Although some changes for the better have taken place since 1994, there are far too many areas that require vast improvement; especially when it comes to women and children; their needs and the protection of their rights.
1) Economic inequality, crushing poverty and gender discrimination are still the order of the day and most women (especially the elderly and the young) are worse off in this patriarchal and misogynist world of ours. When it comes to women’s development and their access to economic opportunities there is a vast gap between them and their male counterparts.
2) Young women are attacked at their places of learning by unscrupulous vultures who leave them hurt and often pregnant with no hope of adequately rearing their babies without accessing child grants – even if these babies are loved and nurtured instead of being discarded as the product of rape.
3) Women, young and old alike, have increasingly become more vulnerable to abuse and are not safe even in their own homes, never mind on the street and footpaths of our cities, towns and villages!
The United Democratic Movement Women’s Organisation (UDEMWO) therefore have only one question to ask on 27 April 2018: what are we celebrating?
One of the glaring problems is that there is absolutely no synergy within the government departments, which leaves the victims of abuse and crime high and dry, only to again face their tormentors at home after the justice system, has spewed them out.
The litany is that, for instance, if the police catches a rapist or a woman-beater (and if the docket does not magically disappear), the suspect is quickly released on bail (for a couple of hundred rands). Then the courts fail women when they give those found guilty, a slap on the wrist or sends them to jail with a meagre sentence (as per the maximum which the law allows). And then, correctional services release these monsters on parole so that they can walk freely in society to further intimidate or abuse their existing victims; or simply become serial offenders as they take their violent, criminal, immoral selves off to other places. After this hot mess, talking about justice, and the support and restoration of the dignity to victims, is a useless exercise.
For years, the ministers of women in the presidency have been filled with women, just for the sake of their gender and not because they were capable women. The inaugural holder, Ms Susan Shabangu was a roaring failure. The current incumbent Minister Bathabile Dlamini, is merely a political stop-gap.
Without a capable person in this post, the plight of women and children will remain an unfulfilled dream, because no-one is able to crack the whip. Simply using public money to organise an undercover Women’s League gathering to celebrate Women’s Day should be lowest on the agenda.
UDEMWO calls on:
1) Parliament to review the relevant legislation that almost seems to contradict the constitution when it comes to the protection of women and children’s rights. UDEMWO believes that a zero-tolerance system should be implemented to deter, punish and rehabilitate offenders, whilst supporting the victims and their families; making sure that justice is served, and their dignity restored.
2) President Ramaphosa to ensure greater synergy between the relevant ministries in the justice cluster.
3) President Ramaphosa to simply fire Minister Dlamini and appoint a capable person in that post.
Ms Thandi Nontenja
UDEMWO Secretary General