by Safiyia Stanfley – DAWN Provincial Chairperson
Date: 09 November 2017
Note to Editors: The following debate speech was delivered in the Northern Cape Provincial Legislature today by DAWN Provincial Chairperson , Hon. Safiyia Stanfley, during a debate on 16 Days Of Activism.
Honourable Speaker, Honourable Premier, Honourable Members, Guests in the gallery, Members of the media
A 17 year old girl was stoned to death by a 15 year old girl after they had an argument.
A boyfriend stabs his girlfriend and then slits her throat, her body is found 4 days later.
A 38-year old man rapes a 25-year old woman.
A 5-year old’s eyes are gouged out and his body is dumped in a nearby field.
5 children are poisoned by their mother and their bodies are found in their home.
These are just some of the gruesome crimes that are committed against our most vulnerable. They are just a drop in the ocean, but each of them, even though we do not know them personally, resonates some feeling of grief.
Year after year, when we debate on 16 Days of Activism, we stand here and speak about all the wrong and bad things happening to our women and children. We hear the same speeches, the same statistics and the same stories. We put on the same concerned expressions.
But has anything really changed?
Every day we read stories in the media of women and children being raped and killed and it is clear that, as leaders and as a society, we have failed to reverse the trend of violence against the most vulnerable in our society.
One in every three women worldwide has or will experience physical violence. It is frightening to imagine that 33% of the women in this room has or will be physically abused.
So while the 16 Days anti-violence event takes place across our country, it is very important that more emphasis be placed on preventing violence against woman and children. And this needs to start in our homes and in our schools, where we restore the moral fibre in our society by teaching boys to become men who respect women. It is amazing what happens when boys are actually taught to respect women.
In Nairobi, Kenya consent classes are a huge success. In areas where these classes are taught, rape has been reduced by 50% and boys successfully intervened when witnessing an assault.
These classes further taught boys positive masculinity and to stand up for women. Girls were taught self-defence as part of the consent program, which probably helped to reduce rape and assaults. I know I would not want to interfere with someone who knows martial arts.
Last year we spoke about the brave Kutlwano Garesape from Jan Kempdorp, who literally defended his mother to the death. We need our boys to be instilled with respect and love so that they can become the force to stop this scourge of violence.
I definitely understand the frustration in our communities when they resort to taking the law into their own hands!
I understand the actions of the Lion Mama from the Eastern Cape, who stabbed her daughter’s rapists, killing one and injuring the other two. She did not think twice because she was concerned for her daughter’s safety and dignity. Would you have done the same, would you have taken the law into your hands in order to defend those you love?
There is a serious lack of platforms and institutions that empower women, although initiatives in this regard have been and are constantly being introduced by NGOs and government departments. The reality is that there are no proper and effective persons or bodies overseeing these initiatives and strategies.
Some women take on a totally different identity and fade away in order to get away from their abusers. Such a woman will leave behind everything and everyone she knows. But this woman is the exception.
Others will remain in vicious relationships. Such a woman stays because it offers her security, a home, someone she thinks loves her, someone she thinks she can change.
This is hardly ever the case, women must be empowered to speak out and men must be reminded that this kind of behaviour is unacceptable. It must be condemned and perpetrators must be punished.
The reality is that this is an on-going fight, especially where little or nothing is being done to root out the problem where perpetrators do not get a harsh enough punishment or the wheels of justice are rolling too slowly.
We must stop calling on others to fix the problems that are rife within our communities and use grassroot methods to bridge the divides in our communities and recreate the bonds that are tearing our families apart.
Indeed, we live in a country where the statistics will give you nightmares. In our own province, the following areas were ranked the top 5 where the majority of sexual offences were reported and the offence increased: Galeshewe, Mothibistad, Kimberley, Jan Kempdorp and Kakamas.
The DA appeals to MEN to take responsibility at home, with their children and their partners by providing the protection and care they need and deserve. Men need to understand, and appreciate, that women play a vital role in communities, the economy and the day-to-day functioning of all spheres of life.
Eliminating all forms of violence against women and children should not be an annual demonstration. It should be a priority to this Government. Our lives matter, my life matters!
These 16 days must not be used for the people of South Africa to ease their guilt and create media turmoil, but to find ways to put into place sustainable projects for the long term.
Gender-based violence is not compatible with the dignity and worth of the human person and must be eliminated. Hence, the call to society must be “Don’t Look Away, Act Against Abuse!”
Yes, this is not a local struggle. Again it’s a provincial, national and international struggle, a problem and a campaign for all. We will overcome this struggle, when men start to respect, to love, to appreciate and to care for their woman and children. Our men must become our knights in shining armour, our valiant protectors.
One should also note that the festive season has arrived. And despite it being the season to love, to care and to show compassion and charity, it is often filled with the abuse of alcohol by men that increases the probability of abusive behaviour.
Despite the campaign being called “16 days” it must be a “24 hour – 7 days a week – 365 days a year” campaign that should be seen for what it is, to uproot gender violence and the abuse of women and children.
2017 marks the 26th year of the campaign. The right to be free from violence is enshrined in the South African Constitution. A more robust stance must be taken to emphasize a zero tolerance-attitude in order to achieve an equal society based on human dignity as envisaged by our constitution.
To every person who has been or who is being abused: You will survive, because the fire that burns inside of you burns brighter than the fire that surrounds you!
I thank you.