Keynote Address by the Deputy Minister of Justice and Constitutional Development, the Hon JH Jeffery, MP, at the Men Engage Summit, held in Kwa-Thema, Springs, 25 January 2019
Programme Director, Mr Kunene
Representatives from Dads in the Picture and Families South Africa (FAMSA)
Verteenwoordigers van die Suid-Afrikaanse Vrouefederasie
Representatives from the Department of Social Development
Representatives from the City of Ekurhuleni
Ladies and gentlemen, friends
Thank you for the invitation to be part of this event.
We value the work being done by Dads in the Picture and other NGOs – such as FAMSA and the SAVF - who do invaluable work in their communities.
Levels of domestic violence and other forms of gender-based violence in our country remain unacceptably high. Often the abuse and violence is committed by those closest to them: husbands, fathers, uncles, boyfriends, family friends and neighbours.
That is why the way we raise our children, in particular our boy children, is extremely important.
Patriarchy, male power and entitlement, socio-economic hardship, socialisation of boys and girls, absenteeism of fathers and solo parenting, substance abuse, unemployment, and broken families are known key contributors to violence against women and children. Alcohol abuse is also linked to an increased risk of all forms of interpersonal violence.
There is a saying that “every father should remember that one day his son will follow his example, not his advice.”
Men need to lead by example. That’s why we are pleased to be able to partner with Dads in the Picture in hosting this event today.
Our Department entered into a partnership with the Dads in the Picture to establish a more structured and constructive engagement with men of South Africa in matters regarding the prevention of, and a male response to, the scourge of gender-based violence and femicide.
Dads in the Picture is a registered fatherhood movement that has been actively engaging with communities and encouraging all adult men, be it brothers, uncles, fathers and grandfathers, to take active and collective responsibility in the upbringing of children in a safe environment.
Dads in the Picture believe that men have been given a role to play in their families and in their communities, and until such time as men play their part we will continue to see lawlessness, gender-based violence, femicide and violence continue to escalate.
They argue that most interventions are necessary though they fail to address the root cause, namely the absence of a positive male role-model or influence.
From the side of government, the message we want to send to communities is that help is available for victims of domestic and gender-based violence.
In terms of the Domestic Violence Act, one can apply for a protection order.
A protection order is a document issued by the court which prevents the abuser from committing an act of domestic violence, enlisting the help of another person to commit any such act, or entering a residence and workplace.
We all have the role to play in bringing the scourge of gender-based violence to an end. As a parent, sibling, child or relative of the victim, the Domestic Violence Act allows you to apply for the Protection Order on behalf of the victim with his or her written consent. Any person who has a material interest in the well-being of the victim may take this action on behalf of the victim, and this includes you - as a friend, colleague, neighbour, and as the Dad in the Picture.
The Domestic Violence Act also permits minors to apply for Protection Order with or without assistance. It is because our law understands that many children suffer violence at the hands of their parents, guardians or relatives.
One can visit the nearest court and the clerk of court will assist with the forms. An interim order will be issued within a day.
We have also increased special victim support services, such as case screening services, private waiting areas, court information services, which include court preparation services and specialised domestic violence clerks in every court.
Furthermore, in addition to existing shelters, the Department of Social Development also has a command centre that provides support and counselling to victims of gender-based violence.
The call centre operates through a toll free number: 0800 428 428 (0800 GBV) or callers can request a social worker to contact them by dialling *120*7867# (free from any cell phone). We need to make sure that our communities know this number.
But there are still many challenges we face in preventing domestic and gender- based violence:
- In many instances, women are being killed while they have protection orders in their possession.
- There is a trend of women not coming back to court on the return date to make their interim protection orders final, because they believe that the man will change - which very often results in further domestic violence and, in many cases, even femicide.
- There are also courts that are inundated with applications for the cancellation of the protection orders as women believe that their partners have changed or they are coerced by loved ones to do so. A Protection Order is valid for life, and a truly rehabilitated man should not be threatened by it.
- There have been complaints that police officers, court clerks and presiding officers are not adequately trained on how to enforce the Domestic Violence Act.
- Despite the number of femicide cases reported in the media, there is no disaggregated data or statistics kept in terms of the number and types of femicide per annum in South Africa.
- Substance abuse, the high unemployment rate, patriarchial and cultural beliefs, weak moral and family fibre are all factors that contribute to the increased rate of domestic violence and GBVF in South Africa.
Our Department commenced with the National Anti-Femicide Movement to create a space for men and male-youth to deliberate and resolve how this spate of violence and killings can be prevented.
Dads in the Picture is one of our partners in this Movement – which was established by the Department in 2017 - to respond to the recommendations made by the UN Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women, its Causes and Consequences in a report she submitted to the country in 2016.
The Movement is multi-sectoral in its formation to ensure that the number of femicide cases in our country are dramatically reduced.
Our Department has also developed the Femicide Watch Prototype and its dashboard. We were requested by the UN to ensure that the prototype serves as a guiding document for establishing a Femicide Watch in other countries in Africa.
The Femicide Watch will be the first in the country and in the region. It serves as database of cases of femicide, mainly to assist the country to have a reliable figure of these cases, an accurate profile of the perpetrators and the victims, preventative and responsive interventions, and the appropriate channelling of resources to where they are needed most.
Sexual offences and gender-based crimes are a priority area for us.
Sexual Offences Courts continue to be established country-wide. These dedicated courts are equipped to provide a basket of victim-centric support services to minimise secondary traumatisation as the survivors of sexual violence engage with the court system.
We must ensure that members of SAPS, prosecutors, court preparation officers, intermediaries and the judiciary are all appropriately trained to sensitively handle these crimes.
As reported by the National Prosecuting Authority, the life sentences imposed at these courts on cases received from the 55 Thuthuzela Care Centres increased by 36.5% in 2017/18 financial year, i.e. from 255 life sentences in 2016/2017 to 348 in 2017/2018 financial year.
This indicates that we are starting to turn the tide of sexual offences in our country.
In November last year a Presidential Summit against Gender-based Violence and Femicide was held to develop a roadmap to a South Africa free from any form of power-based violence against the female and gender non-conforming population.
At the request of the civil society, the Presidency nominated the DoJ&CD to assist as the implementing agency for the Presidential Summit.
The Summit Declaration against Gender-based Violence and Femicide will guide some of the desired reforms within our criminal justice sector. The Summit Report is currently being developed for submission to the Presidency by no later than the end of February.
But it is not only violence in the home and violence in the community that severely affects our children.
There are many other issues that affect our children on a daily basis.
Children need to be cared for properly, they need security, they need proper nutrition, they need health care and they need education.
Many single parents struggle to provide for their children, because they are not getting the child maintenance that they are entitled to receive.
Maintenance refers to the obligation to provide another person - for example a minor - with food, housing, clothing, medical care and education, or with means that are necessary for providing the person with these essentials.
This is a legal duty and also called 'the duty to maintain' or 'the duty to support'.
The duty to maintain is based on blood relationship, adoption, or the fact that the parties are married to each other.
A child must be supported or maintained by his or her parents, whether married, living together, separated or divorced, including parents who have adopted the child; and/or by his or her grandparents, whether or not the child's parents were married to each other. This varies from one case to another.
Reasonable support may be claimed that is necessary for providing the child or other person who has a right to maintenance with a proper living. This includes providing necessities such as food, clothing and housing, as well as, in the case of children, paying for a proper education.
When it comes to disputed paternity - in other words, when a man doesn’t want to admit that he is the father of the child - paternity tests can be done free of charge.
Our Department also offers mediation services through the Office of the Family Advocate whose duty it is to protect the best interests of children from parental conflict and/or negative effects of court processes.
The Office of the Family Advocate may be approached by anyone who has an interest in the upbringing and care of the children, free of charge.
Our Constitution places a high regard on the best interests of the child. This is so because we know that children are particularly vulnerable.
Stats SA tell us that, in 2016, most children aged 0–6 (47%) lived in single-parent families of which 45% lived with their mothers only and 2% lived with their fathers only.
The highest percentage of children who lived with their mothers only were children under the age of one (52%) and children aged one (49%).
Furthermore, while only 4 out of 10 children aged 0–6 lived with both their parents, close to 12% lived with none of their parents.
Equally concerning, the data tells us that out of the 7,2 million children in our country, more than 1,5 million (21%) of children resided in households that skipped meals in the past 12 months prior to the survey.
Amongst those who skipped a meal, roughly 511 000 skipped a meal for five or more days in the past 30 days prior to the survey being done.
Government has adopted various initiatives to support those who are most poor and vulnerable, by providing social security in the form of different types of social grants such as grants-in-aid, child support grants, foster child grants, care dependency grants, war veteran’s grants, disability grants and grants for older persons.
Social assistance coverage in the form of the child support grant was extended to children up to the age of 18 years with effect from 2010. This was an attempt by government to further reduce child poverty and encourage school attendance.
In addition, we have free primary health care, we have no-fee schools and daily meals are provided to 9 million learners through the National School Nutrition Programme.
The programme aims to foster better quality education by enhancing children's active learning capacity, alleviating short-term hunger and provides an incentive for children to attend school regularly.
Government must continuously do what it can, but we also need the assistance and involvement of NGOs, broader civil society, our faith-based institutions and our communities.
We all know the African saying of “your child is my child and my child is your child.”
We must put this into practice every day.
You might not be a father yourself, or you might be a father and your children are well-taken care of, or they have grown up and become self-sufficient, but there will always be those in need.
There will always be someone needing help – and each one of us can contribute, whether it’s by being a mentor to a growing child, or being someone that a child or teenager can talk to, or even just by setting a good example to our children.
We can raise awareness in our communities.
We can tell victims where to access services to help them.
We can all become agents of change and contribute to the prevention of future domestic violence, gender-based violence and femicide.
We can ensure that children do not grow up in violent homes.
As responsible fathers, as brothers, uncles, sons and neighbours, nothing stops us from making an enormous difference in the lives of women and children in our communities.