Keynote Address by the Deputy Minister of Justice and Constitutional Development, the Hon JH Jeffery, MP at the Ministerial Dialogue against Intimate Femicide in South Africa, held at the Protea Hotel, Durban, 3 March 2017
Later this month we celebrate Human Rights Day. We commemorate Human Rights Month in March to remind South Africans about the sacrifices that accompanied the struggle for democracy in South Africa.
Women were key in the struggle.
We would not have attained our freedom without women like Lilian Ngoyi, Victoria Mxenge, Dorothy Nyembe, Sophie Williams-De Bruyn, Charlotte Maxeke, Amina Cachalia, Helen Joseph and many others. Women who dedicated their lives so that we can be free.
Yet it is tragically ironic that despite the enormous sacrifices made by women to ensure human rights for all, some women in society today are denied their human rights, because they are abused.
Our Constitution is hailed as one of the most progressive in the world. The Constitution is the ultimate protector of our human rights, which were previously denied to the majority of our people under apartheid.
We commemorate Human Rights Day to reinforce our commitment to the Bill of Rights as enshrined in our Constitution. These rights include:
- Human dignity – everyone has inherent dignity and have their dignity respected and protected. But what does it do the dignity of a woman if she is abused, or assaulted, or broken down emotionally?
- Freedom of movement and residence – everyone has a right to freedom of movement and to reside anywhere in the country. But what about the freedom of women who are afraid, afraid to leave their homes, afraid to speak out? Are they free at all?
- Life - everyone has the right to life. But what about women who lose their lives because they are killed by an intimate partner.
How can we ensure that women enjoy their constitutionally protected human rights? What have we done so far?
We have passed progressive laws and policies on domestic violence, on sexual offences and on harassment. The Department of Social Development has established 8 Khuseleka One Stop Centres which offer a continuum of support services to victims of crime as a single service point.
DSD is further funding 102 Shelters for victims of gender-based violence and has also established 19 White Doors (Safe Houses) to provide safety and shelter services to victims of domestic violence.
DSD has further established the Gender-based Violence Command Centre with a toll free number 0800 428 428 and ‘a please call me’ number which is *120*7867#. The Centre is capacitated by skilled social workers to provide telephonic counselling services and other interventions. The system is able to track the physical location of the callers to facilitate speedy interventions and referrals, where necessary.
SAPS has established 1 027 Victim-Friendly Rooms at certain police stations. These are private rooms where victims of gender-based violence are interviewed for statement taking. They provide a friendly environment that assures confidentiality, respect and dignity.
We have 55 Thuthuzela Care Centres throughout country, with a major focus on sexual violence. The TCCs is the best practice model and one of our flagship projects. TCCs give both medical treatment to victims and survivors of rape as well as ensure evidence is collected which can be used in the trial.
In intensifying our response to sexual and gender-based violence we also resuscitated the sexual offences courts in August 2013. The model of these courts is not only home-grown, but is also widely recognised as a best practise model to address sexual violence, particularly in domestic relationships. To date, 50 sexual offences courts are spread throughout the country to offer victim-centred support services and equipped to fight secondary traumatization.
The Department of Justice and Constitutional Development, in partnership with the National Prosecuting Authority and the National House of Traditional Leaders commenced with the popularisation of a Safety Plan for Domestic Violence Victims.
The Personalized Safety Plan requires the victim to begin to think of protective steps to take in order to escape unharmed from any violent attack. It is a tool that guides the victim to plan for her safety at home or any place where violence often occurs. It also assists the victim to take appropriate action when preparing to leave an abusive relationship.
From the start of the current financial year - 1 April 2016 – up to 31 Dec 2016, a total of just over 287 000 civil hearings in terms of the Domestic Violence Act were registered by our courts. Of these cases, nearly 189 000 were new applications for the protection orders. Others included proceedings held for the applications of notice to show cause, anticipation by respondent, a final order, a variation of order and so forth.
Gauteng registered the highest number of cases, followed by KZN and then Western Cape.
When comparing the 9 month period in each of the various financial years, the data shows an increase from a total of 100 777 new applications in 2012/2013 to 188 753 new applications in 2016/2017. This is an increase of nearly 90 000 new applications.
We need to investigate whether the increase is due to more incidents occurring, or if this increase may be because of improved public education intervention and awareness raising efforts by government and civil society, so that more and more victims are becoming aware of their rights and are now coming forward to exercise them.
There are also other challenges that need to be addressed. For example, the early exit of victims of domestic violence from the criminal justice system due to issues of loyalty, shame, embarrassment, self-blame, financial dependence, harassment, or coercion remains a real challenge.
Sometimes victims will side with the abusers due to fear, denial or hope for a change.
Sometimes witnesses refuse to testify, often when the abuser is a family member.
Sometimes there are delays in the service of the domestic violence process, because of untraceable abusers.
We see increasing figures of the cancellation of protection orders by victims. The protection order is valid for life but many victims will insist on the cancellation of the order.
There is often a low reporting rate due to the stigma attached to domestic violence. This makes it difficult to determine the exact magnitude of domestic violence in the country.
The protection order is sometimes considered ineffective, as in some instances, violence continues after it has been issued, and victims get scared of having it reinforced against the abusers.
The incidence of intimate femicide in our country is a serious concern. According to criminologist Anni Hesselink:
“Research proves that the chances of a woman being murdered by someone that she knows or is in an intimate relationship with are much higher than any other type of murder… Motives are often financial, adultery or a love-triangle, custody or a residential battle for children.”
Many of you will recall the court case involving the death of Zanele Khumalo. It was the case that was heard in the court room next door to where Oscar Pistorius was being tried for the death of Reeva Steenkamp.
Zanele was strangled to death by her boyfriend after she broke up with him. She was 5 months pregnant with his child at the time.
Four months before Zanele died, she wrote in her diary: “...today is the last day a man abuses me.”
Gender-based violence cuts across race and class. That is why our Department is conducting these dialogues with women to encourage women to speak out.
The Intimate Femicide Dialogues are also conducted to respond to the report compiled by the UN Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women, its Causes and Consequences after her visit to South Africa in December 2015.
One of the recommendations made by the Special Rapporteur is the establishment of a Femicide Watch, which would release a report every year, detailing the number of gender-related killings per year, desegregated by age and sex of the perpetrators, as well as the relationship between perpetrator and victim.
At present, there is no government Department that collects statistics specifically on intimate femicide cases, as it would fall under the category of assault, murder or general contact crimes, as the case may be. South Africa is therefore working towards improving its data collection in this regard. This means we are getting closer to having a “Femicide Watch,” which will be a data bank capturing the details of all victims of femicide. Currently all cases of homicide are captured collectively without the identification of the relationship between the accused and the deceased.
This is mainly due to the fact that at present the charge sheet does not make any provision for the capturing of the details of victims. To address this, our Chief Directorate: Promotion on the Rights of Vulnerable Groups is currently working with the NPA and other stakeholders to amend the charge sheet by adding an annexure that will reflect the critical details of victims. The SAPS and the Department of Correctional Services are represented in the Charge Sheet Amendment Task Team, and have been requested to amend their data capturing tools and systems accordingly.
Today’s event is the start of a series of dialogues on Intimate Femicide. The Project Conquerors - Francesca Fondse; Sandra Moodley, Maureen Ndlovu, Meisi Nong and Marietjie Bothma - have today let us into their lives and given us some insight into the brutality they have experienced. The dialogues will give others the opportunity to do so as well.
These dialogues, however, must not just be talk. What is important is that out of this process we are able to clearly identify where the problems are and what needs and can be done to address them.
There is no better time to hold this Dialogue against Intimate Femicide than during the month of March as we celebrate Human Rights Month and as the world commemorates International Women’s Day – a day which focuses, in particular, on working class women.
We need to raise awareness. We need to get people talking about domestic violence and femicide. Often in our communities, in our religious organisations and in our families somebody will know about the abuse that takes place. They must not remain silent.
I want to honour and thank the project conquerors for breaking their silence to make a difference in the lives of women. A warm word of thanks also to the Project Champion, Ms Fondse, and the Tshwaranang Legal Advocacy Centre for partnering with the Department in the national fight against intimate femicide.
I wish you all a very fruitful and engaging Dialogue. We can bring an end to intimate femicide. I want to close with a few lines from a poem on domestic violence by Paulette Kelly, called “I got flowers today” -
“I got flowers today!
And it wasn’t Valentines’ Day or any other special day;
Last night he beat me and threatened to kill me;
Make-up and long sleeves didn’t hide the cuts and bruises this time;
I couldn’t go to work today because I didn’t want anyone to know—but I know
Because he sent me flowers today.
I got flowers today!
And it wasn’t Mother’s Day or any other special day;
Last night he beat me again, and it was worse than all of the other times;
If I leave him, what will I do? How will I take care of the kids? What about money?
I’m afraid of him, but I’m too scared and dependent to leave him. But he
must be sorry;
Because he sent me flowers today.
I got flowers today….
Today was a special day—it was the day of my funeral;
Last night he killed me;
If only I would have gathered the courage and strength to leave him;
I could have received help from the women’s shelter, but I didn’t ask for
So I got flowers today—for the last time.”
I thank you.