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Ramaphosa announces emergency action plan to combat gender-based violence

President Cyril Ramaphosa told parliament that violence against women was not a problem of women, but of men who grow up having to prove their masculinity.
President Cyril Ramaphosa told parliament that violence against women was not a problem of women, but of men who grow up having to prove their masculinity.
Image: Esa Alexander

An interim committee in the office of President Cyril Ramaphosa will have six months to implement an emergency five-point plan to deal with the scourge of gender-based violence (GBV).

Announced in parliament today during a special sitting, the Emergency Action Plan is the president’s attempt to deal with issues of gender-based violence that have plagued the nation.

The five-point plan includes how to prevent gender-based violence in general; how to strengthen the criminal justice system; steps that should be taken to enhance the legal and policy framework; what should be done to ensure adequate care support and healing for victims of gender-based violence; and measure to improve economic empowerment of women.

Prevent gender-based violence

Ramaphosa said it was important to note that violence against women is not a problem of women, but of men who grow up in a patriarchal set-ups where they constantly have to prove their masculinity.

To deal with this, government will launch a mass media campaign, targeting communities and public spaces including workplace, university campuses, schools, taverns with core focus being on men.

Changes will be introduced in school curriculum and life orientation subject to include gender-based violence prevention education, women’s rights and gender power relations.

“As part of this campaign, we will provide gender sensitivity training to law enforcement officials, prosecutors, magistrates, policy makers and ensure that those who are found in breach of their responsibilities in this regard are held to account,” said Ramaphosa.

Prevention activists will be trained and deployed to all 278 municipalities in the country that will conduct households visits and community interventions.

Strengthen criminal justice system

To ensure that justice is served with perpetrators being held to account and for survivors to not suffer secondary victimisation, funds will be made available towards improving functioning of Sexual Offences Courts and Thuthuzela Care Centres as well as the Family Violence, Child Protection and Sexual Investigation Units of the SA Police Services.

“The department of justice and constitutional development is already working on measures to clear the backlog of criminal cases for rape and other forms of gender-based violence,” said Ramaphosa.

Special courts will be established to deal specifically with gender-based violence while additional court staff will be hired and focus will be put on clearing the backlog at forensic laboratories.

Enhancing legal and regulatory reforms

“We will propose to parliament the necessary legislative changes to ensure that all crimes against women and children attract harsher minimum sentences,” said Ramaphosa.

He reiterated that life sentence should mean life in prison, that the state will oppose bail for suspects charged with rape and murder of women and children and that those who are found guilty should not be eligible for parole.

There will also be focus on rehabilitating offenders and youth at risk.

“It is also important that legislation like the Victim Support Services Bill is finalised as it will strengthen support for GBV programmes and services.

“We call on all parliamentary committees to prioritise these areas of legislative reform and ensure that we have effective legislation in place without delay.”

Ensuring adequate care, support and healing for victims

He also announced that funding model for organisations working with survivors of gender-based violence will be standardised.

Post-rape training for health care providers and counsellors who give care and support to victims and survivors will be provided while Thuthuzela Care Centres will be increased from 54 to 100 by 2025.

Ramaphosa has also tasked the department of social development with increasing awareness of substance abuse.

Gender equity offices will be established in universities and colleges as Ramaphosa believes more focus is needed on in institutions of higher learning.

Improving economic power of women

Ramaphosa said that women were vulnerable to abuse because of their dependency on men for financial resources.

To combat this, the government will continue prioritising women when it comes to employment, training and business opportunities. Ramaphosa called on the private sector to do the same.

“Government is committed to reach its target to set aside 30% of the value of its procurement for women-owned businesses, and to progressively increase that to 40%,” he said.

“We will continue to prioritise support and training for women engaging in small business and informal sector activity, and call on established business to be part of this effort. All government departments will be expected to adhere to gender-responsive planning, budgeting, monitoring and evaluation.”

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