Women's Parliament

Speech by GOOD Leader, 

Patricia de Lille

Women's Parliament 2019 : When you empower a girl, you empower a community

29 August 2019

Note to Editors: Find attached the speech delivered by GOOD Leader, Patricia de Lille in the Women’s Parliament, hosted at the National Parliament of South Africa today. 

Honourable Speaker of the National Assembly, Thandi Modise 

Honourable Ministers and Deputy Ministers

Programme Director, Deputy Chairperson of the NCOP, Sylvia Lucas

Deputy Minister of Women, Youth and Persons with disabilities, Professor Hlengiwe Mkhize

Deputy Minister of Police, Cassel Mathale

Chairperson of the Portfolio Committee on Women, Youth and Persons with Disabilities, Ncube Ndaba

President of SALGA, Councillor Thembi Nkadimeng

Honourable Members of Parliament

Members of provincial legislatures 

Representatives from civil society, academic organisations, activists 

Good morning, goeie more, molweni, as-salaamu ailakum, shalom, Namaste

Anene Booysen, Anasastia Wiese, Courtney Pieters, Zarah Hector, Karabo Mokoena, Lynnette Volschenk, Anthea Topps, Megan Cremer and six year old Nathlia Piennar who was gunned down just days ago. 

These are just some names of a long list of women and young girls whose lives were violently ended. 

These were mothers, sisters, daughters either in the prime of their lives and some of them never had a proper chance at life like the young girls at 3 and 6 years old. 

In all these cases the suspects and convicted perpetrators were men. 

The scourge of violence against women and children and femicide is astonishing and an utter disgrace in a country where women led and took up the fight for justice and fairness for all South Africans. 

We tend to make a point of mentioning that it is even more sad that some women’s lives are brutally ended in Women’s Month but what does the month even mean, what are we celebrating when this is happening to our women every single day. 

It is an indictment and the talking must stop, we need action. 

The Women’s Charter states under article 2: The Law and Administration of Justice that at all times the law, and its application, interpretation, adjudication and enforcement shall promote and ensure the practical realisation of the equality for women.

My sisters…That is not happening.

We have laws in this country but my call is that either we need new laws or current laws need to be amended to be more explicit in how we deal with these cowards who are raping and killing our women and children.

When an innocent child gets hit in a crossfire and her lifeless body is found still with her skipping rope in her hand, we all need to look at ourselves and say that enough is enough. 

We have failed our women and it is time for us all to come together and deal with this once and for all. 

How many more? How many more must be killed?

It is also no use that only women take a stand against femicide and gang violence in our country. 

You don’t have to be black to fight racism, you don’t have to be gay to fight homophobia, you don’t have to be a women to fight for equality and women’s rights. 

I make a call on the good men of our country to take as stand and help to love, protect, nurture and stand by our women. 

These men and boys who are killing women and children are the ones who area raised by our women who become the very victims of the men they raised. 

As we raise little boys, we must teach young boys about respect, responsibility, about equality and the value and power of women to help them build successful and loving homes. 

We must stop pampering little boys and excluding them from certain tasks in the home and saying some things are only for girls. 

This scourge also requires all of us to break out of our silos, our mandates and our comfort zones. 

During this week, my office visited two organisations led by women who have been affected by violent crime in communities 

The Alcardo Andrews Foundation in Hanover Park was established four years ago after the brutal death of Alcardo Andrews in that community. 

The other organisation, Vroue In Aksie in Strand formed just over a year ago by a group of women fed up with the recent spate of gangsterism and crime in their area.

I always say that women must empower themselves and empower other women and they must refuse to be victims. They must not allow bad things to happen to them.

I salute these women for doing just that and for refusing to be defeated by the scum that is terrorising our communities but mostly our women and children. 

The leadership of these women is giving our communities hope that we are not turning a blind eye to the plight of women and children and cowering for thugs in our communities. 

Our dear former President, Tata Nelson Mandela said: “Freedom cannot be achieved unless the women have been emancipated from all forms of oppression.”

Today our women are still slaves to this system of patriarchy and violence.

In November last year, President Cyril Ramaphosa spoke at the Summit on Gender-based violence and femicide where he called for collective, stronger action by all sectors of society. 

The President noted that Government has responded to two specific demands raised during the #TotalShutDown marches in August last year saying that government was conducting a review of national plans to end gender-based violence and the development of a National Action Plan on gender-based violence.

Together with civil society organisations, government has undertaken a review of our Programme of Action on Violence against Women and Children, and plan to launch the revised Plan of Action 2019–2023 during the 16 Days of Activism.

Parliament must have oversight over the outcomes of that Summit and play a greater role in implementing the changes that are needed so that the days of talking can come to an end. 

Government has also opened Thuthuzela Care Centres, our unique one-stop, integrated response to incidents of violent sexual acts against women and children, aim to reduce secondary victimisation, improve conviction rates and reduce the cycle time for finalisation of cases.

This is one of our more effective interventions and the President called on all of us to develop concrete proposals on how we can strengthen the operations of these centres.

A few weeks ago, the army was deployed in the gang-ridden areas on the Cape Flats but experience, the crime stats and the bodies piling up has shown us that policing is not enough. 

We need an army of social workers, we need an army of men and women to raise our sons to see women as equal and partners in building this country and ridding it of these crimes. 

In the lead up to the Summit on Gender Based Violence and Femicide, one of the specific demands raised by activists was to establish a central, national coordinating structure for gender-based violence.

This structure must start its work in earnest and we must constantly engage with the proposals from civil society and the people who live these experiences to find solutions and implement them.

Today, we gather under the banner of the Twenty-Five Year Review of the Women’s Charter for Effective Equality.

GOOD supports the Charter and we look forward to the Plan of Action being implemented.

We can talk for twenty-five more years, we can host a summit every week, but until we act, we will keep talking, we will keep feeling disgusted and we will keep seeing these appalling crimes. 

The women from 1956 bravely took action for the freedom we have today. That is the courage and will that we must emulate.

Yes women have achieved a lot in the work place but we are still earning less and we still have some way to go in that space. 

Until we see the day that no women or child is hurt, we haven’t achieved much.

The Constitution and Bill of Rights create a legal framework for the legislature, the national parliament, to make laws to give effect to these rights.

For now, most of it remains words on paper. Those words did not protect the lives of the women I mentioned at the beginning of my speech and the thousands more who are no longer with us due to the cruel acts of men.

Without law-making the rights remain rights but nothing changes and nothing happens except your right to equality is violated.

There are lessons for South Africa to learn from else-where.

The Organisation of American States – an organisation of 35 countries that make up North, Central and South America have tackled the issue of gender-based violence and femicide head on. 

In 2018 they published a model law called: “Inter-American Model Law on the Prevention, Punishment and Eradication of the Gender-Related Killing of Women and Girls. 

According to the SAPS Crime Statistics report of 2018, femicide increased by 11% over the last two years. 

Stats SA reports that 138 per 100,000 women were raped last year, the highest rate in the world. 

Despite these shocking statistics, global statistics, only 18 countries classify femicide as a specific offence or consider gender-based homicides to be an aggravated crime.

The authors of the model law say that they and the model law:

“Recognizes femicide as the most extreme and irreversible expression of violence and discrimination against women. 

It stands in violent opposition to all declared rights and guarantees of human rights established in both national and international legislation.

It is a dehumanizing act of hate that, over time, has consolidated the male hegemonic vision over women as an object of transgression and weakness; it is a configuration of the dominating system of patriarchal power.”

“The purpose of the proposed model law is to provide a blueprint of the highest possible standards of protection of women for those countries that intend to classify, if they have not already done so, the violent deaths of women as a crime. 

The model law is not perfect and not necessarily something to be adopted in South Africa “lock, stock and barrel” but it does provide a basis for men and women to start asking hard questions about what we are doing as the good people of South Africa to eliminate this scourge of murder and violence.  

There has been a series of amendments to criminal laws in South Africa.

Amongst these are laws to tighten to bail conditions for alleged rape offenders.

There is the Domestic Violence Act which seeks to provide women with some protection from domestic violence.

The Sexual Offences Amendment act and so we can go on.

Perhaps it is time for us to look at a specific offence for femicide and make the penalty aggravated.

Because we can all be honest and say these perpetrators do not fear the consequences and sometimes, they face none.

I call on the Honourable Speaker to consider leading a process to strengthen our laws.

Members, let us lead and do the work we have been elected and entrusted to do. 

I call on all the good people of this country to work together for the good of our women and children.

Because when you empower a girl, you empower a community. 

I thank you and may God Bless our women and children.

Cameron Arendse