‘Gender violence tearing society apart’
Women broke down, one stood up to show her scars and, while President Cyril Ramaphosa’s speech was appreciated – in part – by Port Elizabeth activist Loyiso Saliso, she believes he missed the mark.
Speaking at the presidential summit on gender-based violence in Centurion on Thursday, Ramaphosa said violence against women was tearing society apart, and urgent interventions were needed.
“It is a crisis that affects every community in our country and that touches the lives of most families in one way or another,” Ramaphosa said.
“The unrelenting murder of women – for no reason other than that they are women – is steadily corroding the soul of our nation.”
He said gender-based violence was a global phenomenon, with the World Health Organisation stating that 35% of women worldwide had experienced physical or sexual violence in 2013.
“This is an alarming figure that underscores the need for global co-operation in overcoming gender-based violence.
“In SA, we know that the problem is even more severe.”
Police crime statistics for 2018 showed that femicide had increased by 11% over the past two years.
“Stats SA reported that 138 per 100,000 women were raped last year, the highest rate in the world,” Ramaphosa said.
SA’s femicide rate was almost five times higher than the global average, he said.
Cheryl Zondi, a key witness in the Port Elizabeth High Court rape case against Nigerian pastor Timothy Omotoso, was hailed by Ramaphosa for her “courage”.
“As a society, we must express our deep gratitude to them [women like Zondi] for leading the way in the struggle against sexual violence and affirm our commitment to support and protect them.”
Ramaphosa said societal issues of patriarchy, economic relations and changing the way of thinking about gender relations needed to be addressed.
He said the education department was working on a curriculum to target the youth in what he described as a preventative measure for generations to come.
“The department of basic education needs to complete its curriculum transformation programme, especially the auditing of learning materials for latent sexism and racism.
“The programme to train officials and educators to recognise abused and at-risk learners was started in two provinces in 2015 and needs to be mainstreamed,” he said.
Ramaphosa also mentioned SA’s Thuthuzela Care Centres.
“Our unique one-stop, integrated response to incidents of violent sexual acts against women and children is one of our more effective interventions and we must develop concrete proposals on how we can strengthen the operations,” Ramaphosa said.
Saliso said while she appreciated the president’s speech, she was concerned that no mention had been made of the LGBTQI+ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer or Questioning, and Intersex) community.
“The only time he will hear a cheer from us women of this country [is when] he puts those words into action.”
Saliso said the summit had been emotional.
“It’s been triggering and a lot of women broke down, a woman who had been trafficked lifted up her dress to show her scars on her stomach from her ordeals,” she said.