Government developing emergency action plan to tackle violence against women
Parliament - South Africa is in the grip of a serious crisis of violence against women and children that demands urgent action, President Cyril Ramaphosa has told a joint sitting of the the National Assembly and National Council of Provinces on Wednesday.
Ramaphosa says that harsher punishment is needed and that the government intends this to include the state opposing bail for rape and femicide suspects and for those who are convicted to be refused parole.
Men who are sentenced to life in prison for these crimes must never be released, Ramaphosa says.
The president was speaking at a joint sitting of Parliament following unprecedented street protests a fortnight ago, triggered by the rape and murder of a university student and many other crimes that shocked the nation.
"We affirm our position that the state should oppose bail for suspects charged with rape and murder of women and children and that those who are found guilty of such crimes, should not be eligible for parole; and if sentenced to a life sentence, this must mean just what it is - life in prison," he said.
Ramaphosa again acknowledged that he had heard calls in recent weeks for the government to introduce a state of emergency to deal with crimes against women.
He stopped short of taking that step but promised that "the necessary amendments to our laws and policies to ensure that perpetrators of violence against women and children are brought to book" would be implemented.
In the meanwhile, he said, the government had developed an emergency action plan that would be implemented over the next six months.
It will be driven by an interim steering committee located in the presidency, he said. The measures to be taken will include better prevention of violence against women, enhancing the criminal justice system, ensuring better victim support and boosting the economic empowerment of women.
The emergency plan will not be given a special budget allocation, he said. Instead, "every department affected by this will be asked to mainstream the funding for fighting gender-based violence".
Ramaphosa said National Treasury would monitor this process along with the presidency.
The president has come under pressure following the rape and murder of UCT student Uyinene Mrwetyana by a post office employee in Claremont in Cape Town.
A week after thousands of women marched to Parliament to voice their anger, Police Minister Bheki Cele released the latest national crime statistics that showed an average 113.9 rape cases are reported every day.
Ramaphosa said the term gender-based violence did not adequately reflect the horror of the "deplorable and despicable" violence men perpetrated against women.
Pointing a finger at patriarchy, he said it must be understood by men that those who rape, "what they do ends the normal lives of their victims".
He said the scourge of violence against women, children and babies, had made South Africa one of the least safe countries for women on earth and reflected a wider crisis.
"While it has its own specific causes and features, it reflects a broader crisis of violence in our society."
He said the State needed to be harsher against men who violate, rape and murder women and they needed to know that they "will be caught and face the full might of the law for the actions that they perpetrate".
The life of a rape victim "almost comes to and end when that rape action has taken place, so we need to be harsher", he said.
Closing the debate that followed his statement to the chamber, Ramaphosa said: "Let us also strengthen our resolve to build a South Africa where the women of our country do not live in fear."
African News Agency (ANA)