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

US States Where Women Work for Free

Women earn less than men in all 50 states More

Video Seoul Sponsors Korean Unification Fair

At a recent even in Seoul, border communities promoted benefits of increased cooperation and North Korean defectors shared stories of life since the war More

Video VOA EXCLUSIVE: Iraq President Vows Fight to Death Against IS

In wide-ranging interview, Fuad Masum describes new type of fight that will take time to win More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Forced to Return Home, Afghan Refugees Face Increased Hardshipi
X
Ayesha Tanzeem
May 28, 2015 6:48 PM
Undocumented refugees returning to Afghanistan from Pakistan have no jobs, no support system, and no home return to, and international aid agencies say they and the government are overwhelmed and under-resourced. Ayesha Tanzeem has more from Kabul.
Video

Video Forced to Return Home, Afghan Refugees Face Increased Hardship

Undocumented refugees returning to Afghanistan from Pakistan have no jobs, no support system, and no home return to, and international aid agencies say they and the government are overwhelmed and under-resourced. Ayesha Tanzeem has more from Kabul.
Video

Video Britain Makes Controversial Move to Crack Down on Extremism

Britain is moving to tighten controls on extremist rhetoric, even when it does not incite violence or hatred -- a move that some are concerned might unduly restrict basic freedoms. It is an issue many countries are grappling with as extremist groups gain power in the Middle East, fueled in part by donations and fighters from the West. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video Floodwaters Recede in Houston, but Rain Continues

Many parts of Texas are recovering from one of the worst natural disasters to hit the southwestern state. Heavy rains on Monday and early Tuesday caused rivers to swell in eastern and central Texas, washing away homes and killing at least 13 people. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, floodwaters are receding slowly in the country's fourth-largest city, and there likely is to be more rain in the coming days.
Video

Video 3D Printer Makes Replica of Iconic Sports Car

Cars with parts made by 3D printers are already on the road, but engineers are still learning about this new technology. While testing the possibility of printing an entire car, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy recently created an electric-powered replica of an iconic sports roadster. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Al-Shabab Recruitment Drive Still on In Kenya

The al-Shabab militants that have long battled for control of Somalia also have recruited thousands of young people in Kenya, leaving many families disconsolate. Mohammed Yusuf recently visited the Kenyan town of Isiolo, and met with relatives of those recruited, as well as a many who have helped with the recruiting.
Video

Video US Voters Seek Answers From Presidential Candidates on IS Gains

The growth of the Islamic State militant group in Iraq and Syria comes as the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign kicks off in the Midwest state of Iowa.   As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, voters want to know how the candidates would handle recent militant gains in the Middle East.
Video

Video A Small Oasis on Kabul's Outskirts Provides Relief From Security Tensions

When people in Kabul want to get away from the city and relax, many choose Qargha Lake, a small resort on the outskirts of Kabul. Ayesha Tanzeem visited and talked with people about the precious oasis.
Video

Video Film Festival Looks at Indigenous Peoples, Culture Conflict

A recent Los Angeles film festival highlighted the plight of people caught between two cultures. Mike O'Sullivan has more on the the Garifuna International Film Festival, a Los Angeles forum created by a woman from Central America who wants the world to know more about her culture.
Video

Video Kenyans Lament Losing Sons to al-Shabab

There is agony, fear and lost hope in the Kenyan town of Isiolo, a key target of a new al-Shabab recruitment drive. VOA's Mohammed Yusuf visits Isiolo to speak with families and at least one man who says he was a recruiter.
Video

Video Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thought

Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Kenya’s Capital Sees Rise in Shisha Parlors

In Kenya, the smoking of shisha, a type of flavored tobacco, is the latest craze. Patrons are flocking to shisha parlors to smoke and socialize. But the practice can be addictive and harmful, though many dabblers may not realize the dangers, according to a new review. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story for VOA from Nairobi, Kenya.
Video

Video Iowa Family's Sacrifice Shaped US Military Service for Generations

Few places in America have experienced war like Waterloo. This small town in the Midwest state of Iowa became famous during World War II not for what it accomplished, but what it lost. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the legacy of one family’s sacrifice is still a reminder today of the real cost of war for all families on the homefront.

VOA Blogs