'No one can truly be free until all women are really free' - Lindiwe
"The SA Police Service plans to downgrade victim-friendly facilities where crime victims can be interviewed and counselled in private and offered support by social workers. This plan must be reversed"
TWO weeks ago, we witnessed an incident that has violated our national psyche, which was reported across the world.
The incident has forced some introspection among South Africans and people abroad about the state of the national psyche.
Was the vicious gang-rape of a 17-year-old mentally disabled girl from Soweto by three men and four youths a random, heinous crime, or manifestation of a fundamentally broken society?
And as if in response to this question, that rape was followed by the rape of a disabled boy last week.
Such heinous incidents compel us to ask if we are doing enough to enlarge freedom, by protecting the vulnerable?
South Africa has the world's highest and most violent rate of rape. One in three women may be raped in their lifetimes. The rape of one woman or child is an assault on us all.
Our law-making alone is insufficient.
In a society in which women are overwhelmingly the victims of sexual violence and its attendant health risks such as HIV/ Aids infection, as leaders we should be asking how we can embrace vulnerable women and young girls from systemic male abuse and dominance.
We don't need a sociological exercise to make the connection between the seeds of abuse and the cancerous tree of apartheid.
No one can be truly free until all women are free. Redressing past injustices includes improving the lives of women and girls.
The DA has long advocated practical policy measures to combat rape and abuse. We want to reinstate the family violence, child abuse and sexual offences units.
We need to improve the state of our forensic laboratories so that evidence can be processed properly and used successfully to prosecute rapists.
We must also consider the re-establishment of the special courts set up during the World Cup permanently.
The South African Police Service plans to downgrade victim-friendly facilities where crime victims, particularly women and children, can be interviewed and counselled in private and offered support by social workers. This plan must be reversed. To measure progress, the state must re-introduce statistics on sexual offences.
We must also intervene early by ensuring that our children are educated about sexual abuse, rape and the importance of reporting it at schools.
While the policy challenge is very clear, where do we make the pinpoint intervention? Where and when do we strike the decisive blow against the grotesque pattern of abuse?
While the State's first responsibility is to protect citizens by law and order, we will only make life safer and kinder when we make sufficient progress on the substantial objectives of freedom.
Over the past few weeks, I undertook "walks of solidarity" with marginalised communities to highlight the difficult circumstances under which South Africans must make their way daily. One such walk was with women in Brandfort in Free State, who have to walk many kilometres each day to collect water from waterworks.
Women I spoke to had not given up on gender equality enshrined in the Constitution. They look to Parliament to narrow the gap between the constitution and the lives they lead.
We have one of the highest rates of female participation in Parliament, but most women continue to bear the brunt of abuse and injustice .
We must build a smart and capable State to provide basic services, to be integrated with providing women with life-changing opportunities, with educational and economic freedom and a safe environment.
- Mazibuko is leader of the DA in Parliament