Parliament of South Africa

07/23/2020 | News release | Distributed by Public on 07/23/2020 04:47

Free State Women Call on Parliament to Pass Strong Legislation to Deny Bail and Parole for GBV Perpetrators

Parliament is being lobbied to consider reviewing legislation governing the parole and bail conditions for perpetrators of gender-based violence (GBV). The latest to join this public plea are women from the Free State province's Fezile Dabi and Lejweleputswa district municipalities, who participated in the ongoing parliamentary consultation on the review of the Women's Charter.

Speaking in a virtual meeting organised by Parliament to solicit views that would help in improving the 1994 Women's Charter and make it more effective in achieving women emancipation and equality, Ms Mathuso Leeto, said there were gaps in the laws governing GBV and appealed to Parliament to consider amendments to tighten the legislation.

'There are gaps in the legislation dealing with GBV. Perpetrators go to jail, released on parole and come back to kill again. Parliament needs to relook at the laws governing parole and bail conditions. 'Perpetrators also get legal representation paid for by the state, while it is not the case with the victims,' she said.

Ms Leeto also raised concern about the prison conditions of abusers, calling it 'a life of luxury'. 'We changed prisons to be correctional centres where we say we correct the abusers, but the rape victims will never be corrected. We cannot say we are free when women are not. We cannot picket every time a woman is killed and go back to our home, only to hear another woman has been violated,' she said. She also called for the economic empowerment of women, saying if women are not liberated economically they will stay in abusive relationships.

Participants also questioned how the law allowed for a victim of abuse to be the one physically serving the perpetrator with a protection order. Another participant, Ms Tshidi Maqena, complained about humiliation women experience in maintenance courts, which she said often discourages women from filing for maintenance for their children. She suggested the deployment of more female presiding officers in maintenance courts to avoid this abuse.

Ms Dibeela Mothupi, a Commissioner at the Commission for Gender Equality, reported that the commission has recorded claims of sexual favour being demanded from women for the awarding of tenders in the municipalities, as well as low levels of acceptance of the LGBTQI communities. 'The commission recorded claims of discrimination in public healthcare centres and unfair treatment by healthcare workers, against the LGBTQI community,' said Commissioner Mothupi.

The commission also discovered that women's rights are undermined in marriages even when it comes to their own reproductive health. She added that the commission will continue to advocate for engendered policies in local government to enable gender equality, and to assist municipalities to be gender responsive in the formulation of policies to affirm commitment to gender equality.

The Financial and Fiscal Commission's Ms Ansuyah Maharaj told the virtual meeting about the weak translation of gender budgeting commitments and poor institutionalisation of gender responsive budgeting in the two municipalities. 'There is a need for gender budgeting guidelines for municipalities. Local government needs to institutionalise gender budgeting and ensure that it is linked to integrated development plans (IDP)' she suggested.

Fezile Dabi and Lejweleputswa district municipalities were the last districts to be consulted in the Free State, on the review process which is being taken to all the provinces, district by district.

Hearings have already been held in the Western Cape and Northern Cape, and the next province to be consulted has not been decided. The Women's Charter Review process is led jointly by the Deputy Speaker of the National Assembly, Mr Lechesa Tsenoli, and the Deputy Chairperson of the National Council of Provinces (NCOP), Ms Sylvia Lucas.

Deputy Speaker Tsenoli called on men to 'recognise the wrong of patriarchy and undertake to undo patriarchy'. 'Patriarchy is not only how we as men conduct ourselves, but also how women see themselves. It is how we have been both socialised. We all need to undertake to undo patriarchy. Our liberation will not be complete with patriarchy still around us,' Mr Tsenoli said.

Ms Lucas echoed the Deputy Speaker, adding that 'patriarchy hinders transformation that Charlotte Maxeke and others fought for in the 1950s'. 'It is hammering progress on women empowerment, we need to do something to our curriculum to make sure our boys and girls grow up in a gender-neutral society. Our education system can mould our girl and boy children on equal rights and a gender-neutral society,' said the NCOP Deputy Chairperson.

Sakhile Mokoena
23 July 2020