By Doug Mattushek - 19 September 2019Views : 790
During an urgent joint sitting of Parliament, President Cyril Ramaphosa revealed a five-point emergency plan to be rolled out over the next six months.
In sum, the plan addresses prevention, strengthening the criminal justice system, enhancing the legal and policy framework, ensuring adequate care, support and healing for victims of violence and strengthening the economic power of women.
WATCH: Ramaphosa and ministers speak on Gender Based Violence
"This emergency action plan will be driven by an Interim Steering Committee located in the Presidency and co-chaired by government and civil society organisations," said Ramaphosa.
"The Steering Committee will coordinate rapid response at national level. In this way, problems at police stations and courts, and challenges such as availability of rape kits or delays in DNA testing, can be channeled to the relevant authorities quickly.
"As we have done with our response to HIV and AIDS, we should establish appropriate structures in the offices of Premiers and Mayors to work with social partners to drive and coordinate our efforts to end gender-based violence."
– A mass media campaign that will target communities, public spaces, workplaces, campuses, schools and recreational spaces like taverns. The focus will be on men’s groups and formations, youth at risk and offenders inside prisons.
– Women’s rights and gender power relations will be part of Life Orientation in the school curriculum.
– Gender-sensitivity training for law enforcement officials, prosecutors, magistrates and policymakers. Those who are found in breach of their responsibilities in this regard will be held to account.
– Train and deploy prevention activists to all of 278 municipalities. They will engage in household visits and community interventions focused on changing harmful social norms.
Strengthen the criminal justice system
– Directing resources to improve the functioning of sexual offences courts, Thuthuzela care centres, and the Family Violence, Child Protection and Sexual Investigation Units of the SAPS;
– Funding has already been approved for the establishment of an additional eleven sexual offences courts over the next financial year; and
– The Department of Justice and Constitutional Development will clear the backlog of criminal cases for rape and other forms of gender-based violence through the establishment of special courts, hiring additional court staff and clearing the backlog at forensic labs.
Enhance the legal and policy framework
– Proposing a range of legal and regulatory reforms to Parliament to strengthen the response of the State to gender-based violence and to ensure that all crimes against women and children attract harsher minimum sentences.
– Engaging with the judiciary on the role that it can play in supporting the national effort to end gender-based violence to ensure abusers, rapists and murderers know that they will be caught and punished. The State should oppose bail for suspects charged with the rape and murder of women and children and those who are found guilty of such crimes should not be eligible for parole.
– Strengthen programmes to rehabilitate offenders and youth at risk. Finalise legislation like the Victim Support Services Bill, which will strengthen support for GBV programmes and services.
– Ramaphosa called on all parliamentary committees to prioritise these areas of legislative reform and ensure that we have effective legislation in place without delay.
Ensure adequate care, support and healing for victims of violence
– Standardising the framework for funding civil society organisations working with survivors of gender-based violence;
– Providing post-rape training for healthcare providers and lay counsellors who provide care and support to victims and survivors;
– Working with the private sector, concerned individuals and other institutions to substantially increase the number of Thuthuzela care centres across the country from the current 54 to over 100 by 2025;
– Meet with representatives of the private sector to discuss the establishment of a Gender-based Violence and Femicide Fund to increase support to survivors, including persons with disability and the LGBTQI+ community;
– As drug and alcohol abuse fuel gender-based violence, the Department of Social Development has been tasked with increasing the visibility of substance abuse awareness and education and prioritising funding for more treatment facilities; and
– Resource the gender-based violence framework in universities and colleges, which will include the establishment of gender equity offices in these institutions. Ramaphosa will meet the universities’ vice-chancellors to come up with initiatives that are focused on what should be done at institutions of higher learning.
Improve the economic power of women
– Prioritise women when it comes to access to employment, training opportunities and procurement of services, and call upon the private sector to do the same;
– Reach the target to set aside 30% of the value of its procurement for women-owned businesses, and to progressively increase that to 40%;
– Prioritise support and training for women engaging in small business and informal sector activity, and call on established business to be part of this effort;
– All government departments will be expected to adhere to gender-responsive planning, budgeting, monitoring and evaluation; and
– Improve collection and analysis of data to monitor our GBV programmes.