Men must challenge harmful cultural and social practices that undermine women’s rights - Ramaphosa

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President Cyril Ramaphosa
President Cyril Ramaphosa
  • President Cyril Ramaphosa addressed the presidential dialogue on gender-based violence and femicide on Wednesday, marking the start of the 16 days of activism campaign.
  • He called on men to actively take the stand and fight against the scourge, which is a pandemic on its own.
  • Ramaphosa said for gender-based violence to end, the attitudes of people must change. 

President Cyril Ramaphosa has called on South Africans, men in particular, to urgently work with determination towards a time when no woman or child will ever be a victim to violence again. 

Ramaphosa was speaking during a virtual dialogue on the state of gender-based violence and femicide on Wednesday evening as the country launched the 16 Days of Activism for No Violence against Women and Children. 

He said violence against women was not a woman's problem, but a men's, who now had to take responsibility from a personal level to protect the women and children of South Africa. 

The president added men needed to work until there was a time when there would be no need for a 16 days of activism campaign. 

"It is men who can challenge harmful cultural and social practices that undermine women's rights. It is men who can and must refuse to be part of criminal gangs that assault and rape women.

"It is men who can and must take responsibility for their own personal behaviour and understand that coercing a woman to have sex is rape, and that no means no."  

Ramaphosa added: "As men must say no - just as all South Africans must say no - to violence against women, against children, against the LGBTQI+ community, against the elderly and the disabled. Whether we are individuals, families, communities, religious or traditional leaders, let us take responsibility for ending this problem."

He said the fight to end the scourge was both simple and highly complex - simple because violence against women and children could easily be brought to an end if everyone made a conscious decision not to harm women.

He said:

But we know that the path to that point is not straightforward. We know it is chauvinistic and sexist attitudes that lead men to believe they are superior to their mothers, their wives and partners and their daughters.

Ramaphosa added the attitudes led to sexual harassment in public spaces, schools and workplaces, being normalised and for that to change, people's attitudes must first change. 

He paid tribute to all the men and women who have supported the fight against the scourge daily and to dedicated activists and workers of civil society, saying they were valued partners in the fight, which could be won, if everyone worked together. 

The president said the gender-based violence crisis demanded the government to set up measures that would protect women and girls and advance their rights, adding the National Strategic Plan was one of the tools guiding the efforts to combat the scourge. 

"Since the start of this year, we have been moving ahead with implementation in key areas: namely care and support for survivors; education and prevention; enhancing legal and policy frameworks; strengthening the criminal justice system; and women's economic empowerment.

"We have improved the provision of essential services, making evidence kits available at all police stations, setting up more survivor-friendly rooms at police stations, and establishing more special Sexual Offences Courts."

Ramaphosa said the government had also allocated more funding to improve the services being provided at shelters and places of safety, and was continuing to repurpose disused government buildings into shelters and safe houses. 

READ | Cyril Ramaphosa | Gender-based violence: It is time to turn the tide on the scourge

He added the government was also in the process of drafting a bill on gender-based violence and a femicide council, which was expected to be in Parliament early next year, adding he considered it critical in the implementation of the National Strategic Plan.

Ramaphosa said: "This year, the 16 days of activism campaign focuses on economic justice. We must urgently address the poverty, exclusion and economic marginalisation facing millions of women.

"We believe firmly that economic rights are human rights, and that advancing women's economic empowerment is fundamentally tied to the constitutional right to dignity. Empowering women financially gives them greater control over their lives."

The president added it was up to everyone, including the private sector, to make more opportunities available to women.

He noted as part of the effort to make opportunities available to women, the country earlier in 2020 announced it would be setting aside 40% of all public procurement for women-owned enterprises and a National Procurement Task Team had been set up to drive the process. 

"It is already rolling out capacity-building programmes to prospective beneficiaries to ensure women business owners are equipped to participate in public procurement.

"As part of the Economic Recovery and Reconstruction Plan, we are increasing our support to women-owned small, medium and micro enterprises to enable them to benefit from, among other things, the infrastructure development programme and opportunities in manufacturing, agriculture and tourism," Ramaphosa said.

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