President Cyril Ramaphosa says three important laws that will strengthen the fight against gender-based violence (GBV), give greater protection to victims of domestic violence.
The new laws, namely the Criminal and Related Matters Amendment Act, the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences and Related Matters) Amendment Act and the Domestic Violence Amendment Act were signed into law earlier this year.
Addressing the National Women’s Day event held in Richmond, KwaZulu-Natal on Tuesday, President Ramaphosa said the new laws empower the police to enter premises without a warrant and, if necessary, arrest a suspect.
Under the new laws, police can also remove dangerous weapons from a suspect and complainants will be able to apply for protection orders online.
“New provisions expand the scope of the National Register of Sex Offenders, and place a legal responsibility on us all to report any sexual offences committed against vulnerable persons. There are now far stricter conditions under which a suspect may be granted bail [and] perpetrators will get harsher sentences,” President Ramaphosa highlighted.
The President said GBV is a stain on the day’s celebrations adding that hardly a day goes by without a report of women being attacked, being violated, and being killed by men.
The President argued that this should not be seen as a women’s problem, “when it is in fact, a men’s problem”.
“It is a problem of men with no respect for women, who feel they can do what they like with their girlfriends or partners because they buy them airtime or groceries. It is a problem of men who lack the maturity to accept the end of a relationship, and hunt down their ex-wives or ex-girlfriends.
“It is a problem of men who think culture, custom and religion empowers them to hit their wives, sisters, and daughters and to deprive them of their rights. It is a problem of men who hold positions of influence and authority who prey on women and take advantage of them.”
Silence is no longer an option
The President called on every South African to play their part in the fight against gender-based violence and femicide by speaking out.
He warned that silence is no longer an option, and encouraged citizens to break the silence.
“Silence is the dark corner in which women and children are abused, beaten, raped, and killed. Silence is the dark cloud under which men allow their friends to ill-treat women, children, and members of the LGBTQIA+ [lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex and asexual+] community as a display of their manliness.
“Silence is the cancer that eats away at women who protect their husbands, sons, partners, and boyfriends who abuse them, their children, and other women because they are financially dependent.”
Enabling women to participate in the economy
President Ramaphosa said that government is working to enable women to participate in the economy.
He said gender equality will not be achieved unless women are financially secure and independent.
He highlighted that in the uMgungundlovu District Municipality, government is providing temporary work opportunities to women through the Community Works Programme, the Expanded Public Works Programme and by supporting community caregivers and community health workers.
He said female entrepreneurs, especially small business owners, are supported through the province’s Rural and Township Economies Revitalisation Strategy.
“The provincial government, through the Radical Agrarian Socio-Economic Transformation programme, is also helping women access land for farming and get their produce to market. So far, it has assisted over 3500 farmers, with the majority being women and youth from rural areas like uMgungundlovu.”
Assisting women-owned businesses
Meanwhile, the President announced that government has committed to set aside 40% of public procurement spend to women-owned businesses.
“We have been holding workshops countrywide to equip women with skills to do business with both government and the private sector. Between September this year and January next year, we plan to reach all 11 districts in KwaZulu-Natal.”
To ensure better access to finance, President Ramaphosa added that government wants entities, including the Industrial Development Corporation, Public Investment Corporation and National Empowerment Fund to make further resources available to women-owned businesses.
Source: South African Government News Agency