Urgent reforms to combat gender-based violence
18 September 2019
As a nation, we have lost our way and our state is collapsing.
Violence against women, children and foreigners has become a daily occurrence.
We must condemn xenophobic attacks in the strongest terms, but we must also secure our borders to ensure that all those who enter our country are documented.
Similarly, the scourge of horrific attacks on women that occur daily is a dark stain on our nation.
Every day 114 women report that they have been raped. The tragedy is that no one gets arrested and prosecuted for this. The conviction rate for rape is a shameful 5%.
Many of these women are brutally murdered.
We need to say their names. Courtney Pieters. Janika Mallo. Leighandre Jegels. Valencia Farmer. Meghan Cremer. Karabo Mokoena. Uyinene Mrwetyana.
We must say the names of all the victims so that we may never forget them.
It is time to return the rule of law to our society. As a country, we have to say: Enough is enough. It ends here.
We all need to play our part. Not just the police or the courts. Not just the leaders in society. Every single one of us.
We must be better parents to our boys. We must raise them to respect girls and women as their equal. We must show our boys, through all our actions, what is right and what is wrong.
We must teach our children about consent at school. Kenya achieved dramatic results from the “No Means No” programme in their schools, and we need to introduce similar consent classes in our own Life Orientation curriculum.
And we must speak out against every single injustice. We can’t allow culture, tradition or religion to offer a hiding place for those who commit these acts.
This has to be a whole-of-society approach, Honourable Members. Because the rot has spread everywhere.
But there are also many specific things we can do right away in this House.
We need to establish an ad-hoc committee to investigate the systemic causes of gender-based violence and map out our long-term solutions.
It is also our job to shape legislation in order to protect women from abuse. And right now, that legislation is not up to the task. The Act that deals with domestic abuse is twenty years old and completely out of touch.
We need to replace both the Domestic Violence Act and the Protection from Harassment Act with a single piece of legislation that is better suited to this challenge.
The DA plans to introduce a Gender-Based Violence Bill that will do just this.
It will use language that includes all forms of abuse, and the substantive parts will be written in a simple, non-legal English so that ordinary South Africans can understand it.
The Bill will deal with applying for and enforcing protection orders from the court. It will also call for an online register of these domestic violence court orders so that this information can be accessed across different cities and towns.
This Bill will make it possible for us to increase our conviction rate for gender-based violence. It will be tabled before the end of the year.
We also have to recognise that there is no substitute for good police work. But in its current state, SAPS is often complicit.
We need to reform our police by professionalising them, by resourcing them and by training them. And we must place them under the control of provincial governments.
Right now only 16% of police stations meet the UN’s police-to-population ratio of 1 to 220. My own hometown of Dobsonville, Soweto, has to make do with a ratio of one police officer for every 1090 citizens.
Now compare this to our so-called VIPs in government, who have 81 police officers for every VIP.
Surely that can’t be right. We need to take that money and spend it on things like rape kits for the 76% of police station that have no such kits at all.
It also can’t be that we spend R350 per day to keep an inmate in prison, but only R70 per day to keep a woman safe in a shelter. We have to get our priorities straight.
Honourable Members, we need more dedicated detectives. Our police officers need to be trained to deal with traumatised victims, and they need victim-friendly rooms in which to do so.
Beyond training and equipping our police, we must also deal decisively with their corruption.
And finally, we need the Department of Justice to deliver on its promise back in 2013 to provide dedicated sexual offenses courts to all areas of the country. This programme needs to be accelerated.
There simply aren’t enough of these courts, particularly in the areas where they are needed most. And those that are there are not properly equipped.
Honourable Members, we know what we must do. Now it’s time to turn our good intentions into good outcomes. We need action.
The DA is already acting where we govern. Premier Winde will tell you about the steps his government is taking here in the Western Cape.
Let us put aside our differences and our politics. Let us recognise the severity of this crisis in our society. And let us make the dignity, respect and safety of the women and the girls in our society our number one priority.
Issued by Mmusi Maimane, Leader of the Democratic Alliance, 18 September 2019