South African national flags fly at halfmast next to the N4 freeway. Picture: Jacques Naude/African News Agency (ANA)
South African national flags fly at halfmast next to the N4 freeway. Picture: Jacques Naude/African News Agency (ANA)

Powerful symbolism in SA’s struggle against Covid-19, GBV

By Opinion Time of article published Dec 1, 2020

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The national flag has been flying at half-mast across the country in memory of the lives lost to Covid-19 and to gender-based violence. The symbolism of this is powerful, especially as it coincided with the launch of the 16 Days of Activism for no violence against women and children campaign.

It is a sign that the country is in mourning for the lives lost to a pandemic, but also those taken through abuse or assault. The weekend arrest of a man for hacking to death his wife and five children in the Eastern Cape is a gruesome example of how powerful symbolism and talk do very little to change the circumstances of those whose lives are at risk in the face of abusers, who perhaps only consider the consequences of their deeds after the fact.

It is with this in mind that Parliament announced that it had delayed adopting gender-based violence laws by several months to tighten the bills to ensure they will not be open to challenges in the Constitutional Court on their lawfulness. Parliament has said that it needs to balance the urgency and quality of the bills.

In his address on the launch of the campaign last week, President Cyril Ramaphosa said: “We have made good on our promise to this country’s women that there will be legal reform to protect women from violence and ensure perpetrators are given the harshest penalties possible.

“Amendments to the Sexual Offences and Related Matters Amendment Bill, the Criminal Law Amendment Act and the Domestic Violence Act will strengthen existing laws to protect women and children.”

Parliament will reconvene early next year to ensure that the bills are passed; the legal reforms to increase measures to protect women and children must not be further delayed.

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