Cape Town - Political parties painted a grim picture of the state of women in the province, during a Women’s Day debate in the Western Cape legislature on Thursday.

Opening the debate on substance abuse and domestic violence, Speaker of the provincial parliament Sharna Fernandez said violence against women was one of the most widespread human rights abuses and a key human security issue of our time.

“Violence against women is not only common, it is often fatal, especially in the poorer communities where poverty and substance abuse is rife.”

Fernandez said substance abuse remained a major challenge in the province because of the resources used to deal with its negative effects.

ANC MPL Maurencia Gillion said it was unbearable to think that young girls in informal settlements were exposed to attack, assault and rape.

Highlighting the province’s high school dropout figures, Gillion criticised the provincial government for pulling funding from NGOs that help abused women and children.

“We cannot afford to see centres such as the Saartjie Baartman and NGOs such as Rape Crisis and Women on Farms continue to struggle due to funding constraints.”

ANC MPL Trudy Dijana said that as mothers, sisters and daughters of the province they were worried about the growing abuse and the use of illegal substances.

She said the provincial government must take responsibility for failure to substantially reduce substance abuse, adding the ANC would hold it accountable over the next five years.

Cultural Affairs and Sport MEC Nomafrench Mbombo said their mission was to end substance abuse and domestic violence in the province.

The war against women and children in the country had reached crisis level. “It is not something to play politics with. It is something that requires us to band together to fix.”

Mbombo questioned what kind of man would tie up a 9-year-old child, rape, strangle her, burn her, and leave her to die. “Unfortunately, these men are not from Mars. They are our brothers, our partners... our sons. They stay with us and we share a table with them, a bed with them.”

The ACDP’s Ferlon Christian said a holistic solution was needed to seriously address domestic violence, particularly one including the reduction of harmful drug and alcohol use.

Driving home the seriousness of the problem, Christian recalled the story of Ellen Pakkies, a Lavender Hill mother who killed her abusive, tik-addicted son in 2007.

The EFF’s Nazier Paulsen criticised Premier Helen Zille’s comments during her State of the Province address in June, claiming she indirectly passed the blame on to, and attributed the status quo to, the absence of fathers in black communities, in an attempt to divert attention from the real instigators of violence and poverty.

Zille had said 60 percent of homes in the province had no father figures, and how they planned to blacklist child maintenance avoiders.

Her comments were typically a white, liberal, feminist approach, trying to drive a wedge between black men and black women, Paulsen added.

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Cape Argus