Cape Town - President Cyril Ramaphosa has promised to review laws on domestic violence and sexual offences to prioritise the needs and interests of survivors.
Ramaphosa, speaking in a televised address, said the recent spate of killings of women and girls “caused great pain and outrage because acts of such brutality have become all too common in our communities”.
Ramaphosa said violence against women had become more than a national crisis.
“It is a crime against our common humanity. We have established 92 dedicated sexual offences courts since 2013, with a further 11 to be opened this financial year to improve conviction rates and provide comprehensive and appropriate support services to ensure survivors of sexual offences are not subject to further trauma.”
Ramaphosa spoke out against recent incidents of gender-based violence and the “deeply traumatising” attacks on foreigners.
He said he would ask Parliament to consider amending the legislation to make the sexual offences courts register public, and said he would also propose to Cabinet that all crimes against women and children should attract harsher minimum sentences.
This was after more than 10 000 people dressed in black and purple showed up outside Parliament on Thursday in a protest against the ongoing violence against women and children in the country.
Activist Lucinda Evans addressed protesters in front of Parliament, stating the fight against gender-based violence was a constant process.
“As a country we are in a crisis. Violence against women, children and the LGBTIQ+ is a crisis,” Evans said.
Evans said if government was failing to protect them, “we, as the women of South Africa, will take them to the Constitutional Court”, as the crowed applauded.
“I am addressing the female ministers: when are you going to hold these men accountable who have been failing us for so long?” she asked.
Thousands of people showed up outside of Parliament dressed in black on Thursday as they protested against the ongoing violence against women and children in the country.
One of the community activists from Mitchells Plain, Elvina Roodt, said “enough is enough”, and government must take a stand.
She said she knew the pain of being raped several times: “For eight years, I was raped and nothing was done to the perpetrators.”
“In a space of a week, UCT student Uyinene Mrwetyana and boxing champion Leighandre ‘Baby Lee’ Jegels lost their lives at the hands of violent men at the culmination of Women’s Month. Tragically, these deaths are a snapshot of the ongoing state of emergency where lives of women are viewed as a cheap commodity,” she said.
Sonke Gender Justice spokesperson Given Sigauqwe also called on the government to urgently implement a fully funded multi-sectoral national strategic plan to combat gender-based violence.
Sigauqwe said that to date “government has made commitments to combat gender-based violence in name only, with recent news that there are insufficient funds to implement the proposed national strategic plan on gender-based violence, promises that Thuthuzela Care Centres being fully funded not being met and rape kits not being available at many facilities”.
“We offer our sincere condolences to the families of Mrwetyana, Jegels and all other women who have recently lost their lives to gender-based violence,” she said, adding that the bleak reality was that these murders were not random acts of violence and should not be seen in isolation.
As Ramaphosa went out to address the protesters, he was booed but, however, he was given a chance to address the crowds.
He said government wants to increase the number of special courts that will deal with the matters of children and women violence.
“Men who do all these things do not belong in society. All these measures I will respond to. We are going to strengthen the criminal justice system. We are going to intervene and ensure government increases aid for the shelters, we want the shelters to increase and be properly funded.”
Ramaphosa also pledged “sufficient financial resources” to tackle gender-based violence and to provide more shelters for abused women and children.
He thanked the protesters for giving the government “a great boost for what we want to do”.