South African women and children are among the most vulnerable in the world. These are some of the sentiments that were expressed in Parliament during a debate on the 16 Days of Activism for NO Violence Against Women and Children.

The theme for this year’s debate is  “Count me in – together moving a non-violent South Africa forward.”

When she opened the debate, Minister for Women in the Presidency Susan Shabangu said patriarchy continues to be one of the stumbling blocks towards the advancement of women in society.

“Vision 2030 of the National Development Plan and the United Nations SDGs sets targets for addressing persistent discrimination against women and addressing patriarchal attitudes and triple challenges of inequality and access to education. Patriarchy continues to deny women opportunities to lead the lives they desire. Further,   social, cultural, religious and educations barriers also continue to limit the scope for women advancement and prospects for entering the job markets.”

Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) MP Liezl van Der Merwe touched on the attack against a South African woman,  Gabriela Engels at hand of the former first Lady of Zimbabwe.

“What did the entire executive say when Mrs Grace Mugabe beat up a woman in South Africa? Well again, nothing. They set her free under the false pretext of diplomatic immunity. There is no wonder that out plan of integrated action has failed.”

The Democratic Alliance’s (DA) Dennis Robison said South Africa is far from even getting closer toward a non-violent country.

“How can we honestly say that we are moving towards a non-violent South Africa when we look at the statistics? Rape, indecent assault and human trafficking on the increases. These are every day occurrences. One of our own peers a member of this august found guilty and sentence for the first crime a petty one, but then goes on to assault three women. It shows that violence against women pervades every levels of our society.”

Economic Freedom Fighter’s (EFF) Veronica Mente gave an account of how some women and children were murdered this year.

“South Africa has one of the highest incidents of women and children abuse in the world. In May, 30 year old Unathi Madotheni was found brutally murdered. Her eyes gauged out and brutally raped in Langa township here in Cape Town. In May still, a 14 month old baby was raped and killed by her own father in Khayelitsha. And some in the family wanted this resolved by the family. On April 27th Karabo Mokoena was killed and burned by her boyfriend. Early in May Iyapaya’s mutilated body was discovered just three blocks from her Makhasa street home in Khayelitsha.”

The NFP’s Sibusiso Mncwabe took MPs through some of the shocking statistics of sexual assault and violence perpetrated against women and children.

“According to statistic chair in 2016, 52 985 cases of sexual crimes against women and children were reported. More than 900 children were murdered in South Africa from 2015 to 2016. This is according to the Institute of Race Relations. Police Statistics reveal that more than 600 children were killed with a knife while fire-arms were use in most cases. Other causes of death involved poison.”

During the debate, ANC MP and Police Committee Chairperson Francois Beukman touched on the Domestic Violence Act.

Beukman said Domestic violence is a complex issue which should be addressed in a multi-faceted way and Private sector should come on board.

“Education of both women and men should be undertaken with social partners and the private sector. The Private sector has a very important role to play since work hours and productivity are negatively affected because of domestic violence. The effective implementation of the DVA requires adequate budgeting for which education and awareness training as well as training for police is necessary.”

Saturday 25 November will mark 19 years since the launch of the 16 days campaign by the United Nations.