Minister in the Presidency Responsible for Women, Bathabile Dlamini, made the announcement on Monday during a briefing held on the sidelines of the trial of Pastor Tim Omotoso at the Eastern Cape High Court in Port Elizabeth.
Dlamini said the rate of femicide in South Africa is four times higher than the global average.
She said a supportive environment must be created to enable young women to identify and leave abusive relationships.
Dlamini said her ministry will embark on a process of planning towards public hearings with various stakeholders against gender-based violence (GBV) and all forms of abuses in the guise of religion and faith.
The hearings will offer women a platform to speak about their experiences and also shed the veil of shame that comes with being abused, and finally heal the pain they have been carrying alone.
“Our aim is to break the silencing hold that these institutions have over women. We are aware that few women report cases of abuse and even fewer reach the criminal justice system. Even in the system, women are often re-victimised.
“The hearings will be national, and will invite women to speak out against their experiences of abuses in the guise of religion and faith. These abuses can be in churches, synagogues and mosques…” Dlamini said.
Acts to be revisited
Dlamini announced that her department will also revisit the Sexual Offences Act, including the Domestic Violence Act and Criminal Procedures Act, with a view to strengthen the country’s laws to protect women.
She insisted that cross examination should not be a platform used by legal practitioners to enforce secondary trauma on witnesses.
“We believe the advocate’s conduct [in Omotoso’s case] was an overreach and we will be consulting the Bar Council of Advocates to address this. The law must be protective of victims and survivors in its processes towards justice.
“Any acts that are found to cause secondary trauma to victims of crime should be addressed immediately by all affected stakeholders, including the Law Society of South Africa, as lawyers and prosecutors are required to observe the rules of courts in executing their duties,” Dlamini said.
Dlamini said they will also meet with the Departments of Home Affairs and International Relations to deliberate on migration as it pertains to this case in particular, but also on the many unregulated religious institutions headed by foreign nationals.
She reiterated that the Ministry responsible for Women remains vigilant against the scourge of violence that affects South African women daily. She said they will stop at nothing to hold responsible government departments tasked with ensuring dignity for victims of crime.