Sonke Gender Justice (Sonke) is outraged by the latest allegations that another powerful man and politician is involved in a sexual harassment scandal. Albert Fritz, the Western Cape Community Safety MEC at the time, resigned after employees leveled serious allegations of sexual assault against him.
Sexual assault stems from harmful power dynamics, gender stereotypes, norms, and attitudes that devalue women’s right to bodily autonomy and choices. This incident unfortunately is not isolated. We have seen several reports involving politicians using their positions of influence to abuse women.
It is unfortunate that a government official is dragging us backwards in our pursuit for a world free from all forms of violence. It is disheartening that the some of the people we elected to protect the citizens of the country are the ones perpetrating violence against women.
Only a few months ago, Minister of the South African Police Services (SAPS), Bheki Cele delivered the shocking crime statistics, which showed a 7.1% increase in sexual violence between July and September 2021 when compared to the previous reporting period. This demonstrates the enormity of the challenge facing our country with regards to GBVF.
Cases of sexual assault in the workplace continue to rise as a result of the protection afforded to powerful men who commit such heinous acts. We must hold the perpetrators accountable and seek justice for the survivors.
Women have the right to equal participation in the workplace, free of violence, harassment, and discrimination. Unfortunately, for many women in South Africa, safe workplaces are not a reality. In this respect, we acknowledge the ratification of ILO Convention 190 on Violence and Harassment in the world of work. The challenge is for institutions to fast track the implementation of the recommendations contained in C190 as it provides a comprehensive model on how such matters should be managed to ensure justice.
In most cases, women who come forward to expose the violence perpetrated by prominent people face intimidation and may lose their lives or their income. As a result, it is critical that they are safeguarded. Those who have come forward to report sexual assault should be protected, and we demand that their jobs remain safe.
Sonke is urging the Democratic Alliance (DA) in the Western Cape to do the right thing and expedite the disciplinary process.
We also demand an independent investigation into the allegations to avoid cover-ups. We expect the organisation to take swift action against any transgressions after the investigation is completed, while also taking precautions to protect the complainants and anyone else who comes forward to report sexual assault.
It is also critical to note that the responsibility for preventing sexual harassment rests with all of us. We must maintain our efforts to combat sexual harassment by educating our people and holding each other accountable.
Abuse of women’s rights is unacceptable. Public officials are expected to be role models, upholding and protecting the country’s constitution and human rights.
Source: Sonke Gender Justice