National Minister of Education Angie Motshekga speaking at Natu teachers union conference held at the Coastal Hotel.Picture Zanele Zulu

 Parliament, Cape Town - Women's lives are far cheaper now than those of blacks in the years of slavery, Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga said on Tuesday.

Opening a debate on gender-based violence in the National Assembly, Motshekga drew links between gender relations in South Africa and the “persistent scourge of violence, abuse and femicide”.

“It cannot be right that women, who are in the majority at 51.7

percent, continue to be wantonly abused, defiled, raped and murdered as if they were sub-human, in the African Decade of Women, nogal 1/8more so 3/8,” said Motshekga.

Recent developments showed gender relations needed to be transformed in South African communities and families.

“What we do in defence and empowerment of women and the girl child will really demonstrate how serious we are about building a progressive, equal and prosperous country, in a better world.”

Motshekga singled out the gang rape and murder of 17-year-old Anene Booysen in Bredasdorp on February 1, and the killing of model Reeva Steenkamp, allegedly by paralympian Oscar Pistorius, on St Valentine's Day.

“Recent events have brought into sharp focus the most inhuman treatment of women.”

Motshekga said gender equality and women's empowerment was key to ending violence.

“We need a new breed of men to help lay a solid foundation of a non-sexist society.”

The minister also reminded the house that President Jacob Zuma would join over 10 million of the country's pupils, when they were asked on Friday to pledge never to involve themselves in crime.

“They will protect women, children, people with disabilities and respect and uphold everybody’s rights.”

The minister called for unity to “dismantle the oppressive reality making women and girls second-class citizens, sex objects, the wretched of the earth and the rejects of life.

“Something has to give, fellow South Africans. The few evil among us must not be allowed to make the life of the many law-abiding and peace-loving South Africans a nightmare that it currently is.” - Sapa