Statement of Human Rights Institute of South Africa (HURISA) on National Women’s Day – 09/08/2017
The commemoration of this National Women’s Day coincide with a political turmoil prevailing in the country that was brought about by self-indulgence, self-interest, self-infliction and breach of constitutional and executive power by President Jacob Zuma. This has led to a vote of no confidence motioned against President Jacob Zuma on 08/08/2017. Should this vote of no confidence result in his impeachment, then the women of South Africa will remember his presidential tenure as insensitive, cruel and merciless towards women. As for the women in leadership, especially cabinet ministers and National Executive Committee of the ANC would be remembered for defending president Zuma’s malicious abuse of his executive powers, the breakdown of the rule of law, characterised by reprisals, intimidation, harassment of women human rights defender’s, death threats, mysterious killings, malicious dismissals of officials who repudiate impunity and refuse to validate corruption, breakdown of the rule of law, political intolerance and conflict, especially in the KZN Province, as well as the mysterious killings and disappearances that continued in the country with little investigation conducted to hold culprits accountable. This horrific image of South Africa’s human rights record has attributed to the downgrading of our economic status, including increasing poverty, unemployment, health hazard, car hijacking, drug trafficking, murder of women and children. Little has been done to ensure the safety and security of women and children in our society. In March 2017 the Minister of Women in the Presidency, Susan Nkomo was devastated by the brutal killings across the country that had left more than 60 women murdered in 30 days. This makes South Africa a violent society despite its trong constitutional and legislative frameworks with protective mechanisms advancing women and children.
The country lacks a Woman Human Rights Defender to openly raise women issues and hold the perpetrators of women and children’s rights accountable. The religion and cultural practices still persist as barriers that subjugate women as subordinates in the society. There are laws adopted for the purpose of advancing, inequality and stereotyping of women. The Leadership Authority Act of 2003, Traditional Bill are policies that contradict the constitutional values, including regional and international mechanisms acceded to for protecting women from being subjected to subservience at traditional level. There are women leaders who support cultural practices that violate women and human dignity of young girls’. The practice of virginity testing, promoted for awarding scholarship to young girls is not only a violation of the constitution, but it is a regression of a societal fabric. This situation attributes to teenage pregnancy, school dropouts, forced marriages, child marriages and abductions in our communities. Health is also an issue that affect women and young girls, especially HIV/AIDs affects young women of between 15years-25 years old. South Africa has the highest HIV statistics in SADC region mostly affecting women. While the concept of blessers is endemic countrywide and need interaction from state collaboration with civil society and private sector.
Sexual violence, including rape is as high like a country in war and like DRC, a country described as the capital of rape. The aged are targeted as prey, they are not safe in their homes or public places. They are robbed of their pension fund and live in fear of victimisation as some are murdered because communities allege them for witchcraft. Children with disability experience incestuous relationships from their fathers. The police are doing little to hold responsible culprits accountable. While women are losing confidence in the law enforcement and the justice system, reporting of sexual offences has deteriorated. A number of CSOs have reported that three in five south women have experienced rape in their life time. It is still reported that only one rape cases are reported out of 9 rape cases. It is still reported that in every 26 seconds a woman is raped in South Africa. All these reports have gone into deaf ears, with little done by police to apprehend perpetrators. The Minister of Police has condemned violence against women and children, but this will not make perpetrators of this crime repent from their evil acts, but a well-trained police, equipped with professional skills to conduct investigations that result in holding perpetrators accountable.
African Commission on Human and People’s Rights has called South Africa to protect the LGBTI communities, including protecting the girl child from contacting HIV, development of policies that gives consistent age of a child.
While the Human Rights Council has passed over 250 recommendations on South Africa disturbing high levels of sexual violence. HURISA is calling on South Africa to end the rhetoric on the scourge face by women and children, but to be more serious in developing timeframes for ending the scourge, including coming up with concrete strategies to curb the violence on a short term, medium term and long term basis.
HURISA is calling all women in leadership, including cabinet ministers, political parties not to allow policies, administrative practices that undermine the spirit, purport of the constitutional and legislative policies that promotes protection of women and children in the country. They should ensure full support of functioning of the South African Commission on Gender Equality and Department of Women to run sustainable programmes for women and children in the country, including reaching women and children in living in rural communities.