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

Lesotho Faces New Round of Violence, Political Crisis

Brutal killing of military officer has sent former leaders back into S. Africa where they're watching anxiously as regional officials head in to try to restore peace More

Video US Diplomat Expects Adoption of Bosnian Massacre Anniversary Resolution

Samantha Power says there's broad consensus about killings in Bosnia's war, but Russia calls resolution 'divisive,' backs UN countermeasure More

UN Report Exposes Widespread Boko Haram Atrocities

Damning report graphically details pattern of vicious, widespread atrocities committed by Islamist militants More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountaini
X
July 02, 2015 4:10 AM
Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video US Silica Sand Mining Surge Worries Illinois Residents, Businesses

Increased domestic U.S. oil and gas production, thanks to advances known as “fracking,” has created a boom for other industries supporting that extraction. Demand for silica sand, used in fracking, could triple over the next five years. In the Midwest state of Illinois, people living near the mines are worried about how increased silica sand mining will affect their businesses and their health. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh has more in this first of a series of reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Texas Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Texas state officials have criticized the US Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. The attorney general of Texas says last week's decision did not overrule constitutional "rights of religious liberty," and therefore officials performing wedding services can refuse to perform them for same-sex couples if it is against their religious beliefs. Zlatica Hoke reports on the controversy.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.

VOA Blogs