News / Africa

SAF Women Push for Enforcement of Laws

Fumana Ntontlo, 30, who says she was raped at age eight by a family member, sits in her one-room shack in Cape Town's Khayelitsha township. (file photo)Fumana Ntontlo, 30, who says she was raped at age eight by a family member, sits in her one-room shack in Cape Town's Khayelitsha township. (file photo)
x
Fumana Ntontlo, 30, who says she was raped at age eight by a family member, sits in her one-room shack in Cape Town's Khayelitsha township. (file photo)
Fumana Ntontlo, 30, who says she was raped at age eight by a family member, sits in her one-room shack in Cape Town's Khayelitsha township. (file photo)
JOHANNESBURG - The gang-rape of a mentally impaired girl last month in Soweto Township in Johannesburg outraged South Africa and the world. It was a stark reminder that despite liberal and advanced legal protections for women, South Africa still ranks high in terms of assaults and rape.

South Africa is one of the most dangerous countries in the world for women in terms of rape and domestic violence. The World Health Organization says 60,000 women and children are abused every month in the country.

Peace - her name has been changed to protect her identity - is one of those 60 000.

As she chats with her housemates, she recalls the long journey that got her here: a husband, wealthy and powerful, the violence, the threats, the years spent away from her child.  And finally, nearly a year ago, the arrival at the shelter of the NGO People Against Women Abuse, also known as POWA.

"When I came here, they helped me to improve my skills," she said. "And one of the things I have learned here, is that, you do not have to stay in an abusive relationship. You do not have to stay. You have to speak out. Seek for help."

Peace was brave enough to make a change for herself. But POWA counselor Thandi Ngandweni says not all women report abuse.

"Some of these women, especially in the rural areas, we hear when they come here to the office that some of them did not know their rights at all," said Ngandweni. "So then we have the workshops, we educate them."

Commission for Gender Equality spokesperson Javu Baloyi says making women aware of their rights needs to be a priority if South Africa is going to evolve from its male-dominated culture.

“We live in a patriarchal society, whereby some men, they do not believe that women have got rights," said Baloyi. "We need to make sure that issues of gender and human rights are becoming compulsory for students at university. And even at basic level, you know, elementary level, kids are supposed to have these courses on life orientation; what is gender, what is human rights.  We need to make sure that we teach our teachers.  We teach our tribal leaders.  We teach our parliamentarians.  We teach society at large."

South African women, whether they know it or not, have some of the most liberal and advanced legal protections in the world. This is due, in part, to quick action to overturn all forms of discrimination when white minority rule ended in 1994.

The first African National Congress government legalized a quota system to assure female participation in parliament. Today women make up 38 percent of the legislature. Those women lawmakers helped pass equal rights.

But an attorney at the Women's Legal Centre in Cape Town, Sanja Bornman, says the laws are not always implemented.

“On paper, laws that are aimed at protecting women are very good.  But there is a dire need for resources that needs to be allocated towards the implementations of those laws," said Bornman. "For example, the Department for Women, Children and People with Disabilities, it has little money to be able to do anything that is really going to make an impact in the life of women and children.”

Less money means not enough police officers to register abuse reports.  It means slow justice that deters victims from going to court, as very few abusers will be convicted.  It means not enough people for women's rights education or enough in the NGOs and gender commission offices to monitor rights compliance.

For Sanja Bornman, there is no point in making new laws.

"I think that introducing a new law is counterproductive, in the sense that if we have things on the law that are not working, perhaps we should invest resources into monitoring and evaluating that legislation to discover why it is not working," said Bornman.

Bornman explains how the Women Legal Centre is working to get women’s rights issued higher on the government agenda.

"The Women Legal Centre does it through either advocacy, which is something we do with our many partner associations," said Bornman. "Alternatively, if you come to the end of your advocacy road, and nothing have happened, then that is time for litigation.  And that is when WLC would launch a case, it would either be in the form of a public interest suit, where we litigate on behalf of a group of people. Alternatively, it would be in the form of an individual client where the impact of that client's case will have an effect on a larger group of women."

In his speech during the State of the Nation in February, South African President Jacob Zuma acknowledged that women suffer much of the unemployment, poverty and insecurity in the country. But his speech did not specifically address remedies.

You May Like

Video In Ukraine's Nikishino, No House Untouched by Fighting

Ninety percent of homes in one small village were damaged or destroyed as government forces failed to stop a rebel advance More

Pakistan’s 'Last Self-Declared Jew' Attacked, Detained

Argument about the rights of non-Muslims in Pakistan allegedly results in mob beating well-known Jewish Pakistani More

Turkey Cracks Down on Political Dissent, Again

People daring to engage in political dissent ahead of upcoming general elections could find themselves in jail More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
In Their Own Words: Citizens of Kobanii
X
Mahmoud Bali
March 06, 2015 8:43 PM
Civilians are slowly returning to Kobani, after Kurdish fighters backed by coalition airstrikes fought off a four-month siege of the northern Syrian town by Islamic State militants. VOA Kurdish Service reporter Mahmoud Bali talked to some of those who have returned. We hear about the devastation of Kobani through their own words.
Video

Video In Their Own Words: Citizens of Kobani

Civilians are slowly returning to Kobani, after Kurdish fighters backed by coalition airstrikes fought off a four-month siege of the northern Syrian town by Islamic State militants. VOA Kurdish Service reporter Mahmoud Bali talked to some of those who have returned. We hear about the devastation of Kobani through their own words.
Video

Video In Ukraine's Nikishino, No House Untouched by Fighting

In the village of Nikishino, in eastern Ukraine, recent fighting has brought utter devastation. Ninety percent of the houses are damaged or destroyed after government forces tried and failed to stop rebels advancing on the strategically important town of Debaltseve nearby. Patrick Wells reports for VOA from Nikishino.
Video

Video Crime Scenes Re-Created in 3-D Visualization

Police and prosecutors sometimes resort to re-creations of crime scenes in order to better understand the interaction of all participants in complicated cases. A Swiss institute says advanced virtual reality technology can be used for quality re-creations of events at the moment of the crime. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Sierra Leone Ebola Orphans Face Another Crisis

There's growing concern about the future of an orphanage run by a British charity in Sierra Leone, after a staff member and his wife died this week from Ebola. The Saint George Foundation Orphanage in Freetown is now in quarantine, with more than 20 children and seven staff in lock-down. The BBC has agreed to share Ebola-related material with Voice of America because of the difficulties faced by media organizations reporting the crisis. Clive Myrie reports from Sierra Leone.
Video

Video Growing Concerns Over Whether Myanmar’s Next Elections Will Be Fair

Myanmar has scheduled national elections for November that are also expected to include a landmark referendum on the country's constitution. But there are growing concerns over whether the government is taking the necessary steps to prepare for a free and fair vote. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman was recently in Myanmar and files this report from our Southeast Asia bureau in Bangkok.
Video

Video Nigeria’s Ogonis Divided Over Resuming Oil Production

More than two decades ago, Nigeria’s Ogoni people forced Shell oil company to cease drilling on their land, saying it was polluting the environment. Now, some Ogonis say it’s time for the oil to flow once again. Chris Stein reports from Kegbara Dere, Nigeria.
Video

Video Fuel Shortages in Nigeria Threaten Election Campaigns

Nigeria is suffering a gas shortage as the falling oil price has affected the country’s ability to import and distribute refined fuels. Coming just weeks before scheduled March 28 elections, the shortage could have a big impact on the campaign, as Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA.
Video

Video Report: Human Rights in Annexed Crimea Deteriorating

A new report by Freedom House and the Atlantic Council of the United States says the human rights situation in Crimea has deteriorated since the peninsula was annexed by Russia in March of last year. The report says the new authorities in Crimea are discriminating against minorities, suppressing freedom of expression, and forcing residents to assume Russian citizenship or leave. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video 50 Years Later African-Americans See New Voting Rights Battles Ahead

Thousands of people will gather to mark the 50th anniversary of a historic civil rights march on March 7th in Selma, Alabama. In 1965, dozens of people were seriously injured during the event known as “Bloody Sunday,” after police attacked African-American demonstrators demanding voting rights. VOA’s Chris Simkins introduces us to some civil rights pioneers who are still fighting for voting rights in Alabama more than 50 years later.
Video

Video Craft Brewers Taking Hold in US Beer Market

Since the 1950’s, the U.S. beer industry has been dominated by a handful of huge breweries. But in recent years, the rapid rise of small craft breweries has changed the American market and, arguably, the way people drink beer. VOA’s Jeff Custer reports.
Video

Video Video Claims to Show Shia Forces in Iraq Executing Sunni Boy

A graphic mobile phone video is spreading on the Internet, claiming to show Iraqi forces or Shia militia executing a handcuffed Sunni boy. Experts have yet to verify the video, but already Islamic State followers are publicizing it across social media, playing on deep-rooted sectarian fears. VOA’s Jeff Seldin reports.
Video

Video Ukrainian Authorities Struggle to Secure a Divided Mariupol

Since last month's cease-fire went into effect, shelling around the port city of Mariupol has decreased, but it is thought pro-Russian separatists remain poised to attack. For the city’s authorities, a major challenge is gaining the trust of residents, while at the same time rooting out informants who are passing sensitive information to the rebels. Patrick Wells reports for VOA.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More