JOHANNESBURG - President Cyril Ramaphosa says a war is being waged against women and children in South Africa.
He says rapists and killers walk among us and have no regard for the sanctity of life.
Over 21 women and children have died violently in recent weeks.
Ramaphosa said he is appalled, and the deceased will never be forgotten.
Ramaphosa referred to gender-based violence as a second pandemic raging in the country.
"As a man, as a husband and as a father, I am appalled at what is no less than a war being waged against the women and children of our country.
"At a time when the pandemic has left us all feeling vulnerable and uncertain, violence is being unleashed on women and children with a brutality that defies comprehension. These rapists and killers walk among us. They are in our communities.
"They are our fathers, our brothers, our sons and our friends; violent men with utterly no regard for the sanctity of human life," Ramaphosa said.
The president reiterated the commitment he took last year to an Emergency Response Plan to combat gender-based violence and femicide and stated that R1.6-billion in government funding would be reprioritised to support its implementation until the end of the financial year.
Ramaphosa explained some of the measures that have already been taken to address the scourge of gender-based violence.
"Since December last year, 10 government-owned buildings have been handed over to the Department of Social Development to be used as shelters, addressing one of the biggest challenges facing survivors who want to leave abusive relationships.
"Over the last 18 months, we have made demonstrable progress in broadening access to support for survivors. 13 regional courts have been upgraded into sexual offences courts. To support the work of law-enforcement, 7,000 evidence collection kits have been distributed regularly to every police station in the country and there are now over 1,000 survivor friendly rooms at police stations.
"Many police, prosecutors, magistrates and policymakers have undergone sensitivity and awareness training, and over 3,000 government employees who work with children and mentally disabled persons have been checked against the National Register of Sex Offenders.
"Legislative amendments have been prepared around, among other things, minimum sentencing in cases of gender-based violence, bail conditions for suspects, and greater protection for women who are victims of intimate partner violence."
The president urged lawmakers in Parliament to process the proposed legislative amendments without delay.