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Unions support government plan to stop gender-based violence in South Africa

20 September, 2019A woman is killed every three hours in South Africa, according to police statistics. The increasing levels of gender-based violence and femicide in South Africa mean that women are living in fear, and unions are supporting a government emergency plan to stop the violence. 

According to the recently released South African Police Service crime statistics a woman is killed every three hours. From April 2018 and March 2019, 2,771 women were killed, and rape and sexual offences are on the increase.

In an address to the joint sitting of Parliament on 18 September, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa announced a government’s emergency plan to “remove the cancer of gender-based violence”.

The plan, to be implemented in the next six months, focuses on prevention of gender-based violence, strengthening the response of the criminal justice system, and firming up the legal and policy frameworks. It also provides for the care, support and healing of victims of gender-based violence. Women economic empowerment is also recognized in the plan as a strategy to reduce the vulnerability of women.

The rape and murder of Uyinene Mrwetyana, a 19-year-old University of Cape Town student, at Clairemont post office in Cape Town ignited a wave of protests to end the widespread gender-based violence and femicide in South Africa.

IndustriALL affiliates took action and demonstrations took place in many citites across the country. 10,000 people demonstrated in Cape Town, saying “enough is enough”. In Johannesburg, demonstrators petitioned the Johannesburg Stock Exchange, to support campaigns to end gender-based violence. Social media campaigns such as #AmINext and #stopviolenceagainstwomen supported the protests.

Lydia Nkopane, chairperson of the IndustriALL National Women’s Council South Africa (INWC-SA) said:

“We are appalled by the increasing number of women who are murdered in their homes and at workplaces. This makes South Africa one of the most violent countries for women to live in. Therefore, we welcome the government’s plan to curb gender-based violence, and to improve the safety of women.”

The affiliates have signed the IndustriALL pledge, commiting to stop gender-based violence in the union and at workplaces. The affiliates are also campaigning for the ratification and implementation of the new International Labour Convention 190/Recommendation 206 on Violence and Harassment in the World of Work.

INWC-SA comprises women workers from the following IndustriALL affiliates: Chemical, Energy, Paper, Printing, Wood and Allied Workers' Union, the National Union of Mineworkers, the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa, and the Southern African Clothing and Textile Workers' Union.