Women occupy inviolable place in all aspects of society

James Masango MPL Provincial Chief Whip of the Official Opposition Note: The following address was delivered in the Mpumalanga Provincial Legislature by James Masango during the Snap Debate on International Women’s Day. On 8 March 2013, when we celebrated International Women’s Day, we showed our respect, appreciation and gratitude towards women and acknowledged their economic, political and social contribution to society. The modern image of a 21st century woman depicted in glossy Western magazines is one of confidence, grace, prosperity, health and beauty. Yet – despite progress made by women in the spheres of human rights, political participation and emancipation, education and income – many of the almost 3,5 billion women of our planet are confronted with discrimination, violence and repression on a daily basis. Perhaps the most shocking recent incident in South Africa – which highlighted the extent of ongoing daily violence against women and girls in South Africa – was the brutal gang rape, mutilation and murder of 17-year-old Anene Booysen in the Western Cape. The case drew attention to the plight of thousands of South African women and girls who have also been the victims of rape and sexual abuse – despite the fact that our Constitution guarantees the right to life, dignity and physical and psychological integrity. Alarmingly high levels of violence prevent South African women from enjoying these rights. Undoubtedly, many of these problems have their roots in poor socio-economic circumstances, such as poverty, poor education and ongoing inequality. However, at the core lies the fundamental failure of too many of our men to respect the role and status of women. The purpose of International Women’s Day is to remind men and women of the equal and inviolable place that women should rightfully occupy in all aspects of society. Aside from small tangible gestures of recognition and appreciation, the most worthy token of respect that we as South Africans can show towards women and girls on this International Women’s Day – and every other day – is honouring the promises, rights and protections that our Constitution and the Bill of Rights afford to women, girls and all other South Africans. If we do so, we will ensure that women are afforded the respect, equality, dignity and humanity to which they – and all of us – are entitled to as human beings.

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