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PRESIDENTIAL SUMMIT

Ramaphosa: Government ‘not even close’ to resolving issues faced by women

Ramaphosa: Government ‘not even close’ to resolving issues faced by women
(Photo: Gallo Images / Sharon Seretlo)

President Cyril Ramaphosa has admitted that little progress had been made in resolving issues confronting women, that much more needs to be done and the government was ‘not even close to where we want to be’.

On Tuesday, during the first day of the second Presidential Summit on Gender-Based Violence and Femicide (GBVF), government and civil society organisations reflected on the government’s failure to implement policies to eradicate GBVF, despite government officials making more promises.

The summit’s theme was “Accountability, Acceleration and Amplification”.

At the inaugural summit in 2018, the government pledged to fast-track all laws and bills that relate to GBV and femicide, including the decriminalisation of sex work. It also committed to the development of a national strategic plan on GBV within six months.

However, little to no progress has been made, according to civil society organisations, which expressed frustration at the lack of progress.

Read more in Daily Maverick: “It’s been three and a half years since the Gender-Based Violence Summit and still no GBV and Femicide Council” 

The government will publish a widely anticipated bill on the decriminalisation of sex work by the end of this year — four years after it was initially adopted, instead of the six months envisioned by hopeful activists in November 2018.

The minister of justice and correctional services, Ronald Lamola, told more than 1,300 delegates at the summit in Midrand on Tuesday that the bill was at an advanced stage.    

Lamola was on a panel that included the Speaker of Parliament, Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, the minister of women, youth and persons with disabilities, Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, and the minister of police, Bheki Cele. They were being held to account for several societal issues confronting women and the progress made since 2018.  

After Lamola promised that the bill would soon be published, the crowd shouted: “Nini? [When?]”.

He replied: “Before the end of this year, we will have published the bill that will be out for public comment and also going to Parliament where stakeholders will also comment on this specific issue. I do understand the issue of trust that is being raised.”

Sisonke, an organisation representing sex workers, has been at the forefront in calling for the bill to be fast-tracked following the murders of six sex workers in Johannesburg last month.

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Sisonke spokesperson Katlego Rasebitse said that while they welcomed the commitment to a time frame from Lamola, they were disappointed with President Cyril Ramaphosa’s silence on the matter while giving a keynote address.

“We felt that when the President took over the podium, he was supposed to at least mention something around sex work just to instil hope to sex workers in the country, the same way he tackled LGBTI issues coherently; so we are quite disappointed that he didn’t do justice to sex work,” Rasebitse told Daily Maverick.

Ramaphosa admitted that little progress had been made in resolving issues confronting women, that much more needed to be done and the government was “not even close to where we want to be”.

“Despite our efforts, violence against women and children continues unabated in our country. Data from the South African Police Service (SAPS) shows that sexual offences and rape increased by 13% between 2017-18 and 2021-22.”

Murder rate rise

He also pointed to a disturbing 52% increase in the murders of women and a 46% increase in the murders of children between the first quarter of 2021 and the first quarter of 2022.

“It tells a story of a nation seemingly at war with itself, and at war with the women and children of the country. These barbaric acts are a shameful indictment on the men of SA. It is not women who are responsible for … such crimes. It is men who are responsible,” he said.

The government also came under fire for its failure to establish a National Council on GBVF. The council was envisioned as a permanent body with members from the government, civil society and other sectors that would oversee the fulfilment of the National Strategic Plan (NSP).  

Read more in Daily Maverick: “Implementation of National Strategic Plan on GBV moves at snail’s pace

Nkoana-Mashabane also promised that the bill would soon be tabled in Parliament and said she hoped it would come into effect no later than February 2023. DM

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