The President of Seychelles, His Excellency Wavel Ramkalawan, has called for the continued fight to eliminate violence against women not only in his country but throughout the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Region.
H.E Ramkalawan said this in his keynote address during the opening of a workshop on Sexual and Gender-Based Violence (SGBV) legislation organised by the National Assembly of Seychelles (NAS) in collaboration with the country's Attorney General's Office, Family Affairs and Social Affairs, Police and with the support of SADC on 10 and 11 March 2022.
He said his country wants to see an end to SGBV and harmony and respect among the population, not violence. While Seychelles had laws that protected women and children against violence, including forced marriages, H.E Ramkalawan noted that these vices, especially against women and children, were still taking place in other SADC countries and the fight must therefore continue to eliminate them.
H.E Ramkalawan said that if everyone was committed to eliminating SGBV in all its forms, then society would be on the right track and moving forward. He urged everyone to continue to fight against SGBV which is bringing down communities.
Among other factors to help in ending SGBV, H.E Ramkalawan said, children at a very young age should be taught to respect others, noting that when Seychelles abolished corporal punishment, it was a way of teaching children that violence was not the way to resolve issues.
The Seychelles National Assembly will be called upon to pass a law to eliminate hate speech and all its various forms as the country wants a society where hate speech is not encouraged and is eliminated.
The President encouraged the workshop participants to make use of the presence of the Attorney General to better understand the provisions of the various laws to not only keep them away from the punishments the different laws proclaim, but to pass on the values to help people to maintain standards that will restore harmony and respect to make society peaceful and loving.
In her opening remarks to the workshop, the Chairperson of the Women Caucus, Honourable Regina Esparon, noted that SGBV by men against women, women against men and adults against children across all ages was on the increase in Seychelles.
She added that due to an outcry and for respect of human rights, amid the high level of stigmatisation and taboos resulting in many cases not being disclosed, the nation has been more receptive to addressing the issue through collaborative education and advocative efforts for change by local stakeholders and international partners.
Hon. Esparon noted that a study on GBV in 2016 by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) in collaboration with the Department of Social Affairs, and Gender Links based in South Africa, revealed that both men and women in the country suffered from GBV with 58% of women and 43% of men having experienced some form of GBV. The study also showed that one out of 10 persons have experienced rape; 172 women and 155 men, out of 1516 respondents reported of having experienced physical intimate violence while 78% of women and 79% of men confirmed that they had experienced some form of abuse before reaching the age of 18.
It was a sad fact, she noted, that the number of persecutions related to GBV was shockingly very low compared to the number of cases.
Hon. Esparon said Members of Parliaments needed to be sensitised on SGBV laws as this was vital for their interventions and networking with other stakeholders for alignment with the country's zero tolerance to SGBV.
Speaking of behalf of the SADC secretariat, Ms Kealeboga Moruti, Senior Officer Public Security, expressed the Secretariat's appreciation to Seychelles for prioritising the workshop and its commitment to the SGBV eradication agenda.
Ms. Moruti said that there is evidence that SGBV is on the increase in the SADC Region triggered by various factors that require concerted efforts by all stakeholders to ensure a coordinated approach to effectively end in gender positive response.
She noted that SADC in 2018 conducted a gender-based comprehensive study in the region which found that most victims suffered from emotional violence while slightly one in ten have experienced physical violence.
She noted that SADC has SGBV tools and platforms in place to guide national responses of Member States to domesticating their laws, including enactment and implementation of comprehensive legislation, among others, to create national policies and strategies.
The representative of the European Union (EU) Delegation to SADC and the Republic of Botswana, Ambassador Jan Sadek, said EU supports the eradication of SGBV in SADC and around the world as it is not only an attack against human rights and fundamental freedom, but one of the greatest injustices of our times which touches all countries, communities and families and an obstacle to national development and poverty reduction goals.
In a video message presented during the workshop, Amb. Sadek said the EU's contributions demonstrate its commitment to eradicating all forms of violence against women and girls.
The objectives of the workshop were to update Members of Parliament (MPs) in Seychelles on the situation of SGBV in the country; discuss the national legislative and policy framework which enables or creates barriers for fulfilment of the human rights of all persons experiencing SGBV, especially women and girls; and familiarise the country's Members of Parliament with SADC SGBV legislative frameworks.
The workshop coincided with the commemoration of the International Women's Day to raise awareness on gender equality and empowerment of women.
During the workshop, the Members of Parliament were updated on the situation of SGBV in Seychelles; and discussed the national legislative and policy framework which enables or creates barriers for fulfillment of the human rights of all persons experiencing SGBV, especially women. The legislators were familiarised with the SADC SGBV legislative frameworks and tools; and discussed possible legislative actions and motions to address identified gaps in reducing or eliminating SGBV in Seychelles.