Cape Times

#NotOurLead­ers: Political system maintains rape culture

- Staff Writer

THE country’s political parties have been slow to take action against politician­s facing sexual misconduct allegation­s, said the #NotOurLead­ers campaign.

Some of them have escaped sanctions and enjoyed the protection of their political parties, according to the campaign.

During the 16 Days of Activism, Women and Democracy Initiative (WDI) at the UWC Dullah Omar Institute together with Lawyers for Human Rights and gender-violence specialist Lisa Vetten turned the spotlight on political representa­tives and senior government officials accused of sexual violence.

From last month, the #NotOurLead­ers covered 20 cases involving politician­s from various parties, including expelled ANC Western Cape leader Marius Fransman and the DA’s former Eastern Cape chief whip Edmund van Vuuren.

The nature of the misconduct has included demanding sex for jobs or promotion, verbal and physical harassment, sexual assault, and rape, including rape of children, said the initiative.

“We’ve seen people being moved into positions in other municipali­ties or branches of government, sometimes the moves result in their promotion.

“In contrast we’ve seen the women who speak out being isolated, losing salaries or potential for career advancemen­t,” said WDI’s Vivienne Mentor-Lalu.

The activists said the campaign did not end after the 16 days, as they will continue with advocacy, and with actions directed at political parties, the legislatur­es and government in the following months.

“Some of the people covered by the campaign are facing criminal charges while others have faced internal complaints or disciplina­ry action.

“All of the cases have been reported on by media. In the majority of cases, parties have been slow to act and the people accused have escaped sanctions and enjoyed the protection of their political parties.

“There are cases where people have been held to account by the party, but these seem to be the exception,” said the campaign.

According to the NotOurLead­ers, these cases showed the systemic nature of the problem.

“They are not isolated events, but part of political systems that maintain rape culture. The positions taken by political leaders in support of their people accused of sexual misconduct justify, reinforce and enable social and criminal justice system responses that stubbornly refuse to take sexual and gender-based violence in our society seriously.

“Overall, political leadership on gender-based violence is extremely weak,” they said.

WDI’s Sam Waterhouse said: “We are not arguing that these people are all guilty, we don’t know that. Rather we are pointing out political parties’ often insipid, sluggish and inconsiste­nt responses to these serious allegation­s.”

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from South Africa