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Parliament, Friday, 25 November 2022 – The Presiding Officers of Parliament, led by the Speaker of the National Assembly (NA), Ms Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, and the Chairperson of the National Council of Provinces (NCOP), Mr Amos Masondo, join South Africans and the world in commemorating 16 Days of Activism against gender-based violence (GBV).

Every year, from 25 November to 10 December, South Africans observe 16 Days of Activism for No Violence against Women and Children. This well-known campaign was launched by activists at the first Women’s Global Leadership Institute in 1991. The campaign focuses on raising public awareness about the destructive effects violence and abuse have on women and children and the social fabric of our society. It ought to be not only supported fully by all South Africans but to be actively championed too.

The rights of women and children are fundamental human rights protected by our Constitution. GBV and violence against children, in all their different forms, devalue human dignity and the self-worth of the abused person(s) and must be rooted out of our communities. The 16 Days of Activism against GBV can only succeed if we stand together to safeguard our society against this abuse.

Violence against women and children remains the most pervasive human rights violation in our country. As South Africa slowly recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic, the rates of GBV are rising further, intersecting with crises of unemployment and economic instability. Parliament will ensure that progressive legislation in place is enforced to curb the impunity of perpetrators of domestic violence.

Parliament’s recent hosting of Men’s Parliament (a platform created for men to discuss their role, with a particular focus on the prevention of GBV and femicide and other social ills) is one of the deliberate indicators of the seriousness with which Parliament takes the scourge and the spotlight it continues to shine on it. Parliament continues to ensure the provision of national forums for public consideration of issues of national importance. Violence against women and children has featured in several debates in the National Assembly and the National Council of Provinces since the start of the sixth administration. Oversight Committees of Parliament continue to be instrumental in holding responsible entities and persons to account to intensify the battle against the violations of rights of women and children. However, more needs to be done to eliminate GBV, which continues to tarnish our constitutional democracy and undermines our democratic gains.

Parliament’s passing of the Domestic Violence Amendment Bill; the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences and Related Matters) Amendment Act Amendment Bill; and the Criminal and Related Matters Amendment Bill has strengthened South Africa’s response to gender-based violence and femicide.
These amendments add additional regulation of sentences for offences committed against vulnerable people. The Domestic Violence Amendment Bill amends the Domestic Violence Act to address practical challenges, gaps, and anomalies since the Act came into effect in December 1999.

The amended legislation includes new definitions for “controlling” and “coercive” behaviour, for example, and expands the existing definition of domestic violence to include spiritual abuse, elder abuse, and/or exposing/subjecting children to certain listed behaviours. It also introduces online applications for protection orders against acts of domestic violence. It imposes obligations on the departments of Health and Social Development to provide certain services to domestic violence survivors.

We are confident the enactment of these Bills into laws will go a long way in dissuading such dastardly acts and ensure much-needed to the victims.

Parliament calls all South African, men in particular, both in their private spaces and communities, to play a role in fighting to end the abuse of women and children.

Parliament’s Presiding Officers urge all citizens to act, to support survivors, and to reduce and prevent GBV. Such abuse does not represent our ethos as a nation which is built on the values of Ubuntu. South Africans must support this campaign and demand men fulfil their responsibilities towards their families, their loved ones and their communities.

The 16 Days of Activism against gender-based violence must not end after 16 days. It must be an everyday intentional action. South Africans must mobilise all the men and women in their communities to take a stand to report and stop the abuse.

Enquiries: Moloto Mothapo