PRETORIA, 28 NOVEMBER 2013 – The United Nations (UN) in South Africa is urging communities to come together to denounce all forms of violence against women and children. From 25 November to 10 December 2013, the world commemorates the annual Sixteen Days of Activism Against Gender Violence. The campaign kicked off on 25 November, the International Day to End Violence against Women and ends on 10 December, which is International Human Rights Day.
The 2013 UNiTE campaign theme for 16 days campaign is, “Orange Your World in 16 Days” and the national theme is “Vikela Mzansi, Kwanele! Communities United In Preventing Violence Against Women And Children”. Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director of UN Women, Madame Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka has underscored that, “every day, we must stand up, speak out and be part of creating solutions to end these human rights violations. “
South Africa continues to be plagued with worrying statistics and horrendous crimes of violence against women and children, including infants. Among numerous cases, two received significant media attention in 2013, the rape and murder of Western Cape teenager Anene Booysen and the rape and mutilation of two toddlers in Diepsloot in Johannesburg.
Over the years there have been a number of interventions implemented at international and national levels which aim to prevent and respond to violence against children. These include supporting parents, families and others who care for children; strengthening children’s skills to help protect themselves from violence; explicitly working to change attitudes and social norms that tolerate violence and discrimination; and strengthening and enforcing policies and laws that protect children.
“The UN wishes to reiterate that violence against women and children is a human rights violation and must never be tolerated, accepted or excused,” says UN Resident Coordinator in South Africa Dr. Agostinho Zacarias. “Every girl and woman has the right to be respected, valued and protected from violence and abuse.” Violence against women and children is an obstacle to progress in many areas, including poverty eradication, combating HIV/AIDS and ensuring peace, security and respect for human rights.
Research undertaken in Gauteng Province by Gender Links, a regional non-governmental organisation based in Johanneburg and the South African Medical Research Council in 2010 indicates that over half (51.3%) of women in the province have experienced some form of violence in their lifetime and 75.5% of men admitted to perpetrating some form of violence against women at one point in their lives.
“Leaders have a responsibility to take action to end all forms of violence against women and girls and to protect women, who constitute more than 50% of the population. Today, as part of the UNiTE campaign, the Secretary-General and I invite you to join us and show your solidarity by wearing orange for a brighter future. We invite you to declare with us that every woman and girl has the fundamental human right to live free from violence,” Mlambo-Ngcuka added.
The UN in South Africa congratulates the justice system for taking up cases and ensuring that they are dealt with timely. Recently, Mlungisa Mtshali, the so-called “birthday rapist” was sentenced to 39 life terms for 39 rapes and an additional 212 years on more than 70 charges of sexual assult, kidnapping and theft. Johan Kotze, the “Modimolle monster”, got a life imprisonment sentence for the murder of Conrad Bonnette and a life sentence for the gang rape of his ex-wife and mother to Conrad, Ina Bonnette. Further, he was sentenced to 25 years behind bars for charges of kidnapping and assault of Ina Bonnette.
The UN urges the South African government to assure speedy access to justice is maintained. The timely arrest of the alleged rapist and murderer of the two toddlers in Diepsloot, Johannesburg must be encouraged. In addition, the political will to reintroduce Sexual Offences Courts as announced by President Jacob Zuma will go a long way in ensuring quick justice delivery for victims and survivors of gender violence.
Societies everywhere need cohesive family structures, positive male role models and programmes for men and young men to engage on holistic programmes on preventing and ending violence against women and children. Mlambo-Ngcuka has also reiterated that “to be effective, prevention must address its [gender violence] root cause: gender inequality. We need education in schools that teaches human rights and mutual respect, and that inspires young people to be leaders for equality. We need equal economic opportunities and access to justice for women. We need women’s voices to be heard. We need more women politicians, police and peacekeepers.” In addition, she said that gender violence cannot be omitted in the post-2015 development framework, if the world is to achieve gender equality.
Dr. Sadiq Syed, Officer-in-Charge of UN Women in South Africa, said that the UN family is committed to working with the government and stakeholders to end violence against women and girls in South Africa. “We call on every South African to stand up and speak out against gender-based violence,” he said, adding that the UN jointly with Government and civil society will make efforts to raise awareness by asking all people to ‘Orange Your World in 16 Days’ and use the colour orange to symbolize their commitment to this cause.
While the campaign receives great visibility during the 16 days of activism, 365 days of action plan and the National Action Plan on Gender Violence implementation need to be accelerated. “Through a multi-sectoral approach and working together a violence against women and children free South Africa is possible”, Dr. Syed emphasized.
For more information on the work of the UN on gender-based violence in South Africa contact:
Dr. Sadiq Syed, UN Women: firstname.lastname@example.org; T: 011-5171592
Rayana Rassool, UN Population Fund (UNFPA): email@example.com; T: 012-3548417
Jacqueline Nzoyihera, Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR): firstname.lastname@example.org; T: 012-3548688
Nkhensani Mathabathe, UNAIDS; email@example.com; T: 012-3548463
Emma de Villiers, UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF): firstname.lastname@example.org; T: 012-3548252