Defence department to open 'sexual misconduct centre' to deal with abuse
Defence and military veterans minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula says her department is establishing a sexual misconduct centre to deal with members of the army accused of sexual offences.
This comes after a ministerial task team she appointed recommended the establishment of such a centre in a report this year.
Mapisa-Nqakula, addressing members of the National Council of Provinces (NCOP), said her department had made strides to address sexual assault cases which had become a problem. She was replying to a question asked by DA MP Mlindi Nhanha during a sitting of the NCOP on Thursday, about abuse directed at young women in the army.
“Reports are that a lot of times, women, especially youth, still face serious cases of abuse. These things are happening even though the head is a woman. It looks like not a lot is being done to deal with this scourge.
“Please tell us why, after 20 years, the department has not been able to remedy this? Mostly by men who are in higher positions in the army. Why is the department allowing the killing of the futures of women in the army, while the country is up in arms over the abuse of women?” asked Nhanha.
He said the treatment of women in the army might deter other women from joining the defence force.
“It is true, you will find in any environment — you will find it in all government departments, you will find it in the private sector. It is a national crisis that you will find that people find it very easy to sexually abuse and exploit vulnerable women and vulnerable girls.
What you see in the national defence force is a reflection of the patriarchal nature of our society, the attitude and socialisation of men.Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula
“So actually, what you see then in the national defence force is a reflection of what is happening in our society. It is a reflection of the patriarchal nature of our society, the attitude and socialisation of men,” said Mapisa-Nqakula.
She said when they realised that acts of abuse and sexual abuse were rife in the SANDF, she set up a team to investigate what was happening.
Mapisa-Nqakula said due to the investigation they have uncovered dirt that was swept under the carpet, which in turn empowered young women to come forward to speak about incidents of sexual assault.
“One of the critical recommendations which came out of that report is that we need to establish a sexual misconduct centre. We are now in the process of establishing that centre. The misconduct centre will be a centre which you find within the department ... which will deal with issues of sexual exploitation and abuse, independently of the command and control by the defence force.”
The minister agreed that it was correct to worry that issues of sexual abuse in the SANDF may deter women from signing up.
She said they were also establishing an entity within the military police to investigate allegations of sexual abuse of women.
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