Pretoria: Correctional Services Minister Sibusiso Ndebele says women inmates need care and counselling as part of their journey towards rehabilitation.
He advised women not to stay in abusive relationships up until a point where they took the law into their own hands and committed irreversible crimes.
“We call on women who are living in abusive relationships to seek help now through mediation, relationship counselling and if all fails, for their sake, to walk away from such unions,” he said at a departmental event to mark Women’s Month in Port Elizabeth.
“Over the years, we have witnessed an increase in the number of women serving life sentences as a result of killing their partners. What is even more disturbing is that some of these women are serving time together with their daughters, who assisted them in committing these murders after they themselves were direct, or indirect, victims of abuse by their fathers.”
The minister said in order for rehabilitation to work, women should be assisted to deal with the trauma caused by years of physical and emotional abuse.
The Department of Correctional Services (DCS) Women’s Month programme is being celebrated under the theme, “Addressing Inequality and Empowering Women Officials and Offenders in the DCS: Together Contributing towards the Progressive Future for Women”.
Since 1994, South Africa has been engaged in a process to transform the penal system from one that emphasised punishment, to a system that seeks to correct offending behaviour and prepare offenders for successful reintegration into society.
Ndebele also expressed concern about women who were pregnant at the time of their incarceration, and those mothers with babies younger than two years who did not have any family members to look after these vulnerable children.
“Most of these women are sentenced by magistrates, and incarcerated for petty crimes, and are serving sentences below 24 months,” he said.
The month of August is dedicated to the memory and legacy of women from all walks of life, who on 9 August 1956, marched to the Union Buildings in protest against pass laws.
Ndebele said government was prioritising issues surrounding women in conflict with the law, and called for strengthened partnerships to eradicate gender inequality.