Bishops call for multisectoral engagement to raise public awareness about women’s rights, and commit churches and schools as safe places for women and children
The Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference (SACBC) Justice and Peace Commission is disturbed by the crime statistics, especially the high levels of murder of women and girls reported in the crime statistics.
Over the past few weeks, the country has witnessed unparalleled incidences of mindless and callous killings of innocent women and girls. The latest of such tragic killings being that of a University of Cape Town student, Uyinene Mrwetyana and boxing champion, Leighandre Jegels who was shot and killed by her police officer boyfriend.
Says Bishop Victor Phalana, Chairperson of the SACBC Justice and Peace Commission: “The Justice and Peace Commission not only condemns the killings, but also condemns the anger in our hearts and physical abuse, emotional abuse, economic abuse and sexual abuse of women and children. We echo the words of Pope Francis who recently said (Peru, 19 June 2018) that ‘Violence against women cannot be treated as “normal”, maintaining a culture of machismo blind to the leading role that women play in our communities. It is not right for us to look the other way and let the dignity of so many women, especially young women, be trampled upon.
The human security situation in South Africa is in stark contrast to the country’s revered democratic ethos
“South Africa has got an appalling record of femicide rate, with the World Health Organization estimating that 12.1 in every 100 000 women are victims to femicide yearly. The human security situation in South Africa is in stark contrast to the country’s revered democratic ethos. Violation of women’s basic human rights, as manifested in the current wave of wanton and senseless killings of women and young girls, testifies that South Africa is struggling to transition from its violent past epitomized by the apartheid system.
“Despite our impressive constitution that embraces plurality and equality between men and women, gender and power relations are still skewed in favour of men. The prevalence of patriarchal practices in all spheres of human interaction and media discourse shows that women are still not being treated as equals. Male chauvinism, misogynistic tendencies and stereotypes about women are a social pathology that still haunts our country. The collective upshot of these toxic day-to-day practices amplified through public institutions and media discourse offer justification for female subordination and oppression by men.
“The recurrence of femicide and other forms of gender-based violence in our country speaks to the urgent need for collective action by all concerned parties in order to root out this deplorable culture. The government must take serious and practical steps to stem the tide of femicide. It is therefore imperative that the political leadership puts the security of women and young girls high on the national agenda.
“It is time, in the words of Deuteronomy (30:19), to “Choose life so that you and your descendants may live …” We invite the country to join Pope St John Paul II who once said: “I proclaim, with all the conviction of my faith in Christ and with an awareness of my mission, that violence is evil, that violence is unacceptable as a solution to problems, that violence is unworthy… Violence is a lie, for it goes against the truth of our faith, the truth of our humanity” (Dublin, 27 September 1979).
“Choose life so that you and your descendants may live …”
“There is need for multisectoral engagement to raise public awareness about women’s rights. Existing laws on women’s rights must be enforced without fear or favour to ensure that perpetrators are brought to book. As the Southern African Catholic Bishops Commission Justice and Peace Commission, it is our considered position that femicide is a crime against humanity and must be exterminated by all means necessary.
“We commit our churches and schools as safe places for women and children. We as church will use our liturgies, catechesis and homilies to sensitize men and boys about the evils of gender-based violence.”
For further information, contact:
Bishop Victor Phalana
Chairperson, SACBC Justice and Peace Commission