Source: All Africa
Parliament's Joint Standing Committee on Defence has expressed concern at the alleged abuse of women soldiers in the army.

Committee co-chairperson Sediane Danny Montsitsi raised the issue on Thursday during a briefing by the South African National Defence Force (SANDF).

The SANDF had made presentations on transformation, management structures and operations among other matters.

Montsitsi said they had heard complaints from female soldiers that, for example, during deployment, insufficient tents were provided for women resulting in some having to share tents with their male colleagues.

This, he said, created a suitable environment for the abuse of women. He said the alleged abuse was also taking place in army bases.

Montsitsi said some of the abused women were afraid to come out and report it.

In response, Chief of the Army, Lieutenant-General Vusimuzi Ramakala Masono said the Defence Force took the issue of women abuse seriously.

Conceding to the problem, he said such incidents usually took place among new recruits.

He indicated that they had picked up cases where female recruits had been impregnated by their instructors. "Disciplinary action has been taken in some of the cases," he said.

During the presentation, it also emerged that women were still not fairly represented in the army, as they accounted only for 19 percent of the total, while men were in the majority with 81 percent.

Masono said that they wanted to see more women represented. His view was echoed by Deputy Chief of Operations, Major-General M.E Phako.

He told the committee that Defence Minister Lindiwe Sisulu was vigorously calling for gender balance in the army.

"She (Sisulu) is giving orders and she wants answers," he said. As compared to the past, Phako said that progress was being made in promoting women.

He cited that at the dawn of the new South Africa in 1994, it was a rule in the army that women should not advance beyond the rank of brigadier.

Their presentation showed that currently, there were seven African females and three white females serving as brigadier-generals while 38 others were serving as colonels. The majority of these were white who were followed by Africans.

Phako said that former President Nelson Mandela chipped in to make sure that more women could be promoted.

Today marks the beginning of the 16 Days of Activism on No Violence Against Women and Children Campaign. The campaign is aimed at raising awareness around the abuse of women and children. 

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