Sixteen Days of Activism on No Violence against Women and Children is an annual awareness raising campaign observed globally to reaffirm our commitment to create a society that is safe and secure for women and children. The purpose of this campaign is to address, assess, monitor, evaluate and promote interventions and programs that seek to prevent and respond to the scourge of violence against women and children.
The period of the campaign is from 25 November to 10 December, with the 25th November officially recognised by the United Nations in 1999 as the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women and 10th of December as the International Human Rights Day and this is part of the 365 days calendar program on no violence against women and children .Other important commemorative days commemorated annually during this 16-Day period include World Aids Day on 1st December and the International Day for Persons with Disabilities on 3 December. From today until the 10th of December, our country and the world will be observing the 16 Days of Activism Campaign on No Violence against Women and Children.
2013 marks the 14th anniversary of the national campaign which began in 1999. The International theme for this year is: “From Peace in the Home to Peace in the World: Let’s Challenge Militarism and End Violence Against Women!”
South Africa’s country theme for 2013 is “VIKELA MZANSI – KWANELE! COMMUNITIES UNITED IN PREVENTING VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN AND CHILDREN.
The campaign strapline remains: Don’t Look Away – Act Against Abuse”.
Militarization and violence is a major challenge particularly in regions affected by conflict. Domestic violence becomes even more deadly when guns – legal or illegal – are present in the home, because they can be used to threaten, injure or kill women and children. Indeed, women are three times more likely to die violently if there is a gun in the house.
The 16 Days of Activism Campaign focuses primarily on generating an increased awareness of the negative impact of violence on women and children as well as society as a whole. The campaign further seeks to address issues that affect vulnerable groups (women, girls and boys, LGBTI communities and people with disabilities.
The campaign seeks to mobilize all of us as individuals, communities, parents (mothers and fathers),men and women, youths, leaders, to unite and play our part to prevent and eliminate this scourge of gender based violence.
Twenty (20) years into democracy, since 1994, as a democratic country, we have made significant progress in putting in place legislation, policies and other measures for advancing equality and empowerment of women, children and people with disabilities. Through the Constitution and various other statutory provisions, South Africa has sought to protect and promote human rights. South Africa is party to and signatory to international conventions and protocols that call upon us to institute appropriate measures to eradicate gender-based violence. These include the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), Beijing Platform for Action (BPA), Protocol to the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa, SADC Protocol on Gender, United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) and Development and the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD).
South Africa has since presented its combined second, third and fourth periodic reports on the implementation of Convention on the Elimination of All forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) at its 967th and 968th sessions, on 21 January 2011. In considering the report, the UN CEDAW Committee noted the existence of a number of policies, legislative interventions, including Victim Empowerment and other measures to combat violence against women and girls in the country.
The Cabinet has since established an Inter-Ministerial Committee to look into the root causes of violence against women and children, and in addition pronounced the establishment of a National Council Against Gender Based Violence. South Africa further introduced and strengthened supporting measures, legislation, programs and institutions for protection and advancement of equality and empowerment of women and children.
Legislation includes amongst many:
The Domestic Violence Act 116 of 1998,
the Criminal law Amendment (Sexual Offences and Related Matters) Act 32 of 2007,
the Protection from Harassment Act 17 of 2011,
Firearms Control Act of 2000,
Children Act No. 38 of 2005,
the Prevention and Combating of Trafficking in Persons Act No.7 of 2013,
Interventions, programs and institution in place ,includes the Service Charter for Victims of Crime in South Africa (the Victims Charter) ,the strengthening of Thuthuzela Care Centres, the creation and further strengthening of Family, Child and Sexual Offences Units (FCS) of the SAPS, which is consonant with the provisions of Section 234 of the Constitution to assist with expedition of investigations, collection of evidence and support for victims during investigations, the reopening of sexual offences courts and approval of the National Plan of Action for Children, the establishment of the National Council against gender based violence launched on 10 December 2012.The Council is constituted by members from government (national and provincial), Chapter 9 institutions, civil society organisations, traditional and faith based leadership; academia and research to drive the national 365 days action plan.
Our Government’s responsibility is to create and enabling environment and ensure that all these institutions are functional and are able to respond to prevent and eradicate gender based violence. We have noted the recent increase in the nature and brutality of these personal contact crimes and this therefore required that we intensify educational and awareness campaigns and strengthen further the institutions and programs mentioned above. A lot has been done and still to be done
Whilst there are programmes and interventions to prevent and respond to the abuse, government cannot do this alone and therefore depends on mutual partnerships with non-governmental organisations, business, faith-based organisations, traditional leaders, political parties, various sectors of society and communities. Success of the 16 Days of Activism campaign is dependent on the partnership between government and various sectors of society including the media.
A concerted effort is required to promote the reach of the campaign to rural areas .Those most severely affected by violence are in these areas and may not be aware of the resources and services available to them to help them cope with their circumstances. We believe that the unacceptably high levels of gender-based violence require the collective efforts of all South Africans. The violence takes different forms such as sexual harassment, abuse, brutal assaults, rape and brutal murders
We must also accept the sad reality that financial dependency on husbands, fathers, partners and family members increases their vulnerability to domestic violence, rape, incest, abuse, and murder. We remain convinced that empowering women will help us win the war against poverty, inequality, unemployment and abuse.
The scourge of child and women abuse threatens to erode many of the hard-earned gains of the liberation struggle. Child and women abuse deny women and children their birth rights. It condemns them to a life of fear and prevents them from being productive members of society.
The other reality is that more and more of our people are reporting these crimes, hence we are recording high levels of prosecutions with harsher sentences. We commend the Criminal Justice system of our democratic country as this also contributes as a deterrent to would- be perpetrators and affirms our position that these crimes will not be tolerated and the perpetrators have no space in our communities.
We further commend communities and sectors in our society for example, the men’s sector that have also intensified education and awareness campaigns to talk to men, the religious leaders on the Bill of responsibilities campaign and so forth.
I urge all South Africans to join this fight. Let us support the all campaigns such as the Vikela Mzansi,Disability Rights Awareness Campaign, Sireletsa – Bana Campaign and Orange Day Campaigns throughout the year. The 25 th of every month is Orange day, and it is at these platforms that identified issues affecting them, such as alcohol abuse by parents; gangsterism and substance abuse, poverty; unemployed parents and child prostitution are addressed.
As we mark Sixteen Days of No Violence Against Women and Children, we must pose uncomfortable questions to ourselves. One of the critical questions is: What are we doing, individually and collectively, to address this scourge that threatens to erode the gains we have been making since 1994 to build a caring society? Beyond adopting the role of critics, what is it that other sectors can do to help government to prevent and eliminate violence against our women and children.
Working together, we can do more to prevent violence and make our homes places of safety, places of hope and places of peace and harmony. The call to action is for all of us to work together to prevent violence against women, children.
VIKELA MZANTSI, KWANELE
Let us all protect our South Africa, our children, our women, Enough is Enough.
I thank You.