President Jacob Zuma says recent incidents of violence against women have caused enormous pain and distress in the country.
“The crimes against women take many forms – physical, sexual, economic, psychological and emotional. They all represent a violation of human rights and dignity,” the President said on Wednesday.
He was speaking during the national Women’s Day event held in Kimberly in the Northern Cape.
The crimes that women suffer from include sexual offences, human trafficking, domestic violence and the criminal victimisation of elderly women who are accused of witchcraft.
“The police indicate that the biggest problem with the policing of these crimes is that they usually happen behind closed doors and in secluded areas where it is very difficult to police.
“Another challenge is that victims have been known to withdraw cases in domestic violence and sexual offences where the offender is known to the victim,” President Zuma said.
In such cases, families may intervene and reach an agreement among themselves to maintain a conspiracy of silence in exchange for money or some other financial benefit.
“This conduct is unacceptable as it further perpetuates violence against women and turns such crimes into a matter that can be resolved through cash transactions benefitting families. In other cases, the survivors prefer to keep quiet rather than speak out, due to the stigma attached to sexual abuse,” said President Zuma.
Other families, he said, have to confront the tragedy of human trafficking which is a painful and despicable crime that was tantamount to modern day slavery.
Young women and girls were being promised jobs or visits abroad and end up being forced into prostitution in hijacked buildings or brothels locally or in foreign countries.
President Zuma urged parents to take a keen interest on the activities of their children on social media and provide on-going advice and support so that they can be protected.
“Government is playing its part in fighting these crimes against women. South Africa must be safe for women and children in every corner. The South African Police Service has been directed to treat crimes against women and children as an apex priority.”
The President told the gathering of more than 1000 people at the Galeshewe Stadium that nobody was above the law when it comes to crimes against women.
“All persons, regardless of their position in society must face the full might of the law when they attack women and children,” President Zuma said. The comments from the President come as Deputy Minister of Higher Education and Training Mduduzi Manana is embroiled in an abuse case after he apparently beat up a woman at a Johannesburg restaurant in the early hours of Sunday morning. He has apologised for the incident.
On Wednesday, President Zuma called for continued partnerships between government and civil society in promoting a society where women feel safe at all times
The President noted that there are currently more than a thousand designated victim empowerment rooms at police stations for purposes of enabling statements of the survivors of sexual offences, domestic violence, trafficking and other traumatised individuals to be taken in private.
There are also specialised investigators called the Family Violence, Child Protection and Sexual Offences Investigative Units who investigate sexual offences, some family-related crimes and all child abuse crimes.
In addition, the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigations or the Hawks investigates all cases of human trafficking and organised crime.
President Zuma said a total of 541 life sentences were achieved during the past financial year for the aforementioned crimes.
Partnerships with traditional leaders, traditional healers, religious communities, schools and media houses will have a valuable impact in encouraging positive values which respect the rights of women, he said.
The national Women’s Day event on Wednesday was attended by citizens from various provinces, including provincial and local government leaders, as well as few cabinet Ministers and Deputy Ministers.
They came to celebrate South Africa’s women as well as pay tribute to more than 20 000 women who marched for a better life and a life of dignity and justice for women in 1956.
The President said work continues to ensure that women have access to economic opportunities, basic services as well as safety and security in every community.
“Government stands ready to work with women to ensure that the dividend of freedom and democracy can be enjoyed by women in the country, especially the poor and the working class.”