President Cyril Ramaphosa has vowed to crack the whip against civil servants – especially police officers – who harass victims of gender-based violence and all civil servants who perpetuate discrimination against females, while admonishing the country’s men for their failure in protecting women.
Addressing the National Women’s Day celebrations in Paarl, Western Cape, Ramaphosa acknowledged the ANC government had failed to live up to its 1994 promise to ensure women lived in peace and security in society.
He said his government would not tolerate the discrimination of women in the civil service and that police officers who worsened the trauma and pain against victims of gender-based violence through their treatment of survivors would be dealt with severely.
“We must acknowledge, as a government and as a society, that since the advent of democracy, we have failed to ensure that the women of South Africa are able to exercise their constitutional right to peace and security. In that sense, we have failed to live up to the promise of 1994. We therefore share a responsibility to correct this failing; to work together across society to fundamentally change attitudes, practices and institutions to end violence against women,” he said.
Men must bow their heads in shame for the abuse they committed against women, he said.
“We men must get it into our heads that we don’t own women, we don’t own their bodies.
“Disturbingly, a significant percentage of South African men admit to perpetrating violence against women. Women are abused by virtue of the fact that they are women, transgender, are gender nonconforming or because of their sexual orientation. Violence is perpetrated against women by men who are strangers, acquaintances, relatives or intimate partners,” he said.
“The violence that women are subjected to crosses boundaries of race and class, culture and language, yet there is a real danger that because violence against women has become so pervasive, society is gradually unmoved and has stopped seeing it as unacceptable and abhorrent. Instead of outrage, there is only weary acceptance. Instead of action, there is only lamentation.”
The government was committed to empower women, especially young women. To achieve this, Ramaphosa announced that economic development social partners such as civil society, trade unions, business and government had agreed to establish the Youth Employment Services, which would facilitate one-year work experience opportunities for unemployed young people at participating companies.
This announcement came against the backdrop of the recent announcement by ANC NEC member Ronald Lamola that the party has resolved at its lekgotla to do away with work experience as a criterium for new job seekers.
Lamola said the government would implement this policy, while the private sector would also be encouraged to follow suit.
On land reform, Ramaphosa said the government had embarked on a range of measures to accelerate comprehensive land reform.
The government would ensure equitable access for women to land in both rural and urban areas for agriculture, housing and business purposes. “Women who live in rural areas must have their right to land recognised and enforced.”