Photo: Courtney Africa

Parliament, Cape Town - The right to life and the right to safety and security of women and children are paramount, President Jacob Zuma said in the National Assembly on Thursday, in reply to the debate on his state-of-the-nation speech.

While he welcomed the significant decrease in overall serious crime, the “shocking, barbaric, and inhuman” cases of rape which had recently taken place had to be condemned in the strongest terms, Zuma said.

“Some of these have gone beyond women and girls, as there have been reports of boys being molested as well. We have directed the police to show no mercy to perpetrators of these crimes,” he said.

As outlined by Justice Minister Jeff Radebe in the debate, sexual offences courts were being re-established to complement the work of the sexual offences units in the SA Police Service.

However, there were aspects of this crime that went beyond the criminal justice system.

Zuma agreed with MPs that legislation alone would not be sufficient to liberate women from the yoke of male domination, and it was necessary to work on attitudes in public and private lives.

“We also need to look at how we can promote values that define human beings, such as respect for human life, respect for the next person and their property, and basic ubuntu and other values that cement the social fabric of society.

“As we head towards the 20th anniversary of our freedom, we need to look into this matter seriously as leaders,” he said.

“We must build on the work of the social cohesion summit that took place in Kliptown last year, and begin the work of healing the nation, as various sectors of society.

“We need stable communities to participate actively in the transformation of society.”

The basic education department was already looking at inculcating values of nationhood at an early age, promoting rights and responsibilities among children.

“We acknowledge and applaud the good work of many civil society organisations that are raising awareness about violence against women and many other issues affecting society,” Zuma said. - Sapa