President Cyril Ramaphosa has called for a joint sitting of Parliament as well as the National Council of Provinces (NCOP) to deliberate new approaches to combat gender-based violence.
According to a statement released by Parliament on Friday, the sitting is scheduled for September 18 and will focus on “violence perpetrated against women in the past two weeks, Ramaphosa stressed that we all have a responsibility to ensure that these events become a turning point in our fight to end gender-based violence”.
“Crime statistics released this week showed an increase in violence in the country. This included increases in sexual offences, such as, rape and other violence against women,” the statement said.
This week, fresh crime statistics released by the South African Police Service showed a 4.6% increase in sexual offences, with the highest number of rapes recorded against women.
While it is unclear what exactly these new approaches would include, Ramaphosa’s address to the nation last week included a range of possible solutions Ramaphosa said he would undertake in consultation with Parliament.
In the address, Ramaphosa condemned the extreme acts of violence against women and children in South Africa, saying it was a national crisis.
He vowed to tackle the problem through heightened interventions.
“We are reviewing laws on domestic violence and sexual offences to prioritise the needs and interests of survivors.
“We have established 92 dedicated Sexual Offences Courts since 2013, with a further 11 to be opened this financial year to improve conviction rates and provide comprehensive and appropriate support services to ensure survivors of sexual offences are not subject to further trauma,” Ramaphosa said.
He added that the Presidency would consult Parliament to conduct an overhaul of the national register of sexual offenders to include all men convicted of violence against women and children.
“I will ask Parliament to consider amending the legislation to make the register public.
“I will propose to Cabinet that all crimes against women and children should attract harsher minimum sentences.
“We agree with the women of our country that the State should oppose bail and parole for perpetrators of rape and murder against women and children,” he said.
He also spoke about prevention tactics that would be implemented in schools curricula, other social development programmes, community initiatives and workplace policies.
“The Minister of Finance will be asked to allocate additional funding to the national machinery to coordinate our campaign against gender-based violence,” Ramaphosa added.
“I will therefore be asking Parliament to discuss and identify urgent interventions that can be implemented without delay,” he said.
The sitting next week, the statement said, arises out of the Constitution, which, “empower the President to call an extraordinary sitting of the two Houses of Parliament to conduct extraordinary special business.”
“As the National Council of Provinces is scheduled for a week-long provincial week oversight programme in all nine provinces next week, it is anticipated that its Wednesday programme will be suspended to enable delegates to be part of the joint sitting,” the statement said.