South Africa | Gender-based violence: MPs question Parliament's role

Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane.

Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane.

Freddy Mavunda, Gallo Images, Business Day

In a debate on gender-based violence, some MPs questioned Parliament's role in fighting the scourge.

On Tuesday, the National Assembly, during a virtual sitting, discussed gender-based violence after another spate of femicide.

According to Minister in the Presidency for Women, Youth and Persons with Disabilities Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, more than 30 women were "slaughtered" in June.  

Introducing the debate was EFF MP Veronica Mente, who said the government was fiddling while Rome was burning.

"Living as a woman in this country means you can be beaten at any time, raped at any time, or murdered at any time with impunity," she said.

She said the state has not done anything to ease this pain.

READ | Pregnant woman who lost baby after being stabbed by boyfriend fighting for her life in hospital

She said the EFF had called for the establishment of a committee dedicated to gender-based violence when the topic was debated last year, but nothing had happened.

"We have realised the source of the problem is Parliament," she said.

DA chief whip Natasha Mazzone said women are giving up because there seems to be no use in reporting gender-based violence. She said a report in 2017 revealed that only 8.6% of reported cases see a successful conviction.

She said Parliament must prioritise passing the Forensic Procedures Bill.

"There is currently no DNA sample of Schedule 8 offenders on record, and there are over 46 000 of these offenders. We don't know if they have been released or not. Where is this bill?"

ACDP leader Kenneth Meshoe recalled how a sitting of the National Assembly devolved into a brawl between the EFF and security staff in 2016, where a female security member fell and was kicked by EFF members.

He said it is hypocritical to condemn gender-based violence, and then turning a blind eye when it happens among your own.

Cope MP Willie Madisha said there is no implementation from MPs themselves. He said they come to Parliament every year, debate gender-based violence, and then clap hands.

He said:

We must enforce the existing laws. We are not ensuring that all those are implemented. We need to do it ourselves instead of coming here and clapping hands

EFF MP Omphile Maotwe and DA MP Nazley Sharif told of instances where rape survivors were not assisted by the police, while FF Plus MP Tammy Breedt told of an instance where a woman wasn't assisted by the police to get a protection order.

"The South African Police Service cannot continue to remain complacent in the violence towards woman," said Sharif.

ALSO READ | An increasing pandemic of gender-based violence

Common themes were that men – as the perpetrators of gender-based violence – must rise to change, and that patriarchy must be dismantled.

Nkoana-Mashabane said: "We are ashamed. I am also tired of these debates. This challenge, that came long before Covid-19, is for all of us to tackle."

She said she doesn't believe that South Africa's women are free, as they don't feel safe, not even in their own bedrooms.

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