FEDUSA urges speedy action on Femicide Act, specialised courts to fight gender violence


JOHANNESBURG, November 26  – The Federation of Unions of South Africa has urged the government to speedily enact a Femicide Act as promised by President Cyril Ramaphosa during a summit on gender-based violence (GBV) last year and to upgrade the current system of sexual offences courts to fully fledged specialised high courts that will deal speedily and effectively with cases.

In a statement issued at the start of 16 days of activism on violence against women and children on Monday, FEDUSA said the country urgently needed both the promised new law and a network of regional institutions manned by specialized gender violence judicial officers as the current system of low key sexual offences courts introduced in 2013 had failed to make a dent in the heavy back log of GBV cases.

“Such specialized courts should see the state not only routinely opposing bail and parole applications for perpetrators of rape and murder against women and children; but also imposing harsher sentences,” it said.

The recent case in which the Western Cape high court timeously sentenced Post Office worker Luyanda Botha to three life sentences for raping and killing University of Cape Town student Uyinene Mrwetyana should serve as a national gold standard, FEDUSA added.

The FEDUSA statement came as South Africa reeled from the murder of another tertiary student in Limpopo who was found dead in a pool of blood at the weekend after being stabbed multiple times by an assailant who broke into the room she rented while attending college. Reports said the 21-year-old had also been raped.

Parliament’s committee on women, youth and persons with disabilities said on Tuesday the key to ending gender-based violence and femicide in South Africa was ensuring that a national strategic plan was finalised and implemented.

On Monday Ramaphosa said violence against women was both a shame on the country and a betrayal of African values, but told attendants at the launch of the annual 16 days of activism that an emergency action plan the government launched in September in the wake of protests against the murder of women was being implemented successfully.

The Democratic Alliance, the country’s official opposition, added its voice, saying it was deeply concerned that 251 children had died as a result of gender-based violence in Gauteng province over the past five years.

Citing a response from Gauteng member of the executive council for community safety Faith Mazibuko to questions in the provincial legislature, the DA’s Refiloe Nt’sekhe said 13 of these children were killed alongside their mothers or grandmothers.

She noted that 131,210 gender-based violence cases had been opened at police stations around Gauteng from 2014 to 2018, but that only 44,522 related arrests had been made with just 9,786 convictions.

“It is worrying that many cases have been opened but the arrest and conviction rates are very low,” Nt’sekhe said.

“It is high time that cases of gender-based violence are prioritised to ensure justice for the victims.”

The DA legislator said the only way to fight gender-based violence was by training police officers to specifically deal with such cases who had a thorough knowledge of the legislative frameworks for women’s rights and the rights of child crime victims.

“The awareness against gender-based violence must not only be conducted during the 16 days of activism … but in 365 days a year,” she added.

– African News Agency (ANA)