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Government to urgently strengthen its GBVF response

Union Buildings

The demand by South Africans for end to Gender-Based Violence and Femicide (GBVF) is one that requires a well-coordinated, united and national response that will not only stop abusers in their tracks but will prevent the very occurrence of these horrific and unjustifiable crimes.

The outrage expressed by our nation over the past few weeks is one in which I join the call that ‘enough is enough’.

The deaths of Uyinene Mrwetyana, Jesse Hess, Leighandre Jegels, Janika Mallo, Natasha Conabeer, Ayakha Jiyane and her three younger siblings left the nation justifiably horrified.

These tragedies, and the collective reaction of South Africans, highlighted once again that violence against women and children has become more than a national crisis – it is a crime against humanity.

While legislation cannot be changed overnight in a democratic country that follows due process, government is giving priority to amending our laws to deal more decisively with GBVF offenders and to offer greater protection to survivors of these offences.

When in place, these amendments will ensure harsher minimum sentences for all crimes against women and children.

It is my intention that the police, prosecutors and the courts will be empowered to better deter murderers, rapists and all abusers.  

Bail and parole will be opposed by the state in GBVF cases.  We are already investigating how best to address systemic challenges, such as the backlog of cases, delays in DNA testing and the availability of rape test kits in police stations.

The National Register for Sex Offenders will be overhauled to better combat violence against women and children and Parliament will be asked to consider amending legislation to make the sexual offences list public.

Changes to the Criminal Procedure Act will, in turn, ensure that people who have been sexually violated are not re-violated. An Inter-Ministerial Committee has already been established to look at how the criminal justice system can be more ‘victim-centric’.

In addition, we will strengthen the emergency teams at a provincial level to provide rapid and comprehensive responses to all forms of violence against women.

Government has established 92 dedicated Sexual Offences Courts since 2013, with a further 11 to be opened in this financial year. The Booysens Magistrates’ Court, opened in March, has already had 26 sexual offences cases brought before it.

These courts improve conviction rates and provide appropriate support services to ensure survivors of sexual offences are not subjected to further trauma.

To work effectively, however, they need to be properly resourced. I have thus asked the Minister of Finance to allocate additional funding to our campaign against GBVF.

Many South African men have taken a stand against GBVF and I thank them for making their voices heard.  It is not only the right thing to do.  It is also our responsibility.

As a nation, we need to combat patriarchy by treating the women and girls of our country with care and respect and raising our boys to do the same.

The violence that is devastating our country today is an affront to our democracy, our Constitution and our Bill of Rights.

Our appallingly high GBVF rate and the violence of our public protests undermines our very future.

Gender-based violence ruins individual lives and families and makes all of us feel vulnerable.

Public violence also discourages international tourists and investors alike which in turn increases the strain on our economy and curtails our efforts to combat unemployment.

No amount of anger, frustration or grievance can justify the acts of destruction and criminality that we have witnessed recently.

Government is clear: people who act with criminal intent will be arrested and prosecuted, irrespective of their nationality, because we cannot allow sporadic violence and lawlessness to endanger the safety and livelihoods of the millions of South Africans and the majority of foreign nationals who are law-abiding and have the right to conduct their lives and businesses in peace.

Join me in saying ‘enough is enough’.

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