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Keynote Address by the Deputy Minister of Justice and Constitutional Development, the Hon JH Jeffery, MP, at the launch of Dads in the Picture’s Men Engage Dialogue, held at UNISA, 16 June 2017

Programme Director
Ladies and gentlemen
                           
As we celebrate Youth Day today we reflect on the uprisings which took place on 16 June 1976.

On the morning of that fateful day thousands of students from Soweto gathered at their schools to participate in a student-organized protest demonstration.

The unarmed crowd of schoolchildren marched towards Orlando stadium where a peaceful rally had been planned.

But on their way to the stadium, the police stopped the students. At first, the security forces tried, unsuccessfully, to disperse the students with tear gas and warning shots. Then policemen fired directly into the crowd of demonstrators.

The June 1976 death toll was disputed. The apartheid government said the official death toll was 23, although this was widely disputed and in September of that year the Cillié Commission of Inquiry put the death toll at 575.

The brutal killing of school children on that day shocked the international community.

Newspapers across the world published a photo of an 18 year old boy, Mbuyisa Makhubu, running with a dying 12 year old Hector Pieterson, in his arms.

It was the apartheid police in full force.

Last week, student activist Busisiwe Seabe said that, now, it is no longer a case of fear of disappearing at the hands of the old apartheid police. She said –

“It is unforgivable that at this present time, when the clock strikes 5pm and the sun starts going down, all the mothers and the girls in this room will have a sense of fear instilled in them.

They are not scared that they will disappear at the hands of white colonial apartheid police, but because of our brothers and fathers.”

She is saying that women and girls often fear those closest to them.

I believe that we should also add husbands and boyfriends to the list as intimate partner violence and intimate femicide have reached alarming proportions in our country.

A recent survey by Statistics South Africa found that one in five women have experienced violence by their partner.

Why is it that women are being hurt by those closest to them?

What gives rise to the high levels of domestic violence and what can we do to combat it?  Where do we start?

A 2016 report by the Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation found that ownership of a gun, whether legal or illegal, significantly increases the risk of intimate femicide.

It also found that two of the main drivers of intimate femicide are jealousy and possessiveness. These feelings are rooted in notions of masculinity where men see women as their property, which they need to maintain power and control over. 

These men often use guns to intimidate their partners, especially when they threaten to leave the abusive relationship. In addition, alcohol abuse is linked with an increased risk of all forms of interpersonal violence.

Many victims do not want to take action against their perpetrators, because the perpetrators are the breadwinners. Other women feel pressured into withdrawing protection orders.

Many people are not familiar with how courts work. As a result, the thought of going to court evokes feelings of fear and anxiety. For some victims, this may be an obstacle to seeking help; others may decide to request the withdrawal of charges.

In other instances, courts or police stations are not always easily accessible, especially for women in rural areas who need to travel long distances to seek assistance. As a result, these women do not seek help as they do not have money or transport to access police stations or courts.

Programme Director,

Unattended domestic violence often results in a tragic domestic homicide – something that could have been stopped.

The costs are dire for their immediate families and children.  Some of these children, who may have witnessed their fathers abusing or killing their mothers, are likely to also become violent later in life.

Therefore the way we raise our children, in particular our boy children, is extremely important.

Researchers on the topic have shown that the issue of gender-based violence is very often social in nature. In other words, it pertains to social issues such as the early socialisation of young boys.

Other factors which play a role are poverty and unemployment, which can be detrimental to the self-image of men, with poor self-image then leading men to take out their anger and frustration on women.

What message are we sending as fathers?  If we have sisters, how are we treating them?

How are we treating our daughters and mothers?  Are we setting proper examples for our boy children?

These are but some of the questions that we need to ask ourselves.

And that’s why this series of dialogues, which you are starting today, is vital in ensuring that the message – a message of ending child abandonment, ending gender-based violence, ending the abuse of women and children and ending femicide - is heard consistently from men, from brothers, from fathers and from uncles.

It is important to look at parenting and to raise awareness of parenting dynamics that will lead to better collaboration between parenting partners, which will, in turn, lead to better mentoring and empowerment of our sons and daughters.

Equally important is the need to get our communities involved and spread the message that help is available to victims of domestic and intimate partner violence.

We need to fight this scourge together – government, NGOs and the community. As dads for change, we need to fight absent fatherhood and solo parenting, which often lead to child neglect and abuse. Sadly to note, we live in days when children are giving birth to children, and this can be prevented if the role of a father in parenting is more visible and prominent in a child’s life.

Our Department, in partnership with the National Prosecuting Authority and the National House of Traditional Leaders have begun with the popularisation of a Safety Plan for Domestic Violence Survivors. The Safety Plan includes critical information regarding the safety of persons trying to get out of an abusive relationship.

A domestic violence protection order is a written order that is issued by a magistrate’s court to stop any person from committing any act of domestic violence against another person with whom he or she has a domestic relationship.

It also sets out certain conditions preventing the respondent from harassing or abusing the complainant again.

Applying for a protection order is free of charge and can be made at one’s nearest Magistrate Court.

As responsible dads, brothers, uncles and neighbours, nothing stops us from making a difference. The Domestic Violence Act permits us to apply for the protection order on behalf of our loved ones and other people, as long as we have a material interest in their well-being, and have obtained their written consent.  

If the respondent – the person against whom the order was issued – then breaches the protection order by repeating the  abuse of the victim, the victim may file a complaint at the nearest police station and hand in the warrant of arrest to the police who may then arrest the respondent.

Victims can also phone the Gender-Based Violence command centre. The centre provides support and counselling to victims of gender-based violence.

The centre operates through a toll free number: 0800 428 428 (0800 GBV GBV) or callers can request a social worker to contact them by dialling *120*7867# (free from any cell phone).

If you contact the centre from a mobile phone, you can be located, with your permission, and the centre can locate resources nearest to you, whether it be a social worker, a police station, a hospital or a safe house.  In this way, help can be dispatched rapidly.

I want to commend Dads in the Picture for initiating these dialogues. The award you received from the Southern Africa Trust stands out as an estimable achievement that already positions you as drivers of change in male parenthood.

As I have been informed, the DITP was established 5 years ago, mainly to bring dads in the picture in all matters relating to families and fatherhood, with its main focus being primarily on building healthy relationships between dads and children, and the broader family.

DITP aims to mend, build and strengthen fatherhood in families and raise awareness of effective fatherhood and male influence in the family, in the community and society at large.

And why is fatherhood so important? In a 2016 article, authored by Dr Yandisa Sikweyiya of the Medical Research Council and others, it examines the link between gender-based violence and absent fathers.

And the article raises many interesting points for possible further discussion in the panels today.

The article refers to published data which tells us that between 30% and 50% of South African children grow up without their biological fathers, with black African children being the most affected.

Studies have shown that fathers can be absent in the lives of their children fully, partially, economically and emotionally.

Furthermore, the article mentions that children who grow up with an absent biological father tend to display more behavioural problems and often experience more life trauma and distress compared to children who grow up residing with both parents.

Importantly, the evidence suggests that growing up with an absent father is a risk factor for gender-based violence perpetration by boys and men. Studies have demonstrated that men who perpetrate violence against women are likely to be those who did not co-reside with their biological fathers, had poor father–son relations or did not even know their fathers.

Other studies have shown that girls with absent fathers are likely to have poor heterosexual adjustment, dissatisfying and violent sexual relationships.
As you might have heard, on the 20th of June, my Department will also be hosting a National Men’s Dialogue against Femicide.  

It is time for men to think about, talk about and share with government how families can be rehabilitated to restore respect and love. We hope that you will join us on this day to re-emphasize the role of males in our families in such a manner that it contributes the ending this violence. It is when we work together that our achievements are reached faster, are more inclusive and more meaningful.

Programme Director,

I want to wish all the best for the dialogues – for today’s dialogue and also those to come. 

Today we celebrate Youth Day. On Sunday it will be Father’s Day. We need all men, young and old, boys, fathers, uncles, grandfathers to play their part, to become mentors and role-models.

As the saying goes – “A father is someone you look up to, no matter how tall you grow.”

Let us all be fathers that the children of South Africa can look up to.

I thank you.