Pretoria: President Jacob Zuma has directed law enforcement agencies to treat cases of violence against women with the utmost urgency and importance.
“The brutality and cruelty meted out to defenceless women is unacceptable and has no place in our country,” President Zuma said on Thursday.
Delivering the 2013 State of the Nation Address in Parliament, Zuma said that the brutal gang rape and murder of Anene Booysen and other women and girls in recent times has brought into sharp focus the need for unity in action to eradicate this scourge.
He applauded all sectors for the awareness campaigns that have taken place already, saying such acts of violence will not be tolerated.
He also urged the coordinating structure of the National Council on Gender Based Violence to make the campaign of fighting violence against women an everyday campaign.
The National Council on Gender Based Violence, led by Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe, was established last year.
It comprises government, NGOs, community-based organisations, faith-based organisations, academia, research institutions, men’s groupings, and representation from women, children and persons with disabilities.
Zuma highlighted that the Family Violence, Child Protection and Sexual Offences Units, which were re-established in 2010, have increased personnel.
“During the last financial year, the units secured over 363 life sentences, with a conviction rate of 73% for crimes against women above 18 years old and 70% for crimes against children under 18 years of age,” he noted.
He added that government was adding other mechanisms to protect women, such as the Protection from Harassment Bill.
He said that while the Domestic Violence Act also provided protection, it only applied to persons who were in domestic relationships.
“The Protection from Harassment Bill also deals with harassment by persons who stalk their victims by means of electronic communications,” said the President.
In addition, the Combating of Trafficking in Persons Bill passed by the National Assembly last year, was now at the National Council of Provinces.
Once implemented, Zuma said, the law would assist women and children, who were often victims of this heinous crime.