Annually the African National Congress Women’s League (ANCWL) and the ANC-led government, through the Department of Women, run a successful campaign in pursuit of curbing violence on women and children as espoused in the fundamental principles of the movement of a non-violent, non-sexist and a prosperous South Africa.
Since 1998, South Africa embarks on the 16 Days campaign against violence on women and children that commences today, the 25th of November and ends on the10th of December.
The 16 Days of Activism against gender based violence, which marks the United Nations International Day for the Elimination of violence against women, is the Human Rights Day. This period also includes Universal Children’s Day and World AIDS Day respectively. The campaign, therefore, remains an essential tool in creating awareness on the negative impacts of violence on women and children.
The ANCWL has noted that violence against women and children is still rife in South Africa. This violence against women takes different forms, namely; physical violence in the form of domestic violence, terrible violent crimes such as murder, robbery, rape and assault in the survivor’s homes and in society and the rape culture in institutions of higher learning and schools against young women and girl children.
While the ANC-run government works tirelessly to eradicate inequality and poverty, we note that the terrible brunt on our democracy is the violence of poverty, starvation, humiliation and degradation, especially against women and children. Poverty, inequality and unemployment are conditions under which violence thrives.
According to the 2015/2016 crime statistics released the by Minister of Police, Comrade Nkosinathi Nhleko, earlier in the year, there is a decline in violent crimes but for us, one incident of crime is one too many. The victims of violence are human beings and at the most violence directly and indirectly affects women and children more than it does men. For instance, violent crimes such as murder destabilises families since children are left as orphans with lifelong psychological scars. Again, the majority of sexual offenses perpetrators are men than women.
As much as the ANCWL appreciates the gradual decrease in crime against women & children, it is our firm belief that more needs to be done in relation to sex crimes, which includes sexual assault and rape. On sexual violence, statistics indicates that Gauteng had 9510 cases, KZN 8947, Eastern Cape 8797, Western Cape 7130, Limpopo 4369, North-West 4164, Free-State 3928, Mpumalanga 3331 and Northern Cape 1719. In total there were 51895 reported cases. These are not just numbers but there are human being and especially vulnerable women and children behind each and every number.
When we take into consideration the fact that statistics are not an accurate reflection on the number of sexual violent instances because it is only based on reported cases and it is common knowledge that there are survivors who do not report rape and assault cases due to various reasons ranging from safety, economic reasons etc. we, in the ANCWL remain concerned because crime statistics tell us that while we conduct successful campaigns yearly, we need to intensify the fight in curbing the culture of violence against women and children.
As the ANCWL launched the campaign this week, the aim is to mobilise society into acknowledging that violence against women and children is not a government or a criminal justice system problem, but a societal problem, and that failure to view it as such, results in all efforts failing to eradicate this scourge in our communities.
Violence against women and children is one of the most egregious and persistent violations of human rights, affecting victims across race, gender and age. This societal ill is a symptom of gender inequalities which are pervasive socially, in politics and in the economic mainstream. Women perform 66% of the work worldwide and produce 60% of its food, yet they earn 10% of the income and own 1% world’s property.
The ANCWL is adamant that radical economic transformation of women will curb violence against women and children. Gender gaps in the economic mainstream need to be tackled with vigour and the urgency it deserves as economically disempowered women are vulnerable to gender based violence. Women need to be economically empowered to gain their confidence and independence respectively.
As a country we need to focus our energies on strategies for empowering women economically to afford them greater autonomy in securing livelihoods through traditional employment and self-employment. Women empowerment has proven to yield great results in families and society at large.
Women cannot stand in the side-lines and watch the gains of our democracy regress. We, being in majority in country’s population, will continue to take up our role to influence, mobilise and fight for economic emancipation of women thus curbing violent crimes against women and children. We must move together towards a violence free South Africa.
The ANCWL calls on men, young men and boys, in all their formations and in society at large to join the fight against violence on women and children. While the campaign is marked for only 16 days, the deeply entrenched scourge dictates that everyday becomes a day to make progress our fight to emancipate, first and foremost women economically and thereby curbing gender based violence perpetuated mainly by inequality and poverty.
It is the responsibility of all members of our society to ensure that the rights of women are respected as equal citizens. That responsibility cannot be relegated to women alone.
CDE MEOKGO MATUBA IS THE SECRETARY GENERAL OF THE ANCWL