Tshabalala-Msimang says state wants abuse to end

Canaan Mdletshe

Canaan Mdletshe

The government is concerned about the continuing disregard of the safety of women and children in the country.

The government has particularly noted the incident at Umlazi where a woman was forced to parade naked in the streets for wearing pants.

Health Minister Manto Tshabalala-Msimang said yesterday that such incidents were a clear indication that women and children were still facing a lot of abuse and insecurity.

She was addressing hundreds of women in Durban at the opening of a two-day summit titled "Women in Partnership Against Aids".

"As we have always been mindful of the impact of gender imbalances, poverty, malnutrition and unemployment and the role these social determinants of health play in disempowering the most vulnerable groups in our society - women and children.

"Because of this unequal society, we are aware that relationships tend to be much more transactional and this plays a big role in fuelling HIV infections.

"The majority of our people are poor and dependent on men, and under those circumstances may not be free to make decisions about their health and life in general," she said.

Tshabalala-Msimang said although the government upheld the right to dignity, there was concern about the continuing disregard of a safe environment for women.

"The recent incident in Umlazi, where a young woman was attacked for wearing pants and her home gutted, attests to that. This is an unfortunate situation that has to be condemned," she said.

Her department had also noted an increasing prevalence of HIV-Aids among pregnant women aged between 30 and 35.

"Despite recording a significant decline of HIV-Aids prevalence among pregnant women under the age of 25, we have noted with grave concern the increase of HIV infection in the number of pregnant women in the age group of 30 to 35.

"This can be attributed to the fact that women are still dependent on men," Tshabalala-Msimang said.

KwaZulu-Natal MEC for health Neliswa Nkonyeni said although great strides have been made in the quest to emancipate women, "the road was still long and bumpy".

"It is unfortunate that too many women, particularly black women, still live in poverty and suffer the consequences of underdevelopment and deprivation. Too many women are still victims of violence and abuse," she said.