Yesterday, President Cyril Ramaphosa said: “In towns, small and large, in cities, in homes, in schools, in colleges, in universities, in parks and open spaces, a war is being waged in South Africa on their right to security and equality. It is an affront to our common humanity.”
His words at a Women’s Day rally in Paarl, Western Cape, are more than just food for thought … they should shame the country.
Violence against women is higher in South Africa than in the rest of the world. But despite all the fine words and promises, it doesn’t seem to be getting any better. Ramaphosa says this all-out assault on South African women represents a betrayal of the equality and freedom promised in 1994.
The most worrying thing about the plague of violence against women is that South Africa’s criminal justice system is often a witting, or unwitting, accomplice to the abuser.
So, when a woman goes to a police station, for example, to apply for a protection order against a violent man, police do not take her seriously, or often urge her to go back and resolve what they believe is a domestic squabble. A similar experience has been reported by many rape victims, who find police are either not interested, or try to convince the victim she is partly responsible by somehow “asking for it”.
After all, male police officers, in many cases, share the same attitudes as other men.
While it is a hopeful sign that Ramaphosa is giving his full backing to initiatives to reduce violence against women, we wonder how effective they will be.
Words mean little to a person who believes he has a right to someone else’s body or their space, and they haven’t worked up to this point.
Perhaps if there were harsher sentences and no bail for abusers, men would start changing.