon of GBV, and regularly update Cabinet and the public on its efforts to curb GBV.  The committee will ensure that families and victims of GBV are supported. 

"Cabinet reflected on the progress made on the implementation of the Declaration of the Presidential Summit Against GBV and Femicide held in Centurion on 1 and 2 November 2018 to develop a national plan of action against GBV. An Interim Structure was established in January 2019 comprising of representatives of civil society networks and government departments. A draft National Strategic Plan has been developed, which is based on consultative meetings, which build on the adopted Declaration. Consultations are underway across the country and will result in the envisaged National GBV and Femicide Council, which will be provided with the necessary resources to drive the anti GBV programme.

'The boy child must be raised to know that women are their equals'

"Notwithstanding that we have enacted many laws to deal with incidences of violence against women and children, and whilst we appreciate the efforts that police and other law-enforcement agencies – including our prosecutors, magistrates and judges – have made to arrest and sentence those responsible for these heinous crimes, Cabinet calls on all sectors of society, particularly men, to stand up against those who continue rape, abuse and kill women in our society.

"Churches and religious leaders should take a firm stand and use their leadership and influence in communities to build positive social cohesion against GBV. The media should actively contribute towards addressing harmful social norms and beliefs that drive GBV while business leaders should address all forms of violence in the workplace and support our national efforts to eradicate GBV. Cabinet believes that it is only when society as a whole works together that we can end GBV and the killing of women.

"Cabinet has made a call to the South African society to ensure that the boy child is raised in a manner that respects the rights of all people, especially women in society. The boy child must be raised to know that women are their equals and not subordinates to be subjected to all sorts of abuse that end up in them being killed." 

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