Public Protector calls for approach change in fight against women, child abuse

There is an urgent need to change the strategy on the fight against women and children abuse, Public Protector Adv. Thuli Madonsela said on Tuesday.

She was speaking at the Northern Cape Provincial Legislature in Kimberley during the provincial launch of the 16 Days of Activism for No Violence against Women and Children.

Public Protector Madonsela told the legislature that in order to deal effectively with violence against women and children, emphasis needed to be put on ending impunity, establishing what the factors that turned people into monsters were, adopting an integrated approach to the problem and improving on accountability by the authorities.

Noting that virtually all the civil society organisations that made presentations prior to her speech were concerned about unresolved crimes, Public Protector Madonsela said official crime statistics needed to shift focus towards ending impunity.

"Statistics tend to focus on whether or not crime is declining," she said. "A focus on ending impunity would tell us how many women and children were murdered and how many of those cases were resolved or remain unresolved."

There was a need to establish why people killed and raped women and children, who were at times as young as a few months old, Public Protector Madonsela said.

"We need to find out why they burn children with cigarette buds. If we do not know why this is happening, it is going to be difficult to solve the problem," she said.

"We assume that people will stop killing women and children when we arrest them and send them to jail. Do you think someone who rapes a six-month-old baby is thinking about going to jail?"

Arguing that violence against women and children was a societal and systemic problem, Public Protector Madonsela added that there was a need for an integrated approach to deal with the issue.

Public Protector Madonsela said people tended to worry about what was happening in the courts, which she said was important. However, there was a need to fix the entire system to ensure that there were no opportunities for violence against vulnerable groups.

She told the legislature of a complaint she received about a granny who was allegedly raped one morning while walking on a stretch between her rural house and the nearest hospital, which lay many kilometres away.

This, she said, highlighted an infrastructural aspect to opportunities for violent crimes against women. Electricity and sanitation were other infrastructural challenges that created opportunities for abuse, necessitating a coordinated approach to all efforts aimed at ending violence against women and children.

On accountability, Public Protector Madonsela said authorities needed to look at issues of prevention, opportunities (for violence) and the values of people who commit violence against women and children. Key role players in the justice system, including the police and prosecution, needed to be accountable for all their undertakings.

Responding to a question on whether women should also shoulder the blame for the abuse they and children suffered due to cases of alcohol abuse and the neglect of children, Public Protector Madonsela said society needed to take collective responsibility.

"But I will never blame a woman for a man who rapes a child, for a man who beats up a woman. There is no reason anyone should beat up or rape a child. Children used to run around in Soweto -and anywhere in society- naked and nobody raped them. However, we must reduce opportunities for violence against women and children," she said.

Public Protector Madonsela noted the efforts that the Women Ministry is seized with regarding the plight of women and children. She said the country was better seized with the issues than it was years ago when news of the rape of Baby Tshepang in the Northern Cape gripped the country.

She applauded the provincial legislature for organizing the event, creating a platform for the criminal justice system to account for their undertakings.

For more information, contact:
Oupa Segalwe
Acting Spokesperson
Public Protector South Africa
(012) 366 7035
072 264 3273

Twitter: @PublicProtector
Facebook: Public Protector South Africa

Published Date: 
Tuesday, November 25, 2014