Hon Deputy Speaker, esteemed colleagues, comrades, friends and Members of Parliament, indeed, the intervention on the part of Parliament in the whole matter of gender-based violence is most welcome, particularly now, for good reasons.
Each year, Parliament dedicates substantial time and resources to the gender question in South Africa, Africa and the world. As a ruling party, we welcome this. There is always a strong link between gender relations in society and the persistent scourge of violence, abuse and femicide.
As the ANC, over decades of legitimate struggle against oppressive power, we have said that the National Democratic Revolution must bring an end to racism, sexism and exploitation. It is this reality that informs our vision of a nation that is united, democratic, nonracial, nonsexist and prosperous. It cannot be right that women who are in the majority at 51,7% continue to be wantonly abused, defiled, raped and murdered as if they were subhuman - in the African decade of women, moreover!
Recent developments confirm our perspective of the importance of gender mainstreaming and the need speedily to transform gender relations in our families and in various communities. What we do in the defence and empowerment of women and the girl-child will really demonstrate how serious we are about building a progressive, equal and prosperous country in a better world.
By the look of things, a woman's life seems far cheaper than a black life in the days of slavery. Gender as an ideology, in patriarchal societies, normalises cruelty against women. Minors suffer the most. According to a report that we received from the SA Police Service in 2010-2011:
Among the dominantly social contact crimes committed against children, 51,9% were sexual offences, while only 18,7% of the social contact crimes committed against adult women were sexual offences.
This makes a bigger case for us, as the Department of Education, to be involved and do whatever we can to fight the scourge of violence.
As the ANC, we say this is a treasonable affront to the most democratic Constitution, with an entrenched Bill of Rights, this country has ever seen. This is an abomination we all must condemn in no uncertain terms. This works against the very spirit and intent of the international instruments we have embraced as a nation for the protection of women, children, and the most vulnerable.
Recent events have brought the most inhuman treatment of women into sharp focus. It pains us that these atrocities are executed by those known to the victims, and there is evidence to that effect.
A Medical Research Council study reported last year that although there was a reduction in female homicides in South Africa, such a decline was less among intimate femicides. It said that intimate partner violence is now the leading cause of death of women homicide victims, with 56% of female homicides being committed by an intimate partner.
The barbaric mutilation and defiling of the sacred body of Anene Booysen in Bredasdorp, followed in close succession by the heartless killing of the charming Reeva Steenkamp, shows why the ANC Women's League, ANCWL, wants to see accelerated mechanisms for the protection of and respect for women's lives. Their bloody end unveils the brutal treatment of women in communities, among people they love.
In certain circumstances, and with no disregard for the laws we have made together, it should be possible to deny bail to those charged with heinous crimes against women. We need a radical message for other villains.
We are not necessarily saying that we must resuscitate the archaic role of punishment as a public spectacle. But, you tell me: What do we say when the disembowelled body of Anene brings to mind gory images of Shakespeare's Lavinia, from the most violent and the bloodiest of his tragedies, Titus Andronicus?
Before being ravished and wronged, her hands cut off, her tongue cut out, Lavinia brings home the painful truth that when you rape a woman, you take away her life. To her violators she says:
'Tis present death I beg, and one thing more. That womanhood denies my tongue to tell. Keep me from their worse-than-killing lust. And tumble me into some loathsome pit. Where never man's eye may behold my body. Do this, and be a charitable murderer.
We will never know Anene's prayer in the hands of her murderers. We are responding as a nation the way we are doing because of the terror therein. Worse still, on 15 February, we were looking forward to reports on the President's state of the nation address. But such was overshadowed by headlines on the fall of silver lakes into bloody lakes.
Comrades and friends, it is not that the ANC government is not doing much for women, as some may try to make others easily believe to score cheap points. Far from it! Actually, it is the ANC Women's League that has led the campaign of nonviolence against women, in partnership with different progressive forces. It is these forces that, for instance, took the Rasuge case out of the dustbin, when the matter had already been struck off the roll. It is these forces of South African women, united and working hard, that ensure that justice prevailed in the KwaZulu-Natal sugarcane serial case, the Brandford serial killer case and many other cases in the country. As we have been saying, a lot is being done to create a safe and caring society for all - women and men, young and old. But together, we believe more can still be done. [Interjections.] Do not howl about a matter that is that serious! The point is how all of us can - and must - work together to sort out these barbaric deeds once and for all.
Our Constitution guarantees equality, justice and human dignity for all. But we know that, in spite of our gender-sensitive policy framework, gender inequality remains endemic. South Africa did ratify the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women. We have also committed to the Beijing Platform for Action.
We introduced the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences and Related Matters) Amendment Act, Act No 32 of 2007, which was a breakthrough for women, although with challenges. Importantly, our beloved Republic will build on the constitutional guarantees of rights to privacy, dignity, freedom and security of the person, and on the right to be free from all forms of public and private sources of violence through this Act.
Thuthuzela Care Centres, which had been established by the Sexual Offences and Community Affairs Unit of the National Prosecuting Authority, are redeeming victims of sexual offences and are also providing much needed services to victims of domestic violence. For instance, in December 2011 there were 51 centres that had been established. They definitely boosted the rate of conviction. According to the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development, the conviction rate of cases that had been reported to these centres in 2010-11 was 63%. As a country, each year we raise awareness around gender-violence through our 16 Days of Activism campaign.
The ANC believes that what should change radically is how we nurture children and how we cobble the souls of grown-ups with a gender-sensitive hammer and sickle of humanisation. Among other things, we have used education, an Apex Priority, as a sustainable vehicle to achieve this end.
It is against this background, before this august House, that President Jacob Zuma said that we needed a change of attitude. A new outlook is what we must all cultivate - united in our diversity, from the cradle to the grave - in a Reconstruction and Development Programme, RDP, of the soul!
Our first democratic head of state, former President Nelson Mandela, taught that:
Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.
With education we can roll back the dehumanising effects of patriarchal power and oppressive cultural practices. This is the best way to fight inequality, poverty and unemployment. This is a task we undertake religiously because education is intrinsically linked to all eight Millennium Development Goals, MDGs.
Quality education plays a role in driving programmes for gender equality, child and maternal health, reducing hunger, fighting the scourge of HIV and Aids, economic growth and building peace. The Department of Basic Education is implementing key programmes for combating gender-based violence, sexual abuse and harassment. We have incorporated gender issues, including the prevention and management of gender-based violence, into the school curriculum. We teach the young to honour dignity and embrace the values entrenched in the Constitution.
We have created a learner-focused website to help young people with understanding, preventing and reporting sexual abuse. The website is www.speakoutfreely.co.za. It went online in 2011 and continues to be used to highlight other issues of concern impacting on lives of young people, like drugs - which we believe are a major driving force behind gender-based violence - alcohol abuse, school safety and moral decadence.
Through the social cohesion platform we have trained school governing bodies, SGBs, representative councils for learners, RCLs, and teachers in the Values in Action strength model, which includes key sessions on gender, sexual abuse and harassment. The department has a National School Safety Framework, NSSF, which includes a partnership protocol with the South African Police Service to promote safer schools.
This framework includes linking schools to local police stations, forming school safety committees and training school governing bodies, teachers, learners and district officials in issues of violence, from bullying to sexual violence. However, we should remember that schools are microcosms of the broader society. Thus, the high levels of sexual abuse, violence and rape in our society are a matter of grave concern.
We recognise that literacy and the empowerment of rural women are essential if the quality of their lives is to improve and they are to be able to access justice and economic empowerment opportunities. Without gender equality and women's empowerment, we will never see an end to violence. We need a new breed of men to help lay the solid foundation of a nonsexist society. We definitely need men as partners in this campaign.
This Thursday, President Jacob Zuma and I will be launching the Department of Basic Education's Lead SA campaign against rape, abuse and violence against women and the girl-child. On the morning of 1 March, at 08:00, over 10 million of our learners will assemble in their schools and take a stand against violence and abuse.
Schools are requested to educate our children about the evils of crime and, in return, we expect our learners as children and as our future to pledge that they will never ever involve themselves in crime. They will protect women, children and people with disabilities and respect and uphold everybody's rights.
We appeal for support from all of us to make this campaign a success. The appeal is to all parents to be more attentive to the needs of their children, and for teachers to spread these messages in class, to be sensitive to the needs and wellbeing of children in their care - not only on 1 March - and to ensure that this continues throughout the education of our children.
All must take the current when it serves, for the sake of our children, or the voyage of our life will be bound in shallows and in miseries. As a matter of extreme urgency, we need to enhance the implementation of the National Policy Framework on Sexual Offences and fast-track investigations into the re-establishment of sexual offences courts.
In closing, notwithstanding our challenges, we must admit that we have made great strides. What has assisted us is the fact that women, united, have always been at the forefront of the struggle. We must remain in the trenches of the struggle for gender equality. As responsible citizens, we must work together to make women's rights human rights. This is an imperative which depends on the sustainability and prosperity of all humankind.
To the women of this country we say: Stop being speechless complainers! Your tongues are intact. Unlike Lavinia, whose tongue was cut out by her vile rapists, speak out! Take a stand against abuse. Reclaim your bodies. Help us fight this scandalous war against women and children.
With unity in action, we can dismantle the oppressive reality that makes women and girls out as being second-class citizens, sex objects, the wretched of the earth and the rejects of life. We cannot afford to spare any effort at this moment. Our women are not safe, and it cannot be right that they have to stay in constant fear of being raped, assaulted and killed in their own homes, communities and country. It cannot be!
Something has to give, fellow South Africans. The few evil among us must not be allowed to make the life of the many law-abiding and peace-loving South Africans the nightmare that it currently is. The ANC's message is that working together, we can do more to ensure that all people in South Africa are and feel safe. I thank you! [Applause.]