Protect our women and children from abuse: DA

Anthony Benadie MPL

Provincial Leader – Mpumalanga

Note: The following address was made by Anthony Benadie to the Mpumalanga Provincial Legislature during the debate on 16 Days of Activism for no violence against women and children.

This year marks the 11th consecutive year of the 16 Days of activism against the abuse of women and children campaign. It is a campaign that highlights the plight of victims who are so often the most vulnerable in our society.

Sadly, despite the continued public exposure of this campaign, it would appear that when it ends, so too does government’s listening to the plight of our women, children, NGOs and social workers.

South Africa remains home to high levels of violence against its women and children, despite a world-renowned constitution and a legislative overhaul that safeguards women’s and children’s rights.

Violence, rape and abuse of women and children have increased over the years. The abuse has become more brutal, barbaric and brazen, highlighting the need for more action and tougher consequences.

Government must stop paying lip service to this horrendous social ill in our society, and needs to ensure that perpetrators of rape and abuse are brought to book and convicted.

NGOs and social counsellors working with rape and abuse survivors must be adequately funded and equipped to provide such victims with the needed emotional, physical and trauma support.

Honourable Speaker, the DA welcomes the announcement made in August that 22 sexual offences courts would be reintroduced by the end of the 2013/14 financial year, and that up to 57 sexual offences courts would be operational countrywide within the next three years.

The reinstatement of sexual offences courts will go a long way in improving South Africa’s efforts to put an end to violence against women and children.

It is a disgrace to witness year after year the lack of commitment from our provincial government to fighting the scourge of women and child abuse.

Every year NGOs that set out to help victims and survivors of sexual and physical abuse are on the brink of closure because of government’s lack of funding.

While so many NGOs continue to fulfil a function that government is unable to, the Premier and MEC after MEC continues to squander millions of rand of government funds.

Today, I want every MEC to know, that for every cent you and your department wastes, every time hundreds of thousands of rand is spent to buy you a new luxury car, you are denying a rape survivor or child abuse victim the chance of a better life, because while there is never enough funds for NGOs, there is never a shortage of funds to feed the ANC’s indulgent appetite for public funds.

So too, the Department of Education continues to fail our children, with little to no formal programme to educate learners about abuse, and practically no counselling support for learners who fall victim to abuse.

The department must have a more hands-on approach. Schools need to be safe havens for learning that gives children their best chance at a successful life. In this light, there must be a zero-tolerance approach to intimate relations of any kind between learners and teachers.

Honourable Speaker, government needs to start taking this campaign seriously, because in spite of what it claims is being done, rape, abuse and the spread of HIV/Aids are on the rise.

We stand today, in solidarity with every women raped and every child abused, and say clearly that real men don’t rape, real men don’t abuse their children – and we will stop at nothing to see justice done and our society freed from the thugs and cowards who destroy the lives of our loved ones.