JOHANNESBURG (AP) — South Africa’s president Cyril Ramaphosa vowed Thursday to crack down on perpetrators of violence against women, after thousands of protesters gathered on the streets of central Cape Town this week demanding the government address the issue.
“It is a crime against our common humanity,” President Cyril Ramaphosa said in a video statement that aired on Thursday evening. “We’ve heard the calls of the women of our country for action and for justice.”
Ramaphosa promised a raft of reforms but stopped short of declaring a state of emergency, one of the demands of demonstrators who have clashed with police in front of the convention center where the World Economic Forum on Africa is underway.
South Africa is one of the most dangerous countries in the world for women. Ramaphosa’s pledge to take action follows days of outrage that have gripped the country after reports emerged in the last week of several women being raped and murdered.
University of Cape Town student Uyinene Mrwetyana, 19, was allegedly raped and killed by a post office employee when she went to collect her parcel at a post office in Cape Town. This was followed a few days later by the death of the country’s boxing champion Leighandre Jegels, 25, who was shot and killed by her former boyfriend.
Among some of the measures announced by Ramaphosa to tackle the crisis are proposals for the state to increase minimum sentences and oppose all bail and parole applications for sexual offenders. He also said he would ask the country’s lawmakers to amend the laws governing the national sexual offenders database, and propose the register be made public.
“Violence against women is a men’s problem. It is men who rape and kill women,” Ramaphosa said. “Let us not look away.”
Ramaphosa also condemned the wave of xenophobic attacks on foreign-owned businesses in several neighborhoods of Johannesburg and Pretoria this week.