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Sex workers call on government to follow the evidence and decriminalise sex work

decrimtshirt“The decriminalisation of sex work could avert HIV infections by 33- 46% in the next decade, according to a new study published in The Lancet, the world’s leading medical journal.”

July 29, 2014 (Cape Town) –The Sex Worker Education and Advocacy Taskforce (SWEAT) and Sisonke National Sex Worker Movement of South Africa welcome the imperative finding of the research series on HIV and Sex workers.

The Journal’s special edition on sex work was launched at the 2014 AIDS Conference held in Melbourne, Australia. The research highlighted that, “the women, men, and transgender people who sell sex globally have disproportionate risks and burdens of HIV in countries of low, middle, and high income, and in concentrated and generalised epidemic contexts.”

Decriminalisation of sex work was found to have the greatest potential effect on HIV infections. Addressing violence alone was not enough “in one week in Cape Town alone, we have been dealing with the murder of 2 sex workers – it is not enough to investigate these murders - we must redirect policing resources from persecuting sex workers to protecting sex workers” said Sally-Jean Shackleton, Director SWEAT.

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WLC staff exposes rape culture on Mandela Day

miniskirt

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Organisations call for Rands and sense in the funding of services addressing rape and domestic violence

shukumisaSource: Shukumisa Campaign

Minister of Social Development Bathabile Dlamini’s budget speech in Parliament today announced the department’s ongoing focus on its ‘command centre’ addressing gender-based violence. “The centre points to a duplication of services and thus a duplication of costs. Coming at a time when National Treasury has directed departments to decrease their budgets and when welfare services generally are struggling to survive, such duplication is doubly troubling,” said the organisations.

The ‘command centre’ for gender-based violence – or 24-hour telephonic hotline – was launched by the national Department of Social Development in March 2014 and duplicates the existing national ‘Stop Gender-Based Violence’ helpline run by Lifeline since 1999.

The new command centre is a major item of expenditure in the national department’s budget towards victim empowerment over the medium term. In 2013/14 the Budget allocated towards the centre resulted in a 1 140% increase in the use of consultants by the department, causing expenditure on this item to jump from R1.1 million to R13.9 million. This amount does not decline over the medium term. In fact, the percentage of the budget allocated to consultants (26%) during this period is greater than that allocated towards the victim empowerment programme’s staff costs (22%).

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Why We Need To Keep An Eye On The Money - Budget 2014/15

budgetreportToday the Women’s Legal Centre released a new research report. The report, entitled Eye on the Money: Women and Government Priorities in South Africa, analyses government spending performance in 2013/2014 in priority areas for women, and assesses the 2014/15 budget to be implemented this year.

This week at parliament, portfolio committees are being briefed on the strategic plans of government departments, that outline what government has set to achieve over the coming year. This will be followed by budget votes, where ministers will announce how departments plan to spend their slice of the national budget between 1 April 2014 to 31 March 2015, to achieve their performance objectives.

The authors of the Eye on the Money report are not satisfied that current spending trends are addressing women’s needs, or resulting in meaningful change for women who often are the first to bear the brunt of budgetary problems affecting service delivery. The report looks at how government departments that perform key functions in respect of women, chose to spend. The portfolios chosen for review include:

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Case file: Post Office Fund rules amended to include the clean break principle

divorceIssued 19 June 2014

After years of legal battle, WLC client Phumla Ngewu today received her divorce settlement. Ngewu, divorced in 2007, and in terms of the divorce order she was entitled to half of her husband’s pension fund. However, the rules of the Post Office Retirement Fund only allowed Ngewu to have access to her benefit when her ex-husband exited as the main member of the Fund.

In 2012, the WLC sought direct access to the Constitutional Court to challenge the constitutionality of State Pension Funds not making provision for the clean break principle on divorce which would have entitled Ms Ngewu access to her benefit on divorce.

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WLC responds to State of the Nation Address

On 17 June 2014 President Zuma delivered his second State of the Nation Address (SONA) for the year, after the African National Congress won the 2014 general elections. The second SONA made it clear that the fifth democratic administration will move ahead with the priorities it established during the previous term, and further detailed in the national budget.

But what does this mean for women? Experts in the gender sector are not optimistic.  Whilst economic transformation must undoubtedly be a priority for our government, using the National Development Plan as a roadmap is unlikely to address the poverty of women. “Given that the NDP is a gender blind policy vision, this does not augur well for the poverty of women, who bear the brunt of inequality in SA. This is especially concerning in light of the fact that there is no scope for reshaping the NDP,” said feminist researcher, Joy Watson.

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WLC seeks an Office Administrator

officeadministrator1The Women's Legal Centre seeks to fill the position of Office Administrator. This post requires an office administrator to assist with financial management, administration, human resources and general secretarial work for all its responsibilities include:

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South Africa’s executive grows, Parliament is the loser

parliamentIssued by Community Law Centre, UWC, Parliamentary Monitoring Group, Section 27 and the Women’s Legal Centre (6 June 2014)

As South Africa’s executive under the ANC government has been enlarged and strengthened, proposed changes to the country’s national parliament seem set to weaken its capacity for oversight.

To date, National Assembly committees have been structured to shadow the work of a particular ministry their role being to hold departments to account; and to perform oversight interrogating departments’ policies, use of resources and performance. “Parliament’s particular value in our constitutional democracy is that, along with its mandate to represent and respond to the interests of citizens, it must conduct most of its work in public,” explains Samantha Waterhouse of the Community Law Centre, UWC.

However, yesterday’s Rules committee meeting proposed plans to drastically reduce the institution’s committees and to restructure into cluster work. Although the details are not yet clear, proposals include merging various committees, such as Energy and Public Enterprises into one.  In addition, and despite the reduction of committees, it was also proposed that committee membership be reduced from 13 to 11 members.

As citizen’s groups who engage with parliament to advance social justice, and who believe – as our Constitution stipulates – that Parliament is designated as the heart of our democracy, we are alarmed by this development.

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Shukumisa letter to Parliament

shukumisaThe WLC is one of 45 organisations that have endorsed the following letter to Parliament from the Shukumisa Campaign.

Attentioned for National Assembly Speaker, Hon. Baleka Mbete, and National Council of Provinces Chairperson, Hon. Thandi Modise, the letter enquires about the plans for legislative oversight and accountability mechanisms to promote women’s and gender rights and to encourage the establishment of NA and NCOP committees dedicated to these issues.

See the full letter below.

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Minister, NPA liable for mom’s maintenance

ladyjusticeSource: IOL News

The justice minister and the National Prosecuting Authority must stand in for the maintenance a Mpumalanga mother had lost, the High Court in Pretoria ruled yesterday. Acting Judge Jan Hiemstra granted the order to Annah Ouma Mtimunye. The minister, the NPA and her former husband Michael Matlala must pay her R24 500 plus interest. Mtimunye lost maintenance because of the negligent and unlawful conduct of maintenance officials at the Mdutjana Magistrate's Court.

Mtimunye, a hawker of KwaNdebele in Mpumalanga, obtained a court order after her divorce in 1990 that Matlala pays maintenance for their two children. She alleged maintenance officers at the Mdutjana Magistrate's Court in Siyabuswa had negligently and unlawfully failed to take appropriate steps in terms of the Maintenance Act to enforce the payment of arrears in maintenance accumulated over a period of three years.

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Sex workers welcome De Jager sentence

dejagersentenceSource: News24 (photo by Lesego Tlhwale of SWEAT)

Sex workers have welcomed the three life sentences handed down to convicted killer Johannes Christiaan de Jager on Tuesday, saying it shows that sex workers are regarded as human.

Western Cape High Court acting Judge Chuma Cossie said the sentences for the "brutal and savage" murder of two teenagers would run concurrently.

De Jager, 49, was last month convicted of killing and raping 18-year-old sex worker Hiltina Alexander in 2008 and killing 16-year-old Charmaine Mare last year. Both crimes were committed in Cape Town.

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Civil Society Applaud Verdict in Sex Work Murder Case and Call for Decriminalisation

dejagercasePhoto by Lesego Tlhwale (SWEAT)

The Sex Worker Education and Advocacy Taskforce (SWEAT), Sisonke Sex Worker Movement, the Women's Legal Centre and Sonke Gender Justice welcome the judgment handed down by the Western Cape High Court on 29 April 2014 that found double murder accused Johannes de Jager guilty of raping and murdering Hiltina Alexander, a sex worker, in May 2008 in Cape Town. De Jager was also found guilty of murdering and dismembering 16-year old teenager Charmaine Mare in 2013. Sentencing proceedings, expected to begin on 5 May 2014, have been postponed until 27 May 2014.

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Press Release

                                             PRESS RELEASE

30 APRIL 2014

REGISTRATION OF MUSLIM PRIESTS AS MARRIAGE OFFICERS

While we welcome the fact that some religious priests of the Muslim faith have registered as marriage officers, the law in fact has not changed. This should not be misconstrued. The status quo with regard to Muslim marriages remains the same: Muslim marriages are not legally recognised. It is important to make it clear that no law has been passed to recognise Muslim marriages.

The registration of priests as registered marriage officers means that when the religious ceremony of marriage has been performed by the priest who is a registered marriage officer, the couple marrying has also has the option to enter into a separate civil marriage at the same time, because that particular marriage officer is now registered in terms of the Marriage Act 25 of 1961. The marriage officer is obliged apply the law relating to civil marriages which defines marriage as a union between one man to one woman. It also prohibits the party being married cannot be represented, and specifies the structure where a civil marriage takes place, the amount of witnesses present, the age of the parties marrying and the marital regime (where the default marital regime is a marriage in community of property, unless there is a contract specifying accrual or a marriage out of community of property). This will not necessarily be in line with what Islamic law requires.

By simultaneously concluding a civil marriage, the couple may now turn to the courts at the dissolution of the marriage and will be able to seek legal redress. The red herring, however, is that it is not automatic and there must be an agreement to marry in terms of the Marriage Act.

Since the Marriage Act was passed in 1961, there has always been the option for South Africans to marry by permitting the designation of ministers of religion to be marriage officers. This is the first time that a significant number of the Islamic ministers of religion have agreed to become marriage officers

The Muslim marriage per se is not recognised. The civil ceremony must be performed by the marriage officer in terms of the Marriage Act.

For Muslim marriages to be recognised it will still be necessary for legislation to be passed whereby women may seek protection through a legal framework

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WLC Press statement 25 March 2014 - Pistorius trial

25 March 2014

PRESS STATEMENT - FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Yesterday the state lead evidence in the Oscar Pistorius trial suggesting Reeva Steenkamp might have been experiencing domestic violence in her relationship with the defendant. Instant messages on Reeva Steenkamp's phone described jealous and possessive behavior by the defendant, and it also emerged from the messages that she was sometimes scared of him.

Domestic violence is a pervasive and often silent form of violence against women. It is a common misconception that domestic violence is only physical abuse, but the Domestic Violence Act of 1998 defines domestic violence widely to include emotional abuse, economic abuse, intimidation, and any other controlling or abusive behaviour that causes imminent harm. It affects all sectors and demographics of our society, as the Pistorius trial is demonstrating.

Research indicates that almost a quarter of South African women have experienced abuse at the hands of an intimate partner, and a staggering half of all South African women have experienced emotional and financial abuse. It is therefore telling that the first witness for the state assumed there was a burglary in progress when she allegedly heard the screams on a woman on the relevant night, when in fact it is far more statistically likely that screams emanating from a South African home are as a result of domestic or intimate partner violence.

"A staggering 40% of South African men have admitted that they have been physically violent towards their intimate partner," said Jennifer Williams, Director of the Women's Legal Centre.

"It is not surprising that our public is so ill informed about the prevalence of domestic violence, and its different forms. The way in which we gather crime statistics in South Africa hides the size of the domestic violence problem. When SAPS releases its annual crime statistics, there is no category indicating incidents of domestic violence, and instead the incidents are counted as assault, sexual offences and ultimately, in many cases, murders. This makes the problem completely invisible," said Sanja Bornman, attorney at the Women's legal Centre.

For more information, contact:

Jennifer Williams, Director: 078 803 3110
Sanja Bornman, attorney: 083 522 2933

ENDS.

Women’s Rights Organisations Call for More Women Judges

18 February 2014

The Women’s Legal Centre (WLC) and the Tshwaranang Legal advocacy Centre to end violence against women (TLAC) are greatly concerned with the under- representation of women in the judiciary.  As mentioned by the president in his 2014 State of the Nation Address, some progress has been made towards transforming the judiciary – but women are still critically under -represented 20 years into democracy.

At present, statistics show that females make up 51.3% of South Africa’s population. However, out of 239 judges only 76 are women, meaning that women only make up 31% of the judiciary. With 51.3% females in the country, having only two female justices in the Constitutional Court, the highest court on constitutional matters, is inexcusable.

In order to reflect the gender demographics of the country, the number of women judges would have to increase by at least 20%.

“The constitution requires the judiciary to reflect the race and gender demographics of the country. Women’s access to justice is facilitated by having their peers represented on the judiciary, and seen to be making decisions on cases.” said Jennifer Williams, Director and attorney at the WLC.

Gender inequality is still one of the most pressing issues in the country, and the number of women in the judiciary highlights that.

“To effectively improve gender equality and the respect for women’s rights in this country, it is imperative that leadership, including government and the judiciary are seen to be actively taking steps to improve the representation and participation of women in decision making structures – in this case the Judiciary.” said Shireen Motara,  Director at the TLAC.

We call for the Judicial Service Commission to prioritise shortlisting women candidates for vacancies in all the courts, so as to address this serious case of under-representation of women on the bench.

For more information contact:

Jennifer Williams (WLC) : 021 424 5660

Shireen Motara (TLAC)   : 011 403 4267

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Thank you, and farewell Tata Mandela!

"As a tribute to the legions of women who navigated the path of fighting for justice before us, we ought to imprint in the supreme law of the land, firm principles upholding the rights of women. The women themselves and the whole of society must make this a prime responsibility." Nelson Mandela (1918 -2013)

The Women's Legal Centre is saddened by the passing of Tata Mandela. Nelson Mandela did not only fight against racial oppression, but he was also deeply committed to the advancement of women's rights in South Africa.

"The cause of women's emancipation is part of our national struggle against outdated practices and prejudices. It is a struggle that demands equal effort from both men and women alike." Nelson Mandela

Mandela understood that gender inequality would be one of the consequences of oppression, and changing that would be invaluable to the reshaping of South Africa. He saw the advancement of gender equality as a priority for the country.

The WLC, its staff and trustees sympathise with the family and loved ones of ex-President Mandela. As a leader and a lawyer he epitomized the ideals of dignity and equality. His contributions towards gender equality in South Africa can never be forgotten. We will seek to remember him in all that we do in the pursuit of equality between men and women in South Africa.


Thank You Tata Mandela. May your beautiful soul rest in peace Madiba.

 

Nelson Mandela

WLC welcomes the dismissal of the extension application to remedy post office act

05 December 2013

The Women's Legal Centre welcomes the judgement handed down today by the Constitutional Court – where the Minister of Communications' application to extend the time given to amend the post office act was dismissed.

Phumla Ngewu, a WLC client, was married until July 2007 to Mawethu Ngewu, who is employed by the Post Office and is a member of its retirement fund. In terms of the divorce order, Phumla Ngewu was entitled to half of her husband's pension fund when she got divorced in 2007. However, the rules of the Post Office Retirement Fun only allowed Ms Ngewu to have access to her benefit when her ex-husband exited as a member of the Fund.

The WLC then sought direct access to the Constitutional Court to challenge the constitutionality of State Pension Fund not making provision for the clean break principle on divorce; arguing that this was an irrational differentiation which impacted negatively on women, as they are predominantly disadvantaged on divorce. This has resulted in Ms Ngewu suffering undue hardship by struggling to maintain herself and providing for her basic needs of food and shelter.

It was agreed that the Minister of Communications would amend the law within a specific time frame by no later than 7 November 2013 to include the clean break principle. However, the Minister made an urgent application to court to request an extension instead.

The WLC opposed the application, setting out the financial difficulties that Ms Ngewu has had to endure while living on the mercy of family and friends for food and shelter.

Today, the Court dismissed the Minister's application with costs, noting that they did not provide an explanation to the court as to the reason explanation to justify why the law could not be passed within the time frame in terms of their undertaking to prolong the suffering of Ms Ngewu.

The WLC welcomes this judgement.

Hoodah Abraham-Fayker, a WLC attorney said "This empowers women to have access to benefits when they are entitled to it which would protect them from finding themselves in dire financial straits when they are entitled to a pension benefit. The Constitutional Court duly considered Ms Ngewu's plight and did not accept the Minister's reasoning to grant them an extension without justification which would prejudice her further."

2013 Crime stats inadequate and incorrect – Women’s Legal Centre

20 Sep. 13
The Women's Legal Centre, a non-profit law centre that seeks to achieve equality for women in South Africa, is dismayed by the incorrect and inadequate reporting on sexual offences in the 2012/13 national crime statistics released by Minister of Police, Nathi Mthetwa, on Wednesday 19 September.

The number of overall sexual offences in 2012/13 has reportedly decreased by 0.4% when compared with the figures of the previous financial year. However, the relevant SAPS presentations indicate that, in fact, reported sexual offences for the previous financial year (2011/12) came to 64 514, while the number of reported sexual offences for 2012/13 came to 66 196, which is in fact an increase. Also, the sexual offences statistics were not disaggregated by victim, ie. female, child and male victims; nor were they properly disaggregated by offence, with the exception of rape and sexual assault where a reduction is claimed. Statistics on domestic violence incidents, as a separate reporting category, also continue to be absent from SAPS' reporting to the public despite their importance.

"Research confirms year after year that sexual offences are chronically under-reported to SAPS. This is due, in no small measure, to the unprofessional and prejudicial treatment of victims at police stations. SAPS should not regard a decrease in reported sexual offences as success, when we know that most sexual offences are perpetrated in circumstances that are not easily policed, and the real measure of their performance would be in increase in reported incidents," says Sanja Bornman, attorney at the WLC.

Mogoeng impeachment call legally unsound – Women’s Legal Centre

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

16 Aug. 13

The Women's Legal Centre (WLC) supports the Black Lawyers Association, NGOs and other legal organisations in opposing the attempts to impeach Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng.

"The call for impeachment is legally unsound and does the debate about the transformation of the judiciary a disservice," says Jennifer Williams, Director at the WLC. "It undermines efforts to make the judiciary represent the race and gender demographics of our society, an ideal that is envisaged in the Bill of Rights."

The WLC has for many years advocated for the appointment of women judges and regards this as critical to the transformation project.

"One of the objectives of the centre is the transformation of the judiciary, in both form and substance," says Williams "and we view the composition of the bench as an area of paramount significance."

According to recent statistics, only 33 of the 201 judges in the superior courts are women. Referring to Section 174(2) of the Constitution of South Africa, the WLC reiterates that the process of nominating candidates for the judiciary should reflect the gender composition of South African society.

"In a country where 51.3% of the population is female, the lack of representation of black women, in particular, is an indictment on our society." states Williams.

The WLC is an independent not for profit law centre established in order to conduct litigation and related advocacy work so as to advance the equality of women in a post-constitution South African Society.

"We call for the withdrawal of the complaint by Advocate Hoffman and for an audit to be done into the reasons that black and women lawyers still face obstacles to advancement on to the bench." concludes Williams.

For more information contact:

Jennifer Williams on 021 424 5660

About the Women's Legal Centre

The WLC is a non-profit, independently funded law Centre, started by a group of lawyers in Cape Town in 1999, with a vision to achieve equality for women in South Africa. The Centre has identified five strategic focus areas. These are: violence against women; fair access to resources in relationships; access to land/housing; access to fair labour practices; and access to health care (particularly reproductive health care).

The WLC has been at the forefront of legal reform in relation to women's equality in South Africa since the Constitution came into effect, having won several precedent setting cases in the past.

The WLC is targeting socio-economic rights of women as an important area for advancement by litigation and advocacy, and will challenge the most unenviable forms of indirect discrimination that act to prevent women from achieving real equality.

In order to empower women through knowledge of their rights, the Centre also offers free legal advice to women. Women are assisted or referred to the relevant body, NGO or court for assistance.

WLC Supports Call for Criteria for Judicial Appointments

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

13 Aug. 13

The Women’s Legal Centre (WLC) supports the SA chapter of the International Association of Women Judges’ call for a firm set of criteria to be developed to determine who serves as acting judges, so that these appointments are made consistently across the provinces and courts. According to a news report, the call was made at the SAC-IAWJ annual conference this past weekend.

“There isn't a clear policy and are no standard criteria for the appointment of acting judges. That is why we support the idea of setting criteria, one of which could be that women are equally represented, and also look at sourcing women not just from advocates, but from attorneys and academics too.” says Jennifer Williams – WLC Director.

The constitution requires the judiciary to broadly reflect the demographics and gender breakdown in society. However, statistics show that women are seriously under represented. Of the 201 judges in the superior courts, only 33 of them are women.

According to the WLC, one of the reasons that women are not being appointed as judges is the unofficial requirement that one must have acted as a judge before being appointed as a judge.

“Judge Presidents should seek input from the Bar Council, Law Society, academics and associations of lawyers for proposals on criteria.” concludes Williams.

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For more information contact:

Jennifer Williams: 021 424 5660

About the Women’s Legal Centre

The WLC is a non-profit, independently funded law Centre, started by a group of lawyers in Cape Town in 1999, with a vision to achieve equality for women in South Africa.

The Centre has identified five strategic focus areas. These are: violence against women; fair access to resources in relationships; access to land/housing; access to fair labour practices; and access to health care (particularly reproductive health care).

The WLC has been at the forefront of legal reform in relation to women’s equality in South Africa since the Constitution came into effect, having won several precedent setting cases in the past.

The WLC is targeting socio-economic rights of women as an important area for advancement by litigation and advocacy, and will challenge the most unenviable forms of indirect discrimination that act to prevent women from achieving real equality.

In order to empower women through knowledge of their rights, the Centre also offers free legal advice to women. Women are assisted or referred to the relevant body, NGO or court for assistance.

Sexual offences report welcomed by Women's Legal Centre

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

 6 August 2013

Today Minister of Justice and Constitutional Development, Jeff Radebe, released the long-awaited report of the Ministerial Advisory Task Team on the Adjudication of Sexual Offences – the so-called “MATTSO report”. The Women’s Legal Centre welcomes this report, and hopes that the sound recommendations contained therein will inform the recently published Sexual Offences Act Amendment Bill which allows the Minister to designate sexual offences courts.

 

Civil society has long been calling for the re-introduction of sexual offences courts, after their abolishment in 2005. Sexual offences courts, it has maintained, must have the necessary infrastructure to hear sexual offences cases in an effective and efficient manner, on a prioritised basis. This includes resources such as private waiting rooms for victims and witnesses, court preparation official capable of preparing victims and witnesses for what will be expected of them in court, and at least two prosecutors in each court. The MATTSO recommendations include these crucial resources, showing consensus between the Task Team and civil society on what is required for successful sexual offences courts.

 

Jennifer Williams, director of the WLC, said, “Sexual offences courts, when correctly resourced, have the potential to greatly reduce secondary victimisation of victims. Such court will also improve conviction rates, which will ultimately encourage victims to report cases. It is when perpetrators escape prosecution and punishment that the public loses confidence in the criminal justice system. Designated sexual offence courts could restore faith.”

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For more information, contact:

Jennifer Williams/ Sanja Bornman: 021 424 5660

 

 

Women’s Legal Centre welcomes call for gender equality in land distribution

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

25 June 2013

 The Women’s Legal Centre (WLC), a non-profit law centre that seeks to achieve equality for women, supports Deputy Minister for Economic Development, Professor Hlengiwe Mkhize’s call for gender equality in land distribution.

Mkhize stated this week that women need to be included in and benefit equally from the country’s economy.

“Last year the Commission for Gender Equality (CGE) pointed out that men make up 90 percent of land reform beneficiaries, revealing the long-standing non-recognition of women’s title to land,” says Jennifer Williams, Director of the WLC.

The latest census figures reveal that women make up 52 percent of the population and that approximately 59 percent of our rural residents are women. This is dangerously disproportionate and disadvantageous to the advancement of gender equality in South Africa.

“An analysis should be done on why the actual number of women beneficiaries is so low; the particular impact of restitution remedies on women, and the participation of women in land holding mechanisims.” concludes Williams. 

 

 

Issued by the Women’s Legal Centre

For more information contact:

Jennifer Williams: 021 424 5660

About the Women’s Legal Centre

The WLC is a non-profit, independently funded law Centre, started by a group of lawyers in Cape Town in 1999, with a vision to achieve equality for women in South Africa. The Centre has identified five strategic focus areas. These are: violence against women; fair access to resources in relationships; access to land/housing; access to fair labour practices; and access to health care (particularly reproductive health care).

The WLC has been at the forefront of legal reform in relation to women’s equality in South Africa since the Constitution came into effect, having won several precedent setting cases in the past.

The WLC is targeting socio-economic rights of women as an important area for advancement by litigation and advocacy, and will challenge the most unenviable forms of indirect discrimination that act to prevent women from achieving real equality.

In order to empower women through knowledge of their rights, the Centre also offers free legal advice to women. Women are assisted or referred to the relevant body, NGO or court for assistance.

 

 

Constitutional court considers consent in polygynous customary marriages

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

31 May 2013

The Constitutional Court handed down a crucial judgement relating to customary law and polygynous marriages on Thursday. The case deals with issues of validity and the propriety consequences of these marriages.

The first issue, which came on appeal from the Supreme Court of Appeal was whether a husband’s failure to apply to the court to register a contract (of marriage) regulating the propriety consequences of a secondary marriage makes that marriage null and void. The Women’s Legal Centre (WLC), friends of the court in the matter, argued that it should not affect the validity of the second marriage, as this would negatively impact on women and undermine the protections that the law sought to give women spouses in customary marriages. The Constitutional Court agreed with the Supreme Court of Appeal that failure to register the contract does not invalidate the marriage. This means that women whose husband’s fail to register the contracts will not lose out on their property rights.

The Constitutional Court also considered a second issue: whether the consent of the first wife is required in a polygynous marriage. The WLC argued that the Constitution requires such consent. The WLC asked the court not to make this retrospective as it would negatively affect women in existing marriages where consent was not obtained. The Constitutional Court developed the Tsonga customary law to make consent of the first wife a requirement for the validity of future marriages. This is in line with women’s right to dignity and equality, and brings Tsonga customary law in line with the Constitution. The Constitutional Court made a ruling that this will only apply to marriages that are to happen in the future.

The court made an order requiring that the judgement summary is sent to the houses of traditional leaders and the Minister of Home Affairs, and also that it is to be distributed as widely as possible.

   “We are pleased with the steps taken in this matter. It is important that this outcome is communicated widely, and communities should be brought on board” says Jennifer Williams, Director of the WLC.

Summary of facts:

The applicant in the matter married her husband under Tsonga customary law in 1984 but their marriage was not registered. When her husband died, it was found that he had entered into another customary marriage which was not registered under the Recognition of Customary Marriages Act, a secondary marriage she had not given consent to. According to Tsonga customary law, the second marriage is invalid when the first wife has not given consent.

 

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Issued by the Women’s Legal Centre

For more information contact:

Jennifer Williams: 021 424 5660

About the Women’s Legal Centre

The WLC is a non-profit, independently funded law Centre, started by a group of lawyers in Cape Town in 1999, with a vision to achieve equality for women in South Africa. The Centre has identified five strategic focus areas. These are: violence against women; fair access to resources in relationships; access to land/housing; access to fair labour practices; and access to health care (particularly reproductive health care).

The WLC has been at the forefront of legal reform in relation to women’s equality in South Africa since the Constitution came into effect, having won several precedent setting cases in the past.

The WLC is targeting socio-economic rights of women as an important area for advancement by litigation and advocacy, and will challenge the most unenviable forms of indirect discrimination that act to prevent women from achieving real equality.

In order to empower women through knowledge of their rights, the Centre also offers free legal advice to women. Women are assisted or referred to the relevant body, NGO or court for assistance.

Progress made on sexual offences courts is welcome, but more could have been done – WLC

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

29 May 2013

The Women’s Legal Centre (WLC), a non-profit law centre that seeks to achieve equality for women, welcomes Minister of Justice – Jeff Radebe’s announcement on Wednesday - that 57 regional courts across the country have been identified to be used as sexual offences courts. The project to bring back these courts has been under way for over a year, and progress should be speeded up, says the WLC.

Shortly after the murder of Anene Booysen, in his speech at the opening of the Tsakane Magistrate Court earlier this year, Minister Jeff Radebe highlighted the importance of having Sexual Offences Courts re-opened.

The WLC agrees.

“The rolling out of Sexual Offences Courts will not only reduce secondary trauma of complainants, but it may also lead to more convictions, which could encourage victims to report these crimes” says Jennifer Williams – Director of the WLC.

At present, it is estimated that only 1 in 9 victims of sexual offences report these incidents, and of the reported incidents (38,212) there are some 4493 convictions.

“The current low rates of reporting of incidents and convictions contributes to the impunity of offenders. In order to reduce levels of gender based violence we need to change the mind-set of society.” adds Williams.

The WLC believes that speedy convictions can deter people from committing sexual offences.

 “We can only achieve true gender equality when perpetrators of gender based violence are caught, convicted and punished,” says Williams “We hope that the budgetary resources promised in the Minister’s speech will be made available as a matter of urgency, and we look forward to the announcement of the identified courts in June and a speedy roll out thereafter.”

###

Issued by the Women’s Legal Centre

For more information contact:

Jennifer Williams: 021 424 5660

About the Women’s Legal Centre

The WLC is a non-profit, independently funded law Centre, started by a group of lawyers in Cape Town in 1999, with a vision to achieve equality for women in South Africa. The Centre has identified five strategic focus areas. These are: violence against women; fair access to resources in relationships; access to land/housing; access to fair labour practices; and access to health care (particularly reproductive health care).

The WLC has been at the forefront of legal reform in relation to women’s equality in South Africa since the Constitution came into effect, having won several precedent setting cases in the past.

The WLC is targeting socio-economic rights of women as an important area for advancement by litigation and advocacy, and will challenge the most unenviable forms of indirect discrimination that act to prevent women from achieving real equality.

 

In order to empower women through knowledge of their rights, the Centre also offers free legal advice to women. Women are assisted or referred to the relevant body, NGO or court for assistance.

Policy, budget for sexual offences in South Africa inadequate -Shukumisa Campaign

Civil Society organisations present to the Portfolio Committee on Justice and Constitutional Development on weak government response to sexual offences.

16 April 2013 for immediate release

 

The Portfolio Committee on Justice and Constitutional Development today received submissions around the budget of the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development (DoJ&CD). This exercise is part of its review of the Department's strategic plans and budget.

In a room packed to capacity with civil society organisations dealing with sexual offences, the Shukumisa Campaign's submission highlighted a range of policy gaps around specialised courts, psycho-social services, court preparation, the competencies and training of personnel, and expansion of the Thuthuzela Care Centres (TCC).

“If sexual offences are a priority, why is there no coherent policy? The absence of policy results in these budgetary gaps and an inadequate criminal justice system response to sexual violence in South Africa” points out Samantha Waterhouse from the Community Law Centre, University of the Western Cape. She adds that the “lack of policy also results in poor operational planning and inconsistencies and inadequacies in responses.”

An independent expert, Lisa Vetten, says the absence of policies and budgets is leading to hidden subsidisation of the criminal justice system by NGOs. “The cost of counselling services provided at the TCCs, as well as court reports, are not budgeted for by the DoJ&CD. This is bad news in a context where NGOs are being forced to withdraw services because they can't afford to pay their staff any longer.” Policy must be developed to say who is responsible for these costs, she advises.

Professor Lillian Artz from the Gender Health and Justice Research Unit, UCT calls for a revision of the Draft National Policy Framework to address the range of policy gaps in the DoJ&CD response to sexual offenses. This, she says, must include a detailed description of the duties and obligations imposed upon all role players in managing sexual offenses. “We note again the absence of particular policies. Where there is silence there can be no adequate budgeting and we reiterate once more the need for policy development and operational planning to allow for budgeting.”

According to Vivienne Mentoor-Lalu of Resources Aimed at the Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect (RAPCAN), “Civil society organisations provide a significant number of services to rape survivors. It's important that we are part of developing these policies.”

The committee welcomed the submission and it says it will take up the issues raised by the Shukumisa Campaign with the Department tomorrow.

 

About Shukumisa

The Shukumisa Campaign is a coalition of 28 organisations working to prevent and address sexual offences, was amongst the groups which made submissions. The organisations in the campaign provide counselling, court support, training to service providers, legal services, research and advocacy in the area of sexual offences. Members of the Shukumisa Campaign include:  Adapt, Childline SA, Community Law Centre Parliamentary Participation Unit, Gender Health and Justice Research Unit (GHJRU), Greater Rape Intervention Project (GRIP), Justice and Women (JAW), Legal Resources Centre, Lethabong Legal Advice Centre, Lifeline/Rape Crisis Pietermaritzburg, Limpopo Legal Advice Centre, Masimanyane Women's Support Centre, Mosaic, Nisaa Women's Support Centre, Peddie Women's Support Centre, People Opposing Women Abuse (POWA), Project Empower, RAPCAN, Rape Crisis Cape Town Trust, Remmoho, Teddy Bear Clinic, Sonke Gender Justice Network, Sex Worker Education and Advocacy Taskforce (SWEAT), Thohoyandou Victim Empowerment Programme, Thusanang Advice Centre, Tipfuxeni Community Counselling Centre,    Tshwaranang Legal Advocacy Centre, Western Cape Network on Violence Against Women,Women on Farms Project, Women’s Legal Centre(WLC).

 

Editorial Contacts

Lisa Vetten (Independent Expert):  082 822 6725

Samantha Waterhouse (Community Law Centre, UWC):  084 522 9646

Vivienne Mentoor – Lalu (RAPCAN):   082 494 0788

Kelley Moult (Gender Health and Justice Research Unit, UCT):  082 625 6722

Bianca Valentine (Tshwaranang Legal Advocacy Centre):  082 423 9 220

Equality demands that we recognise and compensate women's care work - Women's Rights Activists

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

08 Apr. 13

Women’s rights activists support Queen Mpinga’s R1.6 million claim for medical negligence from the Health MEC Hope Papo. Mpinga’s leg had to be amputated when a wound became infected after a state doctor failed to stitch it closed after a cut was made during medical examination. With permission from the Johannesburg High Court to sue Health MEC Hope, Mpinga is claiming for prosthesis, loss of income and domestic help.

On the 2nd of April 2013, the Beeld newspaper reported that Health MEC Hope Papo argued that domestic help for the plaintiff was not necessary as most of her children are daughters.

According to the Women’s Legal Centre, a non-profit, independently funded law Centre with a vision to achieve equality for women in South Africa, the belief that women’s care work in the household is not worthy of remuneration is sexist, and it should be challenged if the country is serious about gender equality.

“Unpaid health care contributes to the feminisation of poverty,” says Jennifer Williams, Director at the Women’s Legal Centre.  “We would like to see a society as envisaged in our constitution, where women aren't expected to give up economic and educational opportunities to work in the home, caring for the elderly, children, and the sick; a  society where the contribution of women who do care giving work at home is equally valued in monetary terms.”

Samantha Hargreaves, a Research Associate at the Society, Work and Development Institute (SWOP) - Wits University agrees with the position.

“MEC Hope Papo’s argument that the claimant, Mrs Mpinga, does not require domestic support and can instead rely on her daughters must be rejected as deeply sexist and offensive,” says Hargreaves. “Mrs Mpinga’s claim is a ‘revolutionary’ one in which she asserts, contrary to the established practice of most societies around the world, that the labour of women (young and old) is not a ‘free’ resource to fill in for the failure of governments to provide the needed basic service or care for their citizens.”

Many women and girls in South Africa find themselves having to give up educational and career opportunities to take care of sick family members. The role these women and girls play is often undermined and taken for granted.

“The sexist and exploitative rationale that women would compensate through their unpaid labour for cuts in budgets and staffing for public services, a feature of neo-liberal structural adjustment programmes promoted by the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund since at least the 1950s, is exactly what the Gauteng Department of Health and its MEC Papo is advancing in its legal defence,” added Hargreaves.

Mpinga injured her leg in 2006 when she fell while selling blankets and clothes in Mpumalanga. The quantum of Mpinga’s main damages claim will be set in October 2013.

###

Issued by the Women’s Legal Centre

For more information contact:

Jennifer Williams: 021 424 5660

Samantha Hargreaves: 031 467 0853

 

About the Women’s Legal Centre

The WLC is a non-profit, independently funded law Centre, started by a group of lawyers in Cape Town in 1999, with a vision to achieve equality for women in South Africa. The Centre has identified five strategic focus areas. These are: violence against women; fair access to resources in relationships; access to land/housing; access to fair labour practices; and access to health care (particularly reproductive health care).

The WLC has been at the forefront of legal reform in relation to women’s equality in South Africa since the Constitution came into effect, having won several precedent setting cases in the past.

The WLC is targeting socio-economic rights of women as an important area for advancement by litigation and advocacy, and will challenge the most unenviable forms of indirect discrimination that act to prevent women from achieving real equality.

In order to empower women through knowledge of their rights, the Centre also offers free legal advice to women. Women are assisted or referred to the relevant body, NGO or court for assistance.

 

About Samantha Hargreaves

Samantha Hargreaves is a Research Associate at the Society, Work and Development Institute (SWOP) at Wits University – Johannesburg.

WLC supports the call for a National Commission of Inquiry into Gender Based Violence

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

WLC supports the call for a National Commission of Inquiry into Gender Based Violence

11 February 2013

The Women’s Legal Centre (WLC) supports the ANC Women’s League’s call for a Commission of Inquiry into rape and gender based violence.  Such a Commission should look at the allocation of resources to fighting this “low level war” on women, addressing the flaws in the criminal justice system and improving the implementation of existing law and policy.

This call follows last week’s rape and mutilation of Anine Booysen, a Western Cape teenage girl. This is one of many rape cases in South Africa, most of which often end up unreported resulting in perpetrators escaping prosecution.

“The Booysen case is an exceptional case” says Jennifer Williams, Director of the WLC “the perpetrators were identified and charged. The state has the opportunity to prosecute, and we hope that all efforts will be put in to make sure that conviction takes place as soon as possible”.

The WLC alone has received one hundred and twenty seven gender based violence (including rape) complaints in the last twelve months, while the recent statistic reveal that rape takes place every four minutes in South Africa.

“So many rape cases do not get reported, and perpetrators are not prosecuted.  This is an indictment on our criminal justice system. A system in which perpetrators are caught, prosecuted, and sentenced; where victims are treated with dignity and respect, is a system that would encourage victims to speak out about rape and gender based violence.” asserts Williams.

“It is time for a national commission of inquiry into gender based violence and the state’s response thereto in South Africa. Let’s get the best minds together and look at what causes are, where the system is going wrong and devise a holistic, comprehensive strategy to deal with this.”

Issued by the Women’s Legal Centre

For more information contact:

Jennifer Williams: 021 424 5660 / 078 803 3110

About the Women’s Legal Centre

The WLC is a non-profit, independently funded law Centre, started by a group of lawyers in Cape Town in 1999, with a vision to achieve equality for women in South Africa. The Centre has identified five strategic focus areas. These are: violence against women; fair access to resources in relationships; access to land/housing; access to fair labour practices; and access to health care (particularly reproductive health care).

The WLC has been at the forefront of legal reform in relation to women’s equality in South Africa since the Constitution came into effect, having won several precedent setting cases in the past.

The WLC is targeting socio-economic rights of women as an important area for advancement by litigation and advocacy, and will challenge the most unenviable forms of indirect discrimination that act to prevent women from achieving real equality.

In order to empower women through knowledge of their rights, the Centre also offers free legal advice to women. Women are assisted or referred to the relevant body, NGO or court for assistance.

Harmful Provisions of the Sexual Offences Act declared unconstitutional!

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Harmful Provisions of the Sexual Offences Act declared unconstitutional!

17 January 2013

On 15 January 2013 the Pretoria High Court declared sections 15 and 16 of the Sexual Offences Act unconstitutional. This is a great victory for the constitutional rights of children, especially girl children. The Women’s Legal Center acted as a friend of the Court, together with the Tshwaranang Legal Advocacy Centre (TLAC), in order to emphasise to the court the discriminatory and disproportionate effects of these sections on girls between the ages of 12 and 15 in South Africa.

Before the judgment, sections 15 and 16 of the Sexual Offences Act made it a crime for children between the ages of 12 and 15 to engage in any and all conduct of a consensual, sexual nature – including hand-holding, cuddling, kissing, and other behaviors part of a normal adolescent sexual development. The court agreed that apart from creating strange anomalies, when read with other laws relating to children, these sections infringe a range of children’s constitutional rights, including equality, and are not rationally connected to the purpose the state claims it sought to achieve with these sections. The court found that the state had failed to provide any evidence that criminalising normal, consensual teenage sexual behavior would deter or regulate unhealthy sexual conduct by teens, or that such criminalisation would provide “protection” to children – a point that was conceded by the state in legal argument. The court found that exposing children to the criminal justice system would only result in trauma and stigmatisation, whereas what is required is open and frank discussion between children and adults about positive sexual behavior.

Sanja Bornman, attorney at the Women’s Legal Centre, says “These provisions were particularly harmful for girl children, as girls can bear a physical marker of sexual intercourse in the form of pregnancy, where boys do not. Girls would thus be ‘easy targets’ for prosecution under these misguided laws. Far from deterring risky sexual behavior, these sections would have promoted it by discouraging girls from reporting rape for fear that they might instead be charged with so-called ‘consensual sexual penetration/violation’.”

Acting Director at TLAC, Nicky Vienings, asserts “Should girls experience a defamatory and negative interaction with the legal system at an early age for an incidence which is deemed ‘unlawful/criminal’, but is in fact part of their natural development in sexual exploration, they would be less likely to report any incidences of sexual or domestic violence that may be perpetrated against them later in their lives. This not only puts them at risk, but also lends itself to girls experiencing deep psychological scarring from the discrimination they would experience from the state and quite possibly from the communities in which they live.”

“The Department of Justice has been reported as saying the judgment has far-reaching implications in the escalating rate of sexual violence among children under the age of 16 years. But this shows a fundamental misunderstanding of the issue. It is irrational to suggest that criminalising children’s normal consensual sexual behaviour will result in a decrease in child rape or sexual assault, which is covered by entirely different sections in the Sexual Offences Act.” concludes Bornman.

Issued by the Women’s Legal Centre.

For more information, contact:

Sanja Bornman (WLC): 083 522 2933

Nicky Vienings (TLAC): 011 403 4267

About the Women’s Legal Centre

The WLC is a non-profit, independently funded law Centre, started by a group of lawyers in Cape Town in 1999, with a vision to achieve equality for women in South Africa. The Centre has identified five strategic focus areas. These are: violence against women; fair access to resources in relationships; access to land/housing; access to fair labour practices; and access to health care (particularly reproductive health care).

The WLC has been at the forefront of legal reform in relation to women’s equality in South Africa since the Constitution came into effect, having won several precedent setting cases in the past.

The WLC is targeting socio-economic rights of women as an important area for advancement by litigation and advocacy, and will challenge the most unenviable forms of indirect discrimination that act to prevent women from achieving real equality.

In order to empower women through knowledge of their rights, the Centre also offers free legal advice to women. Women are assisted or referred to the relevant body, NGO or court for assistance.

About the Tshwaranang Legal Advocacy Centre

The Tshwaranang Legal Advocacy Centre to End Violence Against Women (TLAC) is a non-profit organisation that promotes and defends the rights of women to be free from violence and to have access to appropriate and adequate services. Our key activities include research and policy development, litigation and advocacy, training and public awareness.

The organisation was established in 1996 and in the same year its first Director, Joanne Fedler, became a member of the South African Law Reform Commission’s Project Committee which drafted the 1998 Domestic Violence Act. Since then the organisation has argued before the Constitutional Court and the Supreme Court of Appeal, as well as appeared before a number of parliamentary committees to present its research and law reform proposals. In 2011 Tshwaranang was accredited as a law clinic.

Lack of women judges a symptom of underlying inequality in our society – the WLC

 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Lack of women judges a symptom of underlying inequality in our society – the WLC

16 January 2013

The Women’s Legal Centre, a non-profit law centre that seeks to achieve equality for women, is greatly concerned that no women were nominated to be justices of the Constitutional Court Yesterday by the Judicial Service Commission (JSC).  None of the five shortlisted candidates for the constitutional court vacancy is a woman.

“It is of great concern that the highest court in the land falls far short of the provisions of Section 174 of the Constitution which envisions a judiciary that reflects the racial and gender composition of South Africa. The recent census showed that women are more than half of the population,” says Jennifer Williams, Director of the Women’s Legal Centre.

With 51.3% females in the country, having only two female justices in the highest court on constitutional matters, is inexcusable.

William says that the lack of women judges is a symptom of the underlying inequalities in our society which need to be taken into consideration and addressed from school level right up to the JSC.

Gender inequality is still one of the pressing issues in the country, and this action by the JSC shows just how much is still to be done.

“We note that Sonke and the Democratic Governance and Rights Unit (DGRU) have lodged a complaint with the Commission for Gender Equality (CGE), and support that process. However, this is a matter that should be addressed by the JSC, Department of Justice, professional bodies, Deans of Universities and the judiciary itself,” adds Williams.

“We call for an investigation into women in the judiciary and obstacles to their full participation, including the process of appointing acting judges, briefing patterns, the unofficial exclusion of academics and those not practicing or who haven’t acted, the nomination and appointment process, and the barriers that exist once in the judiciary,” concludes Williams.

 

Issued by the Women’s Legal Centre

For more information contact:

Jennifer Williams: 021 424 5660 / 078 803 3110

About the Women’s Legal Centre

The WLC is a non-profit, independently funded law Centre, started by a group of lawyers in Cape Town in 1999, with a vision to achieve equality for women in South Africa. The Centre has identified five strategic focus areas. These are: violence against women; fair access to resources in relationships; access to land/housing; access to fair labour practices; and access to health care (particularly reproductive health care).

The WLC has been at the forefront of legal reform in relation to women’s equality in South Africa since the Constitution came into effect, having won several precedent setting cases in the past.

The WLC is targeting socio-economic rights of women as an important area for advancement by litigation and advocacy, and will challenge the most unenviable forms of indirect discrimination that act to prevent women from achieving real equality.

In order to empower women through knowledge of their rights, the Centre also offers free legal advice to women. Women are assisted or referred to the relevant body, NGO or court for assistance.

 

Minister Sibusiso Ndebele’s stance that victims of crime should be at the centre of the correctional services system only the first step.

 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

07 Dec. 12

Several civil society organisations involved in a campaign for victim empowerment law have noted Minister Sibusiso Ndebele’s calls for victims to be at the centre of the correctional services system.  In an article on News24.com he is quoted as saying that victim offender dialogues would “put the victim back at the centre of the corrections system, as the victim is directly, and personally, affected by the criminal act of the offender."

Such dialogues are only one way of dealing with the impact of crime on the victim. A comprehensive holistic approach to improve access to justice and psycho-social services for victim of crime is required.

“Victimisation negatively impacts the physical, emotional, social and economic wellbeing of our society. Comprehensive services to reduce the negative impact of victimisation must urgently be provided to all victims of crime.” said Allison Tilley of Open Democracy Advice Centre.

Crimes against women and children are still high in South Africa and there is still no law in place that mandates support to victims. The most recent crime statistic show a total of 64 514 reported cases of sexual offences in the 2011/12 period, a bulk of these offences are against women and girls.

Education on victims’ rights is also necessary. The 2011 Victims of Crime survey revealed that 47% of households did not know where to take someone to access counselling services, and only 16.7 % knew where to take someone for shelter or a place of safety if they became victims of violent crime.

“We have been actively working towards government introducing victim empowerment legislation, and drafting is underway. We need to find innovative, cost effective ways of addressing the gaps in taking care of all victims of crime.” said Jennifer Williams of the Women’s Legal Centre.

“Crime affects all people in South Africa— individual victims, families, and communities—in direct and indirect ways. In this instance, the victims and their families need support, in order to break the cycle of violence.” concluded Tilley.

 

For more information call

Alison Tilley (ODAC): 071 671 8654 / 021 461 7211

###

 

MEDIA ALERT: BEWARE OF MISINFORMATION CAMPAIGN ON THE TRADITIONAL COURTS BILL

 

MEDIA ALERT: BEWARE OF MISINFORMATION CAMPAIGN ON THE TRADITIONAL COURTS BILL

 

To: News Editor and Political Reporters

 

On 29 November a report was compiled by the Government Communication and Information System (GCIS) titled "Controversial Traditional Courts Bill Withdrawn", written by Dennis Cruywagen.

The report erroneously states that “The controversial Traditional Courts Bill is to be withdrawn and will not be brought before Parliament any time soon. This was a unanimous decision taken at its last meeting of the year [28 November], by Parliament's Select Committee on Security and Constitutional Development.”

The latest ANC Today Newsletter also misreports that the Bill has been withdrawn.

Members of the Alliance for Rural Democracy were present at the Select Committee meeting, on 28 November, to which the false reports refer. We can confirm that the matter of the Bill’s withdrawal was neither discussed nor decided upon.

The Bill has not been withdrawn and is currently being debated by the provinces. The provincial mandates on the Bill are due to be debated by the Select Committee next year. That the Bill remains firmly on the agenda has also been confirmed by the Select Committee's Secretary.

“We can only imagine that the ANC is involved in a misinformation campaign aimed at misleading its own members in the run up to the ANC Conference in Mangaung. This underhanded move is precisely because rural people have consistently opposed this Bill”, says Sizani Ngubane of the Rural Women’s Movement, a member of the Alliance.

We call on the GCIS and the ANC to cease this misinformation campaign and issue the necessary corrections in regard to the status of the Bill.

 

Issued by the Alliance for Rural Democracy, 5 December 2012

For more information contact

Sizani Ngubane - Rural Women’s Movement: 073 8405151

Aninka Claassens - Law, Race and Gender Research Unit: 084 5102333

 

 

The Alliance for Rural Democracy (ARD) is a cross-section of civil society organisations sharing a common concern about the detrimental effects that the Traditional Courts Bill will have on the rural constituencies they serve and support.  The ARD includes the following organisations:  Association for Rural Advancement (AFRA); Centre for Human Rights, University of Pretoria; Community Law Centre, University of the Western Cape (CLC);Corruption Watch; Co-operative Policy Alternative Centre (COPAC); Council for the Advancement of the South African Constitution (CASAC);Democratic Governance and Rights Unit, University of Cape Town (DGRU); Embrace Dignity Campaign; Empilisweni AIDS Education and Training Centre; Greater Rape Intervention Programme (GRIP);Institute for Justice and Reconciliation (IJR);Justice and Women (JAW); Land Access Movement of South Africa (LAMOSA);Law Race and Gender Research Unit, University of Cape Town (LRG);  Lesbian and Gay Equality Project; Masimanyane Women’s Support Centre; Open Democracy Advice Centre (ODAC);Rural People’s Movement; Rural Women’s Movement; Rural Health Advocacy Project; Section 27; Sonke Gender Justice; South African Constitutional Literacy and Service Initiative (CLASI); Students for Law and Social Justice (SLSJ); Thohoyandou Victim Empowerment Project (TVEP);Treatment Action Campaign (TAC);Triangle Project; Tshwaranang Legal Advocacy Centre (TLAC); Unemployed People’s Movement; Women's Health Research Unit in the School of Public Health and Family Medicine, University of Cape Town; Women’s Legal Centre Trust. The Legal Resources Centre (LRC) acts as legal advisor to the Alliance.

 

The Women’s Legal Centre to host a symposium on Women, Law & Harmful Cultural Practices

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

 

The Women’s Legal Centre to host a symposium on Women, Law & Harmful Cultural Practices

15 November 2012

Building up to the upcoming 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence campaign, the Women’s Legal Centre (WLC) will be hosting a workshop discussion on Women, Law and Custom in Cape Town on Friday the 16th November 2012.

The workshop seeks to address harmful cultural practices against women, underage marriages, virginity testing, ukuthwala (a custom that includes abducting underage girls for marriage), abuse of lobola, and law reform in relation to these practices. The seminar will also explore the existing law and available remedies and how to use the law to deal with these obstacles.

It is often women and girls that are affected by these harmful cultural practices, and there are currently no laws that look at these cases. “Cultural practices such as Ukuthwala and virginity testing imply violence against women and girls, and this is an aspect of gender based violence that is often neglected”, says Jennifer Williams, Director of the WLC.

Nomboniso Gasa, a human rights and gender equality activist, will be presenting on the Traditional Courts Bill’s implications for women’s rights. Amanda Gouws, who has recently been appointed by President Jacob Zuma as a commissioner to the Commission for Gender Equality (CGE), will present on Harmful Cultural Practices against women and girls. And, Maite Modiba, a researcher with the South African Law Reform Commission (SALRC) working on harmful practices investigations, will present on law reform.

The workshop is supported by the Heinrich Boll Foundation.

 

The workshop will take place as follows:

Date: 16 November 2012

Time: 10:00 AM

Venue: Idasa - 6 Spin Street, Cape Town

For more information contact:

Jennifer Williams: 021 424 5660 / 078 803 3110

 

 

About the Women’s Legal Centre

The WLC is a non-profit, independently funded law Centre, started by a group of lawyers in Cape Town in 1999, with a vision to achieve equality for women in South Africa. The Centre has identified five strategic focus areas. These are: violence against women; fair access to resources in relationships; access to land/housing; access to fair labour practices; and access to health care (particularly reproductive health care).

The WLC has been at the forefront of legal reform in relation to women’s equality in South Africa since the Constitution came into effect, having won several precedent setting cases in the past.

The WLC is targeting socio-economic rights of women as an important area for advancement by litigation and advocacy, and will challenge the most unenviable forms of indirect discrimination that act to prevent women from achieving real equality.

In order to empower women through knowledge of their rights, the Centre also offers free legal advice to women. Women are assisted or referred to the relevant body, NGO or court for assistance.

 

About the Heinrich Böll Foundation

The Heinrich Böll Stiftung (HBS), associated with the German Green Party, is a legally autonomous and intellectually open political foundation.

Our foremost task is civic education in Germany and abroad with the aim of promoting informed democratic opinion, socio-political commitment and mutual understanding. In addition the Heinrich Böll Foundation supports artistic and cultural as well as scholarly projects, and co-operation in the development field. The political values of ecology, democracy, gender democracy, solidarity and non-violence are our chief points of reference. Heinrich Böll’s belief in and promotion of citizen participation in politics is the model for the foundation’s work.

http://www.za.boell.org

Sydney: International Conference Delegates Urge NSW to Maintain Decriminalisation of Sex Work.

For Immediate Release

Sydney: International Conference Delegates Urge NSW to Maintain

Decriminalisation of Sex Work.

Experts from a dozen countries, are meeting in Sydney to learn of the gains since decriminalisation of sex work in NSW in 1995, are dismayed at the massive threat to the world-leading law. Open Society Foundations, Scarlet Alliance and Sex Worker Outreach Project have attracted nearly 50 sex workers, community leaders, human rights activists, advocates and politicians from Africa, Asia Pacific, North America and Europe in a four day event planned to take the best of NSWs model to the world. The meeting has collectively expressed its shock that the NSW government would think of removing decriminalisation of sex work through a sex industry law review process. The delegates were unanimous in their call to NSW Government to maintain its world leading and highly successful decriminalisation of sex work approach.

The delegates spoke of the abuses against sex workers in their home countries, much of it at the hands of the police. “Sex workers have been saying for years: 'Decriminalisation is the best form of regulation for sex workers.' Decriminalisation has delivered successful health outcomes and removed corruption from the sex industry in NSW. But the Liberal government are proposing a return to the bad old days,“ Janelle Fawkes CEO of Scarlet Alliance, Australian Sex Workers Association, said today. “Delegates from eleven countries have now come to Sydney to learn about how they can decriminalise sex work in their countries.”

Executive Director of SWOP NSW, Kylie Tattersall apologised to the international guests, “It is a great shame that delegates have travelled from 11 countries hoping to learn from the great gains of decriminalisation in the NSW sex industry, and to have to tell them the government are talking about taking decriminalisation away. It has been disappointing to campaigners who had looked to NSW as a hope for sex work in their own countries.” “In Canada we are in court fighting for decriminalisation and we have come to Sydney to learn from the NSW experience.” said the Canadian sex worker delegates.

Currently the only jurisdictions with decriminalised sex work are NZ and NSW. Both have been praised in relation to their sex work legislation internationally, including in the recent UN report into Sex work, HIV and the Law. Moving away from punitive laws that criminalise sex work has been a characteristic of sex work law reform in Commonwealth Countries in the last 40 years. All states in Australia have considered decriminalisation, with ACT and Tasmania adopting large swathes of the approach. South Australia is also looking closely at such laws.

Decriminalisation means the removal of criminal laws, including police regulation of sex work. Sex work is then regulated like any other business through local councils, planning laws, OH&S guidelines, Workcover NSW and the ATO. Sex workers can access police in the event of a crime without fear of arrest or harassment. “It was great to see how the police can work with sex workers as opposed to being perpetrators of abuse, as we have seen in South Africa.” Stacey-Leigh Manoek, Women’s Legal Centre, South Africa.

For interview please call:

Janelle Fawkes, CEO and Media Spokesperson for Scarlet Alliance, Australian Sex Workers

Association, 0411 985 135

SEE NEXT PAGE for Quotes

 

For Immediate Release

Sydney: International Conference Delegates Urge NSW to Maintain Decriminalisation of Sex Work.

“Our Commonwealth countries adopted colonial laws, and sex workers in Commonwealth countries are united in trying to overturn them. We have achieved that to a degree in NSW and NZ. These Commonwealth jurisdictions are leading the world with some of the best law reform.” Catherine Healy from New Zealand Prostitutes Collective said today. “Decriminalisation is a living example of the solution not the problem” agreed Anna Pickering, NZPC

Support also came from the country where most of the Commonwealth laws originated: Niki Adams a spokesperson from the English Collective of Prostitutes said today “As one of the longest standing sex worker organisations campaigning on decriminalisation since 1975 we call on the NSW government to maintain decriminalisation.”

"The meeting is taking place a month after the joint meeting of Commonwealth Ministers  of Foreign Affairs adopted a recommendation that calls on heads of governments to undertake steps to repeal all discriminatory laws that hamper effective HIV response. Repeal of discriminatorily laws is the best way to fight the HIV epidemic." stated Olga Szubert from the International HIV/AIDS Alliance.

“As Scotland prepares itself to host the Commonwealth Games 2014, we urge members of Scottish Parliament to consider the benefits and protections associated with decriminalisation.” Luca Stevenson, founder of Sex Worker Open University said today.  “Legislative frameworks, such as the Swedish model which criminalise our clients, fail to protect us.”

Other countries spoke of the human rights and public health issues they experience as a result of criminalization of sex work. What they had in common was they were all fighting for decriminalisation and had looked to NSW and New Zealand as beacons of hope.

"NSW is an example to the World" stated Duduzile Dlamini, a sex worker activist from the Sisonke Movement today. "We came to NSW to experience decriminalisation, something we are calling for in our country."

"In India the sex worker community is strengthened, empowered and collectivised to access our human rights, but we are not able to stop the raids and violations by police or government.” Minakshi Kamble from VAMP Sangli, India said today. “We hope India will adopt this model and protect our human rights."

“Decriminalisation is a win-win situation for everybody" Maria Stacey from SWEAT, South Africa urged the conference. “It has the best possible outcomes for all parties, including sex workers, the broader community, and government.”

Australian sex workers will continue to campaign to maintain decriminalisation in New South Wales, and have similar laws introduced across the country.

“Decriminalisation means I can own my own home” Cameron Cox, a NSW sex worker said today.

“Decriminalisation allows me to feel a part of society.”

"South Australian sex workers have long been envious of decriminalisation, and are and are working towards gaining such laws in our state.” Tarkwin Coles, from Sex Workers Action SWAGGERR in Adelaide concluded today. “We are shocked that NSW would consider abandoning human rights in favour of a legislative system with no benefits"

For interview please call:

Janelle Fawkes, CEO and Media Spokesperson for Scarlet Alliance, Australian Sex Workers Association,

0411 985 135

Traditional Courts Bill: Zuma’s doublespeak - the President concedes Bill is flawed but attacks those opposed to it

President Jacob Zuma on Thursday acknowledged to the National House of Traditional Leaders that the Traditional Courts Bill is flawed because, among others, it balkanises black rural people according to the tribal boundaries of the defunct Bantustans.

The President’s concession that the current Bill cannot be passed is a great victory for the rural people who travelled far, and at times under difficult and dangerous circumstances, to voice their opposition to the Bill. This victory is particularly significant hot on the heels of the Select Committee of the National Council of Province’s attempt to eliminate the overwhelmingly negative public submissions on the Bill from being considered in the parliamentary process.

Regrettably, President Zuma undermined the principle of separation of powers, and the Constitution itself, when he launched an attack on those who participated in the hearings.

He accused the detractors of the Bill of saying they are merely “dealing with cold facts. They will never tell you that these cold facts have warm bodies”.

If President Zuma was at the public hearings, he would have noticed the many ‘warm bodies’ testifying to the abuses of some unaccountable traditional leaders. Given the consistent disdain with which Parliament has treated the many South Africans who reject this Bantustan Bill, the President’s accusation is outrageous.

President Zuma reportedly painted the detractors of the Bill as “Africans most eloquent in criticising their cultural background”. In fact, ironically, opposition to the Bill stems from its distortion of living customary law which is about participation and accountability.

President Zuma’s reference to “Africans and the ‘white law’” is a cheap shot to silence those who oppose the Bill. However, a fundamental question must be asked, is the President saying the Constitution is white law? And, if so, what does this say about that the many black rural opponents of the Bill?

Yesterday, the Presidency accused the media of sensationalising Zuma’s utterances and misleading the public. In fact, it is the deeply flawed legislative process and the President’s doublespeak about the Bill that aim to mislead and silence a broad public that has rejected this Bill since 2008.

Given the procedural flaws and the fundamental problems with the Bill, the Alliance for Rural Democracy reiterates that it must be withdrawn. No measure of tinkering will make this Bill pass the constitutional test.

 

Released on 3 November 2012

Released by the Alliance for Rural Democracy

For more information contact:

Nomboniso Gasa: 083 451 9321 or 083 7791435

Wilmien Wicomb: 078 9208366

 

The Alliance for Rural Democracy (ARD) is a cross-section of civil society organisations sharing a common concern about the detrimental effects that the Traditional Courts Bill will have on the rural constituencies they serve and support.  The ARD includes the following organisations:  Association for Rural Advancement (AFRA); Centre for Human Rights, University of Pretoria; Community Law Centre, University of the Western Cape (CLC);Corruption Watch; Co-operative Policy Alternative Centre (COPAC); Council for the Advancement of the South African Constitution (CASAC);Democratic Governance and Rights Unit, University of Cape Town (DGRU); Embrace Dignity Campaign; Empilisweni AIDS Education and Training Centre; Greater Rape Intervention Programme (GRIP);Institute for Justice and Reconciliation (IJR);Justice and Women (JAW); Land Access Movement of South Africa (LAMOSA);Law Race and Gender Research Unit, University of Cape Town (LRG); Rural Health Advocacy Project  Lesbian and Gay Equality Project; Masimanyane Women’s Support Centre; Open Democracy Advice Centre (ODAC);Rural People’s Movement; Rural Women’s Movement; Section 27; Sonke Gender Justice; South African Constitutional Literacy and Service Initiative (CLASI); Students for Law and Social Justice (SLSJ); Thohoyandou Victim Empowerment Project (TVEP);Treatment Action Campaign (TAC);Triangle Project; Tshwaranang Legal Advocacy Centre (TLAC); Unemployed People’s Movement; Women's Health Research Unit in the School of Public Health and Family Medicine, University of Cape Town; Women’s Legal Centre Trust. The Legal Resources Centre (LRC) acts as legal advisor to the Alliance.

Civil society calls on Government to enact Victim Empowerment Act

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

Civil society calls on Government to enact Victim Empowerment Act

31 October 2012

The Open Democracy Advice Centre (ODAC), Women’s Legal Centre (WLC) and the Rape Crisis Cape Town Trust are hosting a Victim Empowerment meeting today with the aim of persuading the South African government to enact Victim Empowerment Legislation.

A study, done by the three organisations in consultation with sector stakeholders, assessed the cost-benefit propositions of services to victims of crime, and proposed a strategy to encourage support of government and parliamentary stakeholders to adopt such an Act.

“One of the major problems encountered by the different governmental departments working on victim empowerment is that victims-related legislative and policy provisions are scattered in a range of different legislations and policy documents,” said  Kathleen Dey of the Rape Crisis Cape Town Trust.

“At present, there is no comprehensive legislation that specifically targets and addresses the specific needs of victims of crime,” added Alison Tilley of ODAC, “the existence of a single or explicit line budget for implementation of victim-related services as an effective mechanism for coordination support to victims of crime also doesn’t exist.”

There is a serious problem with crime, and not enough is being done to change this. “It is mostly women who suffer because of the failings in our criminal justice system,” said Jennifer Williams of the WLC, “the Women’s Legal Centre is keen on having an enforcement mechanism put in place. We are calling for a strong response to change the current situation of victims of crime.”

Tsholo Moloi of the National Department of Social Development will give an update on the Victim Empowerment Legislation at the meeting.

Details of the meeting:

Date: 31 October 2012

Venue:    Townhouse Hotel, Cape Town

Time:       09:30 -16:30

 

The Victim Empowerment Programme is an endeavour drafted in 1999, aimed to provide support and ease of access to justice for victims of crime.

For more information contact:

Jennifer Williams (WLC): 078 803 3110

Alison Tilley (ODAC): 071 671 8654

#ENDS

PRESS RELEASE: Traditional Courts Bill: Committee Chairperson compromises Parliament’s integrity. Civil society calls for his status to be reviewed

 

Released by the Alliance for Rural Democracy

Today many South Africans expected the National Council of Province’s Select Committee on Security and Constitutional Development to finally deliberate on the Traditional Courts Bill following the public hearings.  This is what the Committee Chairperson, Mr. Tjetha Mofokeng, indicated would be done when the consultations were concluded in September.  However, Mr. Mofokeng’s actions today have done serious damage, not only to the potential validity of whatever Bill is eventually rammed through Parliament, but also to the integrity of Parliament itself.

The stated purpose of today’s Committee meeting was to table its report of the public hearings. This did not happen. Instead, the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development (DOJ), on the invitation of the Committee Chairperson, presented its summary of the public hearings.  The DOJ document only referred to two of the many submissions that were made at the public hearings in September.  They were the submissions of the Department of Women, Children and People with Disabilities, and the South African Human Rights Commission.

The DOJ appears hell-bent on pushing this Bill through, even if it means being party to manipulation of the legislative process and undermining the rules of Parliament. If this was not the case, the DOJ would certainly have declined Mr. Mofokeng’s invitation, as this is no part of its function, and places the DOJ in a compromised position.  Yet, instead, the DOJ seized the opportunity to reassert its own amendments to the Bill under the pretext of presenting a summary report of the submissions made by the public.

In a shocking move that flagrantly negates the participation of the public in the legislative process, Mr. Mofokeng stated that twenty of the twenty-two submissions the Committee had heard in Parliament were “irrelevant”. So irrelevant, in fact, that he instructed the DOJ to “disregard” them in preparing its summary of the recent public hearings. In Mr. Mofokeng’s view it is unnecessary for the Committee to note, let alone debate, the views of the many rural people who traveled to Parliament to make submissions opposing the Bill.

In response, some Committee members asked Mofokeng for clarity on the process, and for the summary of the hearings that is normally prepared by parliamentary researchers. They also queried why only two of the many submissions the Committee had heard were under discussion.

In response, Mr. Mofokeng dropped his bombshell: that he had personally instructed the DOJ to write the report, and that it was he, not the Committee, who had decided it was unnecessary to include any of the other submissions.

In reaction, one member pointed out that any account of the public hearings that fails to reflect the overwhelming opposition to the Bill presented to Parliament, would be inaccurate and could not qualify as a summary report of the process.  Others members said that the accounts of abuse of power by traditional leaders described in submission after submission were deeply relevant, given that the Bill would exacerbate such realities and further restrict people’s ability to hold chiefs to account.

The Chairperson’s actions and attitudes toward the public hearings on the Bill are deeply insulting to the many rural people who traveled from afar to come to Parliament and put forward their views on the Bill. They proclaim that the public needn’t have bothered to make submissions as their views don’t even qualify to be part of the official record, let alone to be debated and considered by the Committee and provincial legislatures.

In May this year, under Mr. Mofokeng’s leadership, the Committee decided not to debate the provincial mandates on the Bill, many of which had rejected it. Instead it opted for yet another round of public hearings. Now that these further hearings have taken place – and overwhelming opposition to the Bill was voiced – Mr. Mofokeng has resorted to attempting to expunge these submissions from the public record and the legislative process itself.

The Constitutional Court has previously struck down laws on the basis that the legislative process did not adequately facilitate public participation.   Section 72 of the Constitution specifically enjoins the NCOP to facilitate public involvement in law making.  Human dignity, accountability, responsiveness and openness are founding principles of our Constitution, principles which Mr. Mofokeng’s leadership directly undermines.

Mr. Mofokeng was brazen in his approach today. What does that signal?  It implies that he has the backing not just of the DOJ, but also of the Chairperson of the NCOP and the Speaker of the National Assembly. The time has come for these authorities to either distance themselves from Mofokeng’s approach, or to endorse it.

We, as the Alliance for Rural Democracy, call on the Chairperson of the NCOP and the Speaker of the National Assembly to indicate whether they consider Mr. Mofokeng’s actions to be consistent with his Oath of Office as a Member of Parliament – an oath to uphold the Constitution. Do they consider him a suitable person to oversee the legislative process of this Bill going forward?

If, as the Alliance believes, Mr. Mofokeng has failed in his duty, then Parliament should review his status as both Chairperson of the Select Committee and as a Member of Parliament itself.

--ends--

Released on 24 October 2012

For more information contact:

Sizani Ngubane: 073 8405151

Nomboniso Gasa: 083 451 9321 or 083 7791435

Wilmien Wicomb: 078 9208366

 

The Alliance for Rural Democracy (ARD) is a cross-section of civil society organisations sharing a common concern about the detrimental effects that the Traditional Courts Bill will have on the rural constituencies they serve and support.  The ARD includes the following organisations:  Association for Rural Advancement (AFRA); Centre for Human Rights, University of Pretoria; Community Law Centre, University of the Western Cape (CLC);Corruption Watch; Co-operative Policy Alternative Centre (COPAC); Council for the Advancement of the South African Constitution (CASAC);Democratic Governance and Rights Unit, University of Cape Town (DGRU); Embrace Dignity Campaign; Empilisweni AIDS Education and Training Centre; Greater Rape Intervention Programme (GRIP);Institute for Justice and Reconciliation (IJR);Justice and Women (JAW); Land Access Movement of South Africa (LAMOSA);Law Race and Gender Research Unit, University of Cape Town (LRG);  Lesbian and Gay Equality Project; Masimanyane Women’s Support Centre; Open Democracy Advice Centre (ODAC);Rural People’s Movement; Rural Women’s Movement; Section 27; Sonke Gender Justice; South African Constitutional Literacy and Service Initiative (CLASI); Students for Law and Social Justice (SLSJ); Thohoyandou Victim Empowerment Project (TVEP);Treatment Action Campaign (TAC);Triangle Project; Tshwaranang Legal Advocacy Centre (TLAC); Unemployed People’s Movement; Women's Health Research Unit in the School of Public Health and Family Medicine, University of Cape Town; Women’s Legal Centre Trust. The Legal Resources Centre (LRC) acts as legal advisor to the Alliance.

 

The low convictions rate of sexual offences cases disappointing - The Women’s Legal Centre

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

The low convictions rate of sexual offences cases disappointing - The Women’s Legal Centre

-Concern over systematic failure in the criminal justice system-

22 October 12

The Women’s Legal Centre is disappointed with the low number of finalised sexual offences cases in the 2011/12 financial year, as revealed by the National Prosecution Authority’s (NPA) annual report.

According to the statistics recently released by the South African Police Service (SAPS), 66 196 incidents of sexual offences were reported between 2010 and 2011. Yet, only 4 501 of these cases resulted in a conviction.

“The laws in place are reasonably good and attempts have been made to create a legal framework which addresses violence against women. The difficulty is with the implementation of the law,” says Jennifer Williams, Director of the Women’s Legal Centre.

“The Women’s Legal Centre has for a long time been concerned about the low levels of reporting rape and the low conviction rate in sexual offences; we attribute this to systemic failure in the criminal justice system,” says Williams.

“The failings in the criminal justice system result in women not reporting cases; inordinate delays in the prosecution of trials and retraumatisation of women survivors, which impacts on their ability to be good witnesses,” says Williams. “This, in turn, puts women off reporting rape and where they do, reduces the chances of securing a conviction.”

A household survey by the Department of Health shows that only 15% of rape survivors between ages 15 and 49 years reported the offence to the police. This sees the conviction rate dropping to below 1% when calculated on the actual number of incidents of sexual offences.

The WLC, a non-profit law centre with the interest of advancing women’s rights in South Africa, has handled 103 queries relating to sexual offences and gender based violence between January and August 2012. “Women’s experiences of the criminal justice system reveal a lived reality that is far from that envisaged by the legal framework.” says Williams.

 

About the Women’s Legal Centre

The WLC is a non-profit, independently funded law Centre, started by a group of lawyers in Cape Town in 1999, with a vision to achieve equality for women in South Africa. The Centre has identified five strategic focus areas. These are: violence against women; fair access to resources in relationships; access to land/housing; access to fair labour practices; and access to health care (particularly reproductive health care).

The WLC has been at the forefront of legal reform in relation to women’s equality in South Africa since the Constitution came into effect, having won several precedent setting cases in the past.

The WLC is targeting socio-economic rights of women as an important area for advancement by litigation and advocacy, and will challenge the most unenviable forms of indirect discrimination that act to prevent women from achieving real equality.

In order to empower women through knowledge of their rights, the Centre also offers free legal advice to women. Women are assisted or referred to the relevant body, NGO or court for assistance.

 

For more information contact:

Gcobisa Silwana

Communications & Media Liaison Officer

7th Floor Constitution House,

124 Adderley Street,

Cape Town

Telephone: 021 4245660

Mobile:        076 8111 832

 

###

D-day for the Traditional Courts Bill, but will Parliament listen?

D-day for the Traditional Courts Bill, but will Parliament listen?

Released by the Alliance for Rural Democracy

 

The day many rural South Africans have waited for is finally upon us. On 24 October the National Council of Province’s Select Committee on Security and Constitutional Development will discuss the public’s response to the Traditional Courts Bill.

Will the Committee listen to the voices of the people who made submissions during the provincial hearings that took place in April and May? Will they finally consider the negotiating mandates of the provincial legislatures, four of which rejected the Bill outright and three proposed conflicting amendments?

Will the Committee take seriously the harrowing experiences that rural communities shared with them at the national hearings in September?

“The ball is now in the Committee’s court. We will be watching closely to see if the legislature listens to what we have said about this Bill, and how it is a setback for democracy and justice in the rural areas,” says Connie Lamosa from the Land Access Movement of South Africa.

Minister Radebe and Minister Xingwana hold opposing views on the Bill. On 24 October the public will finally hear where the Committee itself stands on the matter.

 

The legislative process to date has followed a peculiar trajectory. Instead of debating the provincial mandates immediately, the Committee opted to hold yet more public hearings. These turned out just as damning of the Bill as the previous two rounds of public hearings (both in 2008 and earlier this year in the provinces).

 

The Department of Justice has finally admitted that the Bill is fatally flawed and that it cannot pass constitutional muster as it is. However, instead of withdrawing the Bill and tabling a new version, the Department made a lengthy submission to the Committee proposing substantial changes, including changing the name of the Bill. This appears to be an attempt at directing the committee by remote control, putting the onus on Parliament to redraft and fix the mess created by the Department’s intransigence since 2008. This has compromised the validity of the legislative process and places the Committee in an awkward position. After all, it is Parliament and not the Department that will take the fall when the legislative process is challenged, as it surely will be.

“The Committee’s job is not to follow the lead of government ministers, but to debate both the content of the submissions received from the public, and the mandates put forward by the provinces,” says Aninka Claassens of the University of Cape Town’s Law, Race and Gender Unit.

As the Alliance and many others have repeatedly stated, the Bill is not about customary law as some argue. It is about bolstering the power of some traditional leaders to act autocratically.  Only leaders who do not enjoy legitimacy and support need laws like this to prop up their disputed authority. The public hearings exposed that there are many such chiefs, and that abuse of power and lack of accountability is widespread. Those who summoned the courage to speak out publicly at the hearings did so in the belief that the legislative process will protect them and be influenced by their submissions.

Sizani Ngubane, founder of the Rural Women’s movement, says that “women living in the rural areas went to Parliament, like we did back in 2008, to say that this Bill must be stopped. We told the lawmakers that our rights as women must be taken into account and supported by the law. This Bill does the opposite - it threatens the rights we have gained.”

People invested time and courage to travel to the provincial hearings and to Cape Town for the national hearings to put their submissions to the Committee. They did so in the confidence that their views would be taken seriously. The did so in the hope that once Parliament was informed of the challenges they face, it would take steps to ensure that that a new Bill is developed  - one based on proper consultation and taking customary law, not chiefly power, as its starting point.

“We expect the Committee not to sacrifice rural people and constitutional democracy at the altar of political expediency,” say Nomboniso Gasa from the Council for the Advancement of the South African Constitution.

The Alliance’s reiterates its positions on the Bill:

 

It creates a second-class justice system for 18 million South Africans that live in the former Bantustans, and is in contradiction with the Constitutional principle of one law for one nation.

It re-imposes apartheid’s tribal identities and authority structures on rural people without their choice, and therefore denies people the right to determine their own cultural identity and customary affiliation.

Forcing tribal identities and chiefs onto people contradicts the underlying nature of customary law, which is based on consensual affiliation and free choice.

It fails to promote women’s equality and address the ongoing abuse and prejudice women face in customary contexts. It also excludes women from equally contributing to the development of customary law in ways that reflect their concerns.

It was drafted in a top-down manner and without adequate consultation with rural people, particularly women.

It is unconstitutional and should be immediately withdrawn. New legislation needs to be drafted that takes as its starting point Constitutional principles, as well as the rights of ordinary rural people to participate in the formulation of laws that affect them.

 

For more information contact:

Nomboniso Gasa: 083 451 9321 or 083 7791435

Sizani Ngubane: 073 8405151

Mbuyiselo Botha: 082 5181177

 

The Alliance for Rural Democracy (ARD) is a cross-section of civil society organisations sharing a common concern about the detrimental effects that the Traditional Courts Bill will have on the rural constituencies they serve and support.  The ARD includes the following organisations:  Association for Rural Advancement (AFRA); Centre for Human Rights, University of Pretoria; Community Law Centre, University of the Western Cape (CLC);Corruption Watch; Co-operative Policy Alternative Centre (COPAC); Council for the Advancement of the South African Constitution (CASAC);Democratic Governance and Rights Unit, University of Cape Town (DGRU); Embrace Dignity Campaign; Empilisweni AIDS Education and Training Centre; Greater Rape Intervention Programme (GRIP);Institute for Justice and Reconciliation (IJR);Justice and Women (JAW); Land Access Movement of South Africa (LAMOSA);Law Race and Gender Research Unit, University of Cape Town (LRG);  Lesbian and Gay Equality Project; Masimanyane Women’s Support Centre; Open Democracy Advice Centre (ODAC);Rural People’s Movement; Rural Women’s Movement; Section 27; Sonke Gender Justice; South African Constitutional Literacy and Service Initiative (CLASI); Students for Law and Social Justice (SLSJ); Thohoyandou Victim Empowerment Project (TVEP);Treatment Action Campaign (TAC);Triangle Project; Tshwaranang Legal Advocacy Centre (TLAC); Unemployed People’s Movement; Women's Health Research Unit in the School of Public Health and Family Medicine, University of Cape Town; Women’s Legal Centre Trust. The Legal Resources Centre (LRC) acts as legal advisor to the Alliance.

 

 

NGOs watch closely as budget for social welfare service funding is reviewed by the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Social Development

NGOs watch closely as budget for social welfare service funding is reviewed by the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Social Development

 

A group of 19 NGOs have called on the Portfolio Committee on Social Development (National Assembly) to require a review of the situational analysis on which Departmental plans are based to more accurately reflect the volumes of service beneficiaries, for a review of the financing model applied by the Department for funding these services and for an adjustment in the 2013/2014 budget accordingly.

Many organisations providing welfare services on behalf of government have already used up what cash reserves they may have had, many have been forced to implement devastating retrenchments and many have closed. “We believe that this is having a significant impact on the services available to poor and vulnerable communities at a time of increasing strain on the social fabric. Organisations still active report an ever increasing need for the services they provide with levels of violence, substance abuse and HIV infection continuing to rise”, said Kathleen Dey, Director of the Rape Crisis Cape Town Trust.

“Government has decreased its spending to NGOs in the welfare sector. Donors from the global North have reduced their spending in South Africa with the impact of the global recession and the classification of South Africa as a middle income country. Funding from the National Lotteries Board has become very variable and unpredictable. Local corporate social investment is doing its best to take up the shortfall but its capacity to support the non profit sector is dependent on its earnings, which is dependent on the economy.” said Dey.

“In the Annual Financial Statement of the Department as audited by the Auditor General for the year ending 31 March 2012 the Department did not request an amount of R282 million in respect of the social grants budget due to projected under spending by the South African Social Security Agency (SASSA). In the context of this surplus as well as the deteriorating economic circumstances, underfunding of welfare services is not acceptable. It is contrary to the requirement of the Constitution that social and economic rights be implemented progressively in the context of available resources.  Furthermore South Africa has obligations to international and regional treaties to uphold, such as CEDAW and the African Protocol. On this basis we believe that the Department is justified in lobbying the National Treasury for a significantly larger budget allocation in the next period 2013/2014.” she concluded.

On Wednesday 17 October 2012 the Portfolio Committee on Social Development (National Assembly) conduct their first deliberations and drafting of proposed recommendations to be effected to the Budgetary Review and Recommendations Report (BRRR) as well as their review of the Annual Report in Parliamentary Committee Room V226, Second Floor, Old Assembly Building, Plein Street, Cape Town from 10h00.

 

For more information contact Kathleen Dey, Director of the Rape Crisis Cape Town Trust (RCCTT) on (021) 447-1467.

Civil society organisations applaud Minister Xingwana's stance that the TCB is unconstitutional

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

The Alliance for Rural Democracy applauds Minister Xingwana’s submission to the National Council of Provinces (NCOP) today. The Minister stated, in no uncertain terms, that the Traditional Courts Bill (Bill) is unconstitutional in its current form.

We welcome her plea to the NCOP, to not rush the passing of this Bill and to further consult rural communities - particularly women –  as well as other marginalised groups such as gays and lesbians, people with disabilities, and children.

Throughout the public hearings all the submissions from civil society organisations have called for the Bill to be scrapped.

Community members present in Parliament, speaking from their own lived experiences, have highlighted the implications of giving more powers to traditional leaders.

Thabo Manyathi, from the Association for Rural Advancement (AFRA), says that “Since 1979 we have fought against forced removals. Our struggle continues today as we still live with this apartheid legacy, which the Bill will entrench.  The Bill is unconstitutional and we urge members of Parliament to consult the people, and think through how this law will impact on our lives.”

William Mnyande from AFRA says, “Politicians don’t listen to people’s experiences. Their hubris is costly to ordinary people. They can go ahead and ignore us, but they do so at their own peril”.

“Chief Mhinga detained people for days and nights in a cement store room. Is this traditional justice? This Bill will only strengthen the power of these brutal chiefs”, says Lamson Maluleke, of the Makhuleke community. This is just one example of the contested chieftaincies and related abuses of power that exist across the country.

Recently, traditional leaders have made several calls that are unconstitutional.  Amongst these are discriminatory statements against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people (LGBTI) people by some of the members of the National House of Traditional Leaders.  Funeka Soldaat from Freegender says that, “As black lesbians we have heard traditional leaders speak about us in derogatory a manner. Chief Ndevu was on national television and called us Satanists, and this is happening even before the Bill has been passed. What will happen when traditional leaders have more powers?”.

We also welcome the voices of other powerful women, such as Cheryl Carolus and Thandi Orleyn from Peotona, who made a submission calling for the scrapping of the Bill its entirety. We agree with Orleyn’s reading that the Bill is a “cut and paste job, and a bad one at that”.

The Alliance for Democracy urges the NCOP to listen to the voices of the many people who reject this Bill, and who have come from across the country to make themselves heard.

We agree with Minister Xingwana’s assertion that Parliament must not pass this Bill as it will only replace apartheid legislation with another law that is equally discriminatory.

The public hearings on the Bill continue tomorrow.

 

END

20 September 2012

For more information contact:

·        Nomboniso Gasa: 083 451 9321 or 083 7791435

 

·        Sizani Ngubane: 073 8405151

 

·        Mbuyiselo Botha: 082 5181177

The Alliance for Rural Democracy (ARD) is a cross-section of civil society organisations sharing a common concern about the detrimental effects that the Traditional Courts Bill will have on the rural constituencies they serve and support.  The ARD includes the following organisations:  Association for Rural Advancement (AFRA); Centre for Human Rights, University of Pretoria; Community Law Centre, University of the Western Cape (CLC);Corruption Watch; Co-operative Policy Alternative Centre (COPAC); Council for the Advancement of the South African Constitution (CASAC);Democratic Governance and Rights Unit, University of Cape Town (DGRU); Embrace Dignity Campaign; Empilisweni AIDS Education and Training Centre; Greater Rape Intervention Programme (GRIP);Institute for Justice and Reconciliation (IJR);Justice and Women (JAW); Land Access Movement of South Africa (LAMOSA);Law Race and Gender Research Unit, University of Cape Town (LRG);  Lesbian and Gay Equality Project; Masimanyane Women’s Support Centre; Open Democracy Advice Centre (ODAC);Rural People’s Movement; Rural Women’s Movement; Section 27; Sonke Gender Justice; South African Constitutional Literacy and Service Initiative (CLASI); Students for Law and Social Justice (SLSJ); Thohoyandou Victim Empowerment Project (TVEP);Treatment Action Campaign (TAC);Triangle Project; Tshwaranang Legal Advocacy Centre (TLAC); Unemployed People’s Movement; Women's Health Research Unit in the School of Public Health and Family Medicine, University of Cape Town; Women’s Legal Centre Trust. The Legal Resources Centre (LRC) acts as legal advisor to the Alliance.

 

Civil Society Organisations question Minister Radebe’s manoeuvres on Traditional Courts Bill at Women’s Parliament

2 September

The Alliance for Rural Democracy is perplexed that the final resolution on the Traditional Courts Bill of the Women's Parliament, held on 30-31 August, fails to support the withdrawal of the Bill.

Rural women have long implored Parliament to scrap the Bill and start again on a clean footing, however, women parliamentarians have ignored these voices and rejected that plea. Instead, these leaders have thrown their weight behind Minister Jeff Radebe's position that the Bill should be retained and amended.  This is despite overwhelming opposition to the Bill from Women’s Parliament delegates.

Minister Radebe's stated rationale is that keeping the current Bill and continuing with the parliamentary process would ensure that redrafting takes place “in the public eye” and not in “dark corners”. Does the Minister think that women are unaware of the redrafts that are circulating everywhere except in Parliament? The Department of Justice and Constitutional Development has put forward a document with ‘revised policy options’ as the basis for amending the current Bill.  These options fall woefully short of addressing the problems that the document itself acknowledges, illustrating that nothing short of a new process can fix the underlying problems with the Bill.

It is clear that Minister Radebe can rely on powerful allies in the Women's Parliament to ensure that his position on the Bill is asserted and to deflect attention away from the failures of the Bill.  Another blatant contradiction on the part of Minister Radebe is to acknowledge that the Bill is seriously flawed (which the Minister has done), yet to insist that it be retained.  The Minister obviously knows that amendments serious enough to fix the current problems would fundamentally change the nature of the Bill.

Minister Radebe's position, which the Women’s Parliament has unfortunately and possibly unintentionally reinforced, will result in one of two outcomes: Either only superficial changes will be made to the current Bill, or the legislative process will be fatally flawed.  In either case, the resultant law is unlikely to withstand Constitutional scrutiny.  There is general agreement that the two most fundamental problems are the Bill’s impact on women and its resuscitation of apartheid tribal boundaries, as domains of autocratic chiefly power.  The Bill puts at risk hard-won advances made by rural women since 1994, and establishes a separate and unequal legal regime for the 18 million people living in the former Bantustans.  In effect, it reintroduces the divided citizenship of the apartheid era.

Government is clearly intent on wooing traditional leaders at the expense of rural citizens in the run up to the ANC’s national conference in Mangaung at year-end.  What traditional leaders need to know is that Minister Radebe's position cannot produce a law that will stick.

 

--ends--

For more information contact:

 

Nolundi Luwaya -  083 451 9321 or 083 7791435

Mbuyiselo Botha – 082 5181177

Aninka Claassens - 084 5102333

 

The Alliance for Rural Democracy (ARD) is a cross-section of civil society organisations sharing a common concern about the detrimental effects that the Traditional Courts TCB will have on the rural constituencies they serve and support. The ARD includes the following organisations: Community Law Centre, University of the Western Cape (CLC); Corruption Watch; Co-operative Policy Alternative Centre (COPAC); Council for the Advancement of the South African Constitution (CASAC);Democratic Governance and Rights Unit, University of Cape Town (DGRU); Embrace Dignity Campaign; Empilisweni AIDS Education and Training Centre; Institute for Justice and Reconciliation (IJR); Law, Race and Gender Research Unit, University of Cape Town (LRG); Lesbian and Gay Equality Project (LGEP); Masimanyane Women’s Support Centre; Open Democracy Advice Centre (ODAC); Peddie Women’s Support Centre; Rural People’s Movement; Rural Women’s Movement; Section 27; Sonke Gender Justice; Students for Law and Social Justice (SLSJ); Treatment Action Campaign (TAC); Triangle Project; Tshwaranang Legal Advocacy Centre; Unemployed People’s Movement; Women's Health Research Unit, School of Public Health and Family Medicine, University of Cape Town; Women’s Legal Centre Trust. The Legal Resources Centre (LRC) acts as legal advisor to the alliance.

 

Released on 2 September 2012

 

CIVIL SOCIETY ORGANISATIONS WELCOME ANNOUNCEMENT OF COMMISSION OF INQUIRY INTO KHAYELITSHA POLICE

August 2012

PRESS ALERT:

Today the Premier of the Western Cape Helen Zille announced the establishment of a commission of inquiry (CoI) to investigate problems with policing by the South African Police Service (SAPS) in Khayelitsha. This follows years of sustained campaigning by our organisations and members, many of whom continue to experience the effects of a failing police and criminal justice system. While the CoI is welcomed the terms of reference fail to include the City of Cape Town’s Metro Police – an integral part of policing in Khayelitsha.

The power to create a CoI is defined in Section 206(5) of our Constitution which states that a province:

may investigate, or appoint a commission of inquiry into, any complaints of police inefficiency or a breakdown in relations between the police and any community

This is the first time in South Africa that a community and civil society has won the right for this section of the Constitution to be invoked. Over a period of years we have monitored a number of criminal cases at the Khayelitsha Magistrates’ Court, supported victims and taken testimony from residents about their experiences with police and the courts.We have noted the continued failures on the part of the police and others responsible for safety and justice in Khayelitsha. These failures include protecting people from harm, preventing and investigating crimes and the facilitation of justice timeously and with consideration for victims and families.

We maintain that the problems afflicting Khayelitsha’s police and criminal justice system are so deep and extend so far that a CoI is the most appropriate vehicle to address them. Our decision to lodge the formal complaint in November 2011 came after many years of advocacy work, countless petitions and marches and calls as far back as 2003 in the case of the Treatment Action Campaign, for improved policing and justice for Khayelitsha.

Since we lodged our complaint Khayelitsha has experienced a spate of mob justice murders that has left at least 14 people dead since the beginning of the year. After speaking to residents about why such atrocities were taking place, Angy Peter of the Social Justice Coalition stated that, ‘When we asked residents why people were taking the law into their own hands and killing suspected criminals, people replied that there was no faith in police or the courts to deal with those who broke the law. This is the clearest indication of a broken relationship between communities and police’.

In the spirit of cooperative governance and a desire to best address this situation, all stakeholders responsible for safety and justice – including the National Prosecuting Authority, the Department of Justice & Constitutional Development, the Department of Correctional Services, the Western Cape Department of Community Safety and the City of Cape Town’s Safety & Security Directorate including the Metro Police – should embrace this process and avail themselves to participate and contribute if called on by the CoI.

The CoI will have the power of subpoena, but willing participation is what is required.We note with concern that to date almost nine months since we lodged our complaint SAPS has yet to respond with any substance. We appeal to the Minister of Police Nathi Mthethwa, Minister of Justice and Constitutional Development Jeff Radebe and the Mayor of Cape Town Patricia de Lilleto ensure the necessary involvement.

There are many men and women in this sector who perform their job with courage and integrity. However, there are also those who act with disregard for the very people and laws they are supposed to be upholding and protecting. We want a CoI to address not only instances of poor, irresponsible and at times illegal actions by police, but also ways in which more support, training and resources can be placed at their disposal to work more effectively.

The establishment of a CoI is a crucially important development and is welcomed by our organisations, members and no doubt by many resident of Khayelitsha. We are not under the impression that it will be a quick fix. However, it is a key step in establishing the extent of the problem, why it has reached this point and what we can do to improve things.

The CoI will hopefully play a role in beginning to rebuild trust between communities and police. It will provide people an appropriate and powerful forum where they can express their concerns and frustrations.It will also serve as an important opportunity to examine the ways in which violence against women and other so-called vulnerable groups is dealt with in a community that experiences disproportionate levels of crime.

Many of the issues in Khayelitsha with regard to policing, safety and justice are shared by communities across the country. Both Johan Burger and Gareth Newham of the Institute for Security Studies have supported this process with Burger commenting that, ‘It won’t only be a beneficial inquiry for the Western Cape, but for the entire country’.

We hope that the recommendations of the CoI will serve as a blueprint for other similarly affected areas. The long term objective is that the CoI will kick-start a process that will see access to quality safety and justice progressively realised and transformed into the inalienable rights they are correctly envisioned as, and not the luxuries that they currently exist as today.

Our legal team will be Advocate Peter Hathorn and Advocate NcumisaMayosi.

[ENDS]

 

For further comment please contact:

 

Social Justice Coalition Joel Bregman 072 769 0100

Treatment Action Campaign Mike Hamca 071 317 1349

Triangle Project Jayne Arnott 083 256 0443

Equal Education Yoliswe Dwane 072 342 7747

Ndifuna Ukwazi Zackie Achmat 083 467 1152

Women’s Legal Centre Sanja Bornman 082 522 2933

A Report On Human Rights Violations By Police Against Sex Workers In South Africa

 

22 August 2012

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

A Report On Human Rights Violations By Police Against Sex Workers In South Africa

At the National Sex Work Symposium: Best practices in HIV Prevention Care and Treatment for Sex Workers in South Africa, the Women’s Legal Centre (“WLC”), Sisonke and the Sex Worker Education and Advocacy Taskforce (“SWEAT”) released a report which finds that police officers in South Africa are the main violators of sex workers’ human rights.

“Stop Harassing Us! Tackle Real Crime!: A report on Human Rights Violations By Police Against Sex Workers In South Africa” draws on the views and voices of more than 300 sex workers in Cape Town, Johannesburg, Pretoria, Durban and Limpopo.

“The human rights abuses of sex workers in South Africa is alarming and demands immediate attention” says Stacey-Leigh Manoek, an attorney at the WLC and author of the report. This research shows that the existing legal framework is unacceptably liable to police discretion and encourages police corruption and abuse.

Sex workers said that when they are arrested by the police they are often assaulted, pepper sprayed, bribed and sexually assaulted.  Almost 1 in 6 sex workers who approached WLC experienced physical or sexual assault by the police.  A female sex worker from Cape Town said “The coloured police officer grabbed me, and my clothes came off. Then they pepper sprayed me in my mouth and beat me”.

Police abuse of sex workers in South Africa is systemic and widespread. Of the 308 sex workers interviewed for this study, 70 percent experienced some form of abuse at the hands of police. Many reported more than one violation. A sex worker from Johannesburg told us her story, “Then the policemen told me to go outside and stand in a line with the other women. When we got outside, one of the ladies said that we should run away from them. So we all started running. Then the policemen started shooting at us. They shot me twice with rubber bullets in my shoulder. But I kept running. I did not want to stop. Later I went to the clinic to bandage my wounds.”

Another sex worker in Cape Town recalled her sexual assault by the police, “A police officer unzipped his pants and put a condom on. I got a shock. They started speaking to me rudely. They told me that I must give each one of them a blow job (oral sex), which I did. He put me on the floor. The police officer raped me, then the second one, after that the third one did it again. I was crying after the three left without saying anything. Then the first one appeared again… He let me out by the back gate without my property. I was so scared that my family would find out.”

Police officers commit these crimes with impunity. They remove their name tags so that sex workers are unable to identify them and they instil such fear in the sex workers that they are afraid to report these crimes to the authorities. A sex worker in Cape Town said “One day I was standing on one of the corners, the police came and ask what I was doing there and who I am waiting for, then they put me in the van and told me that they are taking me to the police station, but instead they took me back off the street and wanted sexual favours, and both of them had no tame tags.”

138 sex workers reported being arrested, and only 21 appeared in court.  Indicating that the pattern of arresting sex workers without the intention to prosecute is still prevalent.  Manoek says that this practice “is a clear constitutional human rights violation of the right to defend oneself in court and not to be arbitrarily deprived of one’s freedom.” Almost half of those who had been arrested where held beyond the 48 hours maximum period permitted by law and 70 percent said that while they were in detention they had been denied access to food or water.

The report makes recommendations to the South African government to decriminalise sex work. It also calls on Chapter 9 institutions such as the Commission for Gender Equality to investigate the human rights abuses that sex workers experience. It also calls on civil society organisations to support the call for decriminalisation and to meaningfully include sex workers in their work.

SWEAT’s advocacy officer Ntokozo Yingwana says that “in order to address this human rights crisis and the human rights violations that sex workers experience, South Africa should decriminalise the selling and buying of sex and the system should be reformed to bring the treatment of sex workers in line with our constitutional and international obligations to reduce this type of abuse.”

“Sex work should be decriminalised now! The South African Law Reform commission has been sitting on this matter for the past ten years and they keep on postponing the time when they will release their report. This gives us the impression that this matter is of no importance to them. This democracy is failing us”, says Kholi Buthelezi, national coordinator Sisonke- the only sex worker led movement in South Africa.

 

Contact Details:

Sisonke National Coordinator –

Kholi Buthelezi, tel: 073 247 9623, and email kholib at sweat.org.za

 

SWEAT Advocacy Officer –

Ntokozo Yingwana, tel: 072 389 1354, and email ntokozo.yingwana at sweat.org.za

 

WLC –

Stacey-Leigh Manoek, tel: 0820755571 and email stacey-leigh at wlce.co.za / manoek.staceyleigh at gmail.com

 

 

Sex Workers call for zero tolerance of abuse by police

 

August 15

For immediate release

Today, the Deputy Minister of Police, Ms Makhotso Maggie Sotyu, affirmed that sex workers are human beings are mothers and grandmothers just as she is. The deputy Minister addressed 200 sex workers gathered at the office of the Sex Workers Education and Advocacy Task Force (SWEAT) today. The meeting was part of the Deputy Minister’s Women’s Month activities in support of Government’s theme “Addressing unemployment, poverty and inequality: together contributing towards the progressive future for women”.

Sex workers at the meeting recounted their experiences at the hands of police, some breaking down as they told their stories. They complained of violence, of being strip searched in public, of being pepper sprayed while cooperating with the police and of being held without being charged.

The Western Cape Deputy Commissioner of police, Ms Jeptha responded to those gathered. She said the police are government representatives and are” acting contrary to the constitution and the constitution is for everyone”. She added that no police officer who is a criminal should be in service “tell us who they are and we will make an example of them”.

Some sex workers remained behind after the meeting and gave their contact details and cases to the office of the Commissioner, who has committed to follow up on these cases and others.

The SAPS legal advisor responded to questions about profiling of sex workers and acknowledged that the practice was incorrectly applied and only people who are charged may have photographs and personal information taken from them.

The Deputy Commissioner, in response to complaints the condoms we being confiscated and used as evidence said “The only time condoms should be taken away if you are in the cell and that they are removed for your own safety.”

Kholi Buthelezi , national coordinator of the Sisonke sex worker movement closed the meeting by saying “I am traumatised every day hearing the stories of what sex workers face, this is a good start to address them”.

Next week sees another gathering to tackle sex workers’ health and safety – the National Sex Work Symposium takes place between the 22nd and 24th of August.

More information: Sally Shackleton on 082 330 4113 (SWEAT) Stacey Leigh Manoek on 0820755571 (Women’s Legal Centre)

 

PRESS RELEASE FROM THE SANAC WOMEN SECTOR IN RESPONSE TO THE INCREASING ATTACKS ON THE LGBTI COMMUNITY OF SOUTH AFRICA

 

Are we being Complicit in our Silence?

The South African National AIDS Council Women’s Sector [SANACWS] strongly condemns the brutal murders perpetrated against Lesbian, Gay and Transgender people in South Africa. This is becoming again some troubling trend, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) persons have been the targets of vicious violent attacks. Women and men either known or perceived to be lesbian or gay are targeted for brutal murder or “corrective rape” with victim selection based in either real or perceived identity. These cases are highlighting the ever increasing brutality that openly lesbian women, gay men and transgender people are exposed to across South Africa. It happens under the absence of social outrage, and political will that translates an acknowledgement of a context, into policy to make it binding.

These cases highlights the need for an increased and coordinated national response to address the pervasive horrific and senseless violence perpetrated by men against women in this country, the most brutal manifestations of which we have seen in violence against Black lesbian women known within their communities.

Such crimes have become known as ‘hate crimes’ and are defined as acts which constitute criminal offences that are motivated in part or whole by prejudice or hate and these  Violent hate crime affects the lives of many individuals in South Africa. A ‘hate crime’ is an act which constitutes a criminal offence that is motivated in part or whole by bias or hate. This prejudice or bias may be on the basis of hate or dislike but it could also be on the basis of stereotypes and assumptions about the victim based on his or her identity. For example, attacks on gay or lesbian people because the perpetrator may see them as ‘different’, ‘evil’ or ‘un-African’; assaulting a person living with a disability because the perpetrator harbours a superstition related to the disability; or damage to property of a Jewish person because the perpetrator may have some negative ideas about Jewish people in general. Hate crimes are therefore not just about hatred on the basis of factors such as racism, homophobia etc but also about the deliberate selection of a victim based on the perpetrator’s idea of the victim because of the social group the perpetrator believes the victim belongs to.

The recent murders in Cape Town, Gauteng, Limpopo, Northern Cape amongst other provinces forms part of an ever increasing physical and sexual violent response to already marginalized groups in South Africa. Lesbian women have been consistently targeted and in many instances brutally murdered by men sometimes acting as individuals and typically in gangs, who jointly physically and sexually torture women to death. The motive of this type of murder is understood to be driven by hatred and intolerance of difference centred around their perceived sexual orientation and gender.

While we continue to advocate for hate crime legislation there is a broader role for us to play as human rights defenders and social activists across all sectors of civil society. Jointly we must strengthen the national response to transform the ideas and attitudes that nurture violence against women in order to challenge the social drivers that facilitate such brutality to become manifest within our communities.  As human rights defenders we have the joint responsibility to ensure that the constitutional rights of all South African citizens are protected, promoted, and fulfilled by the government as outlined therein.

The SANAC Women’s Sector will continue to express solidarity with LGBTI people in South Africa, we recognize the inherent dignity and human rights of all individuals, without prejudice or intolerance, and we take an important step forward in our collective journey toward peace and respect for human dignity.

We will remain however vigilant as is our duty in a country that clearly prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity, to ensure that LGBTI citizens are effectively protected from the hatred and bigotry that persists. The continued treatment of LGBTI people as second class citizens in our countries of birth is shameful reflection on the government of citizenship and a disgrace in a country that seeks to provide regional international leadership on LGBTI policies.

We therefore call on:

1.     Government to stand by the Constitution of South Africa and public commitment to continue to affirm and ensure the right to freedom from discrimination and vicious violence against LGBTI people based on their perceived or known sexual orientation and gender identity and to protect and fulfill the rights of those who are violated ;

2.     Government to condemn the recent murders of LGBTI people in South Africa ;

3.     Government to combating violence and discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation or gender identity across South Africa ;

4.     Government to put  measures in place to end hate based homophobic violence against people and citizens based on sexual orientation and gender identity ;

5.     Government and Civil Society organization to accelerate public education and sensitization of government and non-government actors on these issues ; and

6.     We call on all people of South Africa to respect the human rights of LGBTI people.

 

For more information please contact: South African National AIDS Council Women’s Sector

SANAC Women’s Sector Chairperson: Mmapaseka “Steve” Letsike

Mobile   +27 [0]734356501

Email     msletsike at gmail.com

Or

SANAC Women’s Sector secretariat:Greer Schoeman

Tel:      +27 [0]21 448 6180 or +27 [0]72 493 7399

Email    sanacws at wcnetwork.co.za

 

FOR MORE INFORMATION ON ORGANISATIONS ACTIVE IN THE SECTOR SEE BELOW:

Behind the Mask

Forum for the Empowerment of Women

OUT

Triangle Project

CSVR

 

 

The WLC will be hosting a workshop on Muslim Marriages and Relationship Rights in Worcester

 

In a diverse society like South Africa there are many forms of relationships among people. Some enter into civil marriages; others enter into customary marriages, religious marriages, same sex marriages and domestic partnerships.

However, not all relationships are recognised and protected by the law. For example, religious marriages are not protected by the law. This means that when you marry according to Muslim rites i.e according to Shari’a with the performance of a nikah only, your marriage is not recognised.

This begs the question: what does this mean for the parties when the relationship ends by either death or divorce?

The Women’s Legal Centre wish to engage with the Muslim community to gain insight into the problems that they face when their Muslim marriage ends and have a dialogue with the community about what their Shari’a benefits are and which rights are legally protected.

Ms Hoodah Abrahams-Fayker, who is an attorney at the Women’s Legal Centre, will give legal insight into the remedies available for the problems arising from the marital issues. The workshop will then explore the pending legislation to govern Muslim marriages.

While there might not be any progress on the Draft Bill on Muslim Marriages after the deadline closed on 31 May 2011 for public comment, the Women's Legal Centre (WLC) are continuing to create awareness about the impact that the bill may have on Muslim marriages once it is enacted.

To this end, the Women’s Legal Centre is conducting a workshop in Worcester on Saturday 07 July from 14h30 to 16h30 at the Eden School / Opleiding Sentrum in Hex Park.

"We want to know what the community wants in the Muslim Marriages Bill as they will be primarily affected by the Bill by having due consideration from the lived reality of Muslim women in a country that does not recognise their religious marriage. Muslim women are discriminated against and marginalised by the fact that their Muslim marriages are not recognised. This means that Muslim women do not have the same rights on the dissolution of marriages through death or divorce as women who are married by civil law or in terms of African customary law. So it is necessary to consult women - whose voices have been largely silent - on the content of the Bill."

The workshop targets mainly the Muslim community to inform them about how legislation will affect them. This will dispel much of the confusion and scare-mongering about the Bill. This will also enable the WLC to make submissions to the Department and later to Parliament that will incorporate women’s lived experiences and their informed views on what the Bill contains and what it should contain.

The WLC hope that the workshop will encourage community based women’s organizations, groups of women and individual women to make their voices heard about the Bill and their rights.

"It is necessary for marginalized groupings within the Muslim community - such as women - to know why the Bill is necessary and be provided with answers on any questions related to the Bill so that the community can make an informed decision supporting the Bill and actively participate in decisions that affect them by submitting their comments on the Bill to the Department of Justice and Constitutional development.”

The workshop will take the form of a dialogue among the presenter and participants so that through a conversation with each other, we can all gain an understanding of the issues that face Muslims, especially women and the remedies available to them to protect their rights.

Date : Saturday 07 July 2012
Time : 14h30 – 16h30
Venue : Eden School / Opleiding Sentrum  Hex Park
Presenter : Ms Hoodah Abrahams-Fayker (Women’s Legal Centre)
For further information, please contact Ingrid at
Tel : 021 424 5660
Fax: (021) 424 5206 alternatively ingrid at wlce.co.za
or Abieda of the Boland Islamic Women’s League on 079 502 1965

 

Supreme Court of Appeals overturns the Cape High Court judgment with regards to the controversial Sexual Offences Act

 

Supreme Court of Appeals overturns the Cape High Court judgment with regards to the controversial Sexual Offences Act

Friday 15 June 2012; The Women’s Legal Centre (WLC) and its partners welcome today’s decision by the Supreme Court of Appeals (SCA) to overturn the Cape High Court judgment in the case of S V Prins. The WLC acted as a friend of the court on Wednesday, when the appeal was argued, with the support of Tswaranang Legal Advocacy Centre, the UCT Gender Health and Justice Research Unit, Lawyers Against Abuse, and the Sonke Gender Justice Network.

The Cape High Court handed down judgment in S v Prins on 11 May 2012. In finding that the offence of sexual assault is not punishable in law, as it did not list a specific penalty for sexual assault, the court effectively called into question the existence of at least 29 other offences in the Sexual Offences Act. This judgment has caused panic and uncertainty over the last month, around the way in which sexual offenders would be dealt with.

The SCA has now made it clear that the Cape High Court’s interpretation of the law was incorrect, and the absence of penalty clauses in the Sexual Offences Act does not mean no offences exist. This is because the context of the Sexual Offences Act shows a clear intention on the part of the legislature that courts would always have a judicial discretion to sentence perpetrators. Courts must simply exercise that discretion, under the usual constraints of their own jurisdiction and the existing sentencing provisions in section 276 of the Criminal Procedure Act, which together give enough certainty about punishment to satisfy the principle of legality. Courts have always been empowered to do this in respect of common law offences, for which there have never been specified sentences, and it should be no different for statutory offences where there are no specified sentences.

Sanja Bornman, attorney at the WLC said; “The judgment is a victory for women and children’s rights. All South Africans, including those responsible for bringing sexual offenders to book, can once again have certainty about the law. Offenders in terms of the Sexual Offences Act can and will be charged, prosecuted, and sentenced. The effects of the Cape High Court judgment fall away entirely.”

“Victims of sexual offences can breathe a sigh of relief following this important judgment, which confirms that victims will be protected from their abusers and that those who have committed acts of sexual violence will be appropriately punished,” said Jennifer MacLeod, spokesperson for Lawyers against Abuse.

ends

For more information:

Jennifer Williams

Director Women’s Legal Centre

Jennifer at wlce.co.za

 

Sanja Bornman

Attorney at Women

sanja at wlce.co.za

 

CIVIL SOCIETY CALLS FOR PERMANENT APPOINTMENT OF BLACK WOMAN JUDGE ON THE CONSTITUTIONAL COURT BENCH

4 June 2012

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Civil Society organisations are calling for the permanent appointment of Judge Mandisa Maya who currently sits as an Acting Judge on the Constitutional Court bench. The Judicial Service Commission (JSC) will be interviewing 4 shortlisted candidates for one vacant position in the Constitutional Court on 9 June 2012, in Johannesburg.

Of the 4 shortlisted candidates, only one is a woman. Data provided by the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development and JSC during May 2012 confirms the under-representation of women in the judiciary. Only 67 of 237 Judges are women with only 27 are black, 8 are coloured and 12 are Indian.

Sonke Gender Justice Network (Sonke) and the Gender, Health & Justice Research Unit - UCT (GHJRU) submitted a letter to President Zuma calling for the permanent appointment of Judge Maya. Members of the JSC were copied in on the letter which was endorsed by several civil society organisations.

The call for the appointment of Judge Maya is based on the need to transform the judiciary so that it is more representative of South African society in terms of both gender and race. It is further based on advancing the rights and interests of women who constitute a disadvantaged group of persons in South African society.

Section 174(2) of the Constitution provides that the judiciary needs to "reflect broadly the racial and gender composition of South Africa must be considered when judicial officers are appointed." Equitable gender representation in the judiciary is supported by various regional and international instruments.

The call for Judge Maya's appointment is motivated by the fact that she is exceptionally well-qualified for the post. She has experience as an acting judge on the Constitutional Court, a history of judgments that have illustrated her exceptional legal analytical skills and gender sensitivity as well as her various successes as a legal scholar including a Fulbright scholarship, fellowship with the Georgetown University, a lecturing post at the Walter Sisulu University and serving as the served as the Deputy President of the South African Chapter of the International Association for Women Judges.

Dr Kelley Moult of the GHJRU says that research shows that the gender of judicial officers is relevant to judicial outcomes. "In a country like South Africa with its extremely high levels of violence against women and low rates of conviction for these offences, this should give us pause. When we consider statements by judges in these cases that view acts of rape sympathetically, or mitigate sentences handed down to offenders for spurious reasons, we can see that women judges, with their particular life experiences, can have an important role in debunking these myths and exposing patriarchal attitudes."

Cherith Sanger of Sonke's Policy Advocacy and Research Unit says that the "fair representation of black women on the bench is essential to ensure that traditional white male spaces are transformed to more gender equitable spaces which entails that decision making power in government is shared equally amongst groups that are disproportionally disadvantaged historically."

--ends--

Contact details:

Cherith Sanger

Policy Advocacy and Research Manager

Sonke Gender Justice Network

E-mail: cherith at genderjustice.org.za

(O) 021 423 7088

(C) 071 608 3357

 

Dr Kelley Moult

Acting Director

Gender, Health & Justice Research Unit

E-mail: Kelley.Moult at uct.ac.za

(O) 021 406 6021

(C) 082 652 6722

The WLC will be hosting a workshop on Muslim Marriages and Relationship Rights in Kimberly

11 June

In a diverse society like South Africa there are many forms of relationships among people. Some enter into civil marriages; others enter into customary marriages, religious marriages, same sex marriages and domestic partnerships.

However, not all relationships are recognised and protected by the law. For example, religious marriages are not protected by the law. This means that when you marry according to Muslim rites i.e according to Shari’a with the performance of a nikah only, your marriage is not recognised.

This begs the question: what does this mean for the parties when the relationship ends by either death or divorce?

The Women’s Legal Centre wish to engage with the Muslim community to gain insight into the problems that they face when their Muslim marriage ends and have a dialogue with the community about what their Shari’a benefits are and which rights are legally protected.

Ms Hoodah Abrahams-Fayker, who is an attorney at the Women’s Legal Centre, will give legal insight into the remedies available for the problems arising from the marital issues. The workshop will then explore the pending legislation to govern Muslim marriages.

While there might not be any progress on the Draft Bill on Muslim Marriages after the deadline closed on 31 May 3011 for public comment, the Women's Legal Centre (WLC) are continuing to create awareness about the impact that the bill may have on Muslim marriages once it is enacted. To this end, the Women’s Legal Centre is conducting a workshop in Kimberley on Sunday 24 June 2012 from 10h00 to 12h00 at the Moghul Park Community Hall.

"We want to know what the community wants in the Muslim Marriages Bill as they will be primarily affected by the Bill by having due consideration from the lived reality of Muslim women in a country that does not recognise their religious marriage. Muslim women are discriminated against and marginalised by the fact that their Muslim marriages are not recognised. This means that Muslim women do not have the same rights on the dissolution of marriages through death or divorce as women who are married by civil law or in terms of African customary law. So it is necessary to consult women - whose voices have been largely silent - on the content of the Bill."

The workshop targets mainly the Muslim community to inform them about how legislation will affect them. This will dispel much of the confusion and scare-mongering about the Bill. This will also enable the WLC to make submissions to the Department and later to Parliament that will incorporate women’s lived experiences and their informed views on what the Bill contains and what it should contain.

The WLC hope that the workshop will encourage community based women’s organizations, groups of women and individual women to make their voices heard about the Bill and their rights. "It is necessary for marginalized groupings within the Muslim community - such as women - to know why the Bill is necessary and be provided with answers on any questions related to the Bill so that the community can make an informed decision supporting the Bill and actively participate in decisions that affect them by submitting their comments on the Bill to the Department of Justice and Constitutional development.”

The workshop will take the form of a dialogue among the presenter and participants so that through a conversation with each other, we can all gain an understanding of the issues that face Muslims, especially women and the remedies available to them to protect their rights.

Dates and times

Kimberley

Sunday 24 June 2012

10h00 to 12h00

Moghul Park Community Hall

Transvaal Road Moghul Park

For further information, please contact Ingrid

Tel : 021 424 5660

Fax: (021) 424 5206

Email: ingrid at wlce.co.za

 

Supreme Court judgement advances the rights of women in traditional marriages, but highlights inadequacy of the South African legal system.

 

Monday 04 June 2012

The judgement delivered on Friday by the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) in the matter of Ms MM Ngwenyama is a victory towards advancing the rights of women.  But  it also highlights the many inadequacies within the South African legal system.

The SCA found that Ms Ngwenyama’s marriage was still valid even though her deceased husband had failed to register the marriage in terms of the Recognition of Customary Marriages Act 120 of 1998 (RCMA).  In doing so, the SCA overturned a judgment of the High Court, which had found that such marriages are not valid. The effect of the SCA ruling is that wives in polygymous marriages, whose husbands have not done the required contract, are no longer barred from asserting claims for maintenance and inheritance.

The incidence of polygamous marriage amongst high profile politicians and other prominent South Africans raises a number of issues concerning the rights of the spouses and children in such marriages. While these are the marriages that attract attention, thousands of women are living in polygymous marriages in South Africa and suffer the hardship of non recognition of customary marriages.  The impact is that this often results in a spouse losing her home as well as any claim for maintenance against the estate or loss of support in the case of an unlawful death. Further, the effect of non-registration is that women are denied the right to administer the estates of their late husbands.

It is for this reason that the law is clear that a failure to register a customary marriage does not affect the validity of the marriage. However in the case of polygymous marriages, the law was silent regarding the effect of a husband’s failure to follow the procedure set out in Section 7(6) of the RCMA. This section requires a ‘husband’ (not ‘spouse’) who wishes to enter into a second or subsequent customary marriage to apply to court for the approval of a written contract.

"According to the law, it’s a husband's duty to register a marriage.  In a lot of cases, when you look at the role of women in a marriage, the wife is in a vulnerable position.  She pays the role of the primary caregiver staying at home to maintain the household and care for the children.  The husband is the bread winner in the family which makes him economically empowered, as well as placing him in a dominant position, which means the wife may not feel that she is able to enforce the registration of the marriage,” says Hoodah Abrahams-Fayker, Attorney at the Women’s Legal Centre

The High Court was called upon in the Ngwenyama case to decide on the effect of non compliance with section 7(6). The court had to deliberate on the validity of Ms Ngwenyama’s marriage.  It found that her marriage to her deceased husband, as second wife in a polygamous marriage, did not comply with the legislative requirements contained in section 7(6) of the RCMA because her husband had not entered into the requisite contract.  The court reasoned that the absence of compliance with section 7(6) of the RCMA rendered the second marriage invalid. Ms Ngwenyama took the matter on appeal to the SCA, as the failure to recognise her marriage meant that she lost her right to inherit.

Abrahams-Fayker continues by saying her organisation found that during its investigations there are none, or at least, only a few cases where Section 7(6) contracts had been entered into.  Which means the majority of polygymous marriages in South Africa would have been invalid on the reasoning of the High Court, depriving many women of a legal remedy in circumstances where they did not legally have the power to register such contracts, even if they could negotiate with their husbands and insist that they be entered into, assuming that they knew about the RCMA’s provisions.

The Women’s Legal Centre was a friend of the court in this matter and made submissions that 7(6) of the RCMA must be seen in the context of that Act as a whole, and the Constitution in terms of the fundamental rights it seeks to protect.  By failing to acknowledge parties married in accordance with African customary law where the marriage is not duly registered by the husband, indirectly discriminates against women.

“Notwithstanding the constitutional judgement on Friday, we know that many women continue to experience acute discrimination with regards to our legal system.  Due to myriad of reasons but mostly they do not have access to the legal and financial support required to fully benefit from our democracy and the rule of law,” concludes Abrahams-Fayker

ends

 

For more information:

Jennifer Williams

Director Women’s Legal Centre

Jennifer at wlce.co.za

 

Hoodah Abrahams-Fayker

Attorney Women’s Legal Centre

hoodah at wlce.co.za

 

Distributed on behalf of Women’s Legal Centre by:

FTI Consulting

Angie Richardson

Vice President

021 487 9026

Angela.Richardson at fticonsulting.com

 

 

 

PRESS RELEASE: Inroads made in the constitutional right to equality between spouses during divorce

 

Media release from the Women’s Legal Centre

Inroads made in the constitutional right to equality between spouses during divorce

 

PRIMROSE MARTIN v TRANSNET RETIREMENT FUND

 

Before the clean break principle was introduced, divorcees had to wait until their former spouses resigned or retired from their funds to get access to their portion of the pension interest awarded to them in terms of a divorce order.

 

The Pension Funds Amendment Act of 2007 introduced the clean break principle for the treatment of retirement fund benefits on divorce with the amendment of Section 37D which provides that retirement funds can deduct divorce orders from a member’s benefit and pay it to the non-member spouse or a retirement fund of his or her choice.

 

The portion awarded to a non-member spouse remained in the fund for what was often many years, and the non-member spouse did not enjoy any growth in the portion awarded to him or her. The clean-break principle allows the non-member spouse to receive her benefit on divorce or transfer his or her portion ofthe pension interest to another retirement fund and to benefit from the growth on the money.

The clean break principle applies to all private pensions, that is, pensions registered with the Registrar of pension funds and regulated in terms of the Pension Funds Act, 24 of 1956.  However up until recently the clean break principle did not apply to government pension funds, most of which are governed by their own independent pieces of legislation.

Ms Martin and her ex-husband finalised their divorce in August 2010.  Part of the settlement agreement entitled Ms Martinto 50% of her ex-husband’s pension interest in terms of the final order of divorce. However, the administrators of the Transnet Retirement Fund advised that she would only be entitled to secure the benefit when her ex-husband ended his employment and exited the fund according to the rules of the fund.

Ms Primrose Martin approached the Women’s Legal Centre (WLC) to challenge her right to receive payment of her interest on the date of divorce.  The trustees amended their rules on 08 March 2012 to make provision for our client to be paid her benefit.

“This is a significant outcome for the WLC as it indicates that we are making inroads when it comes to the clean break principle and the constitutional right to equality between spouses during divorce,” says Hoodah Abrahams-Fayker, Attorney for the Women’s Legal Centre.

In July 2011 the Cape High Court declared the law governing the Government Employees Pension Fund (GEPF) inconsistent with the constitution gave the government a year to remedy the situation.  The Constitutional Court confirmed theCape High Court order in March this year and the Act has been amended accordingly.

“There is a presently a decision pending in the Constitutional Court relating to thePost Office Retirement fund on the same issue which is set down for 7 February 2013. It is expected that the rules will be amended before then to include the clean break principle,” concludes Abrahams-Fayker.

ENDS

 

For more information:

 

Hoodah Abrahams-Fayker

Attorney

Women’s Legal Centre

7th Floor Constitution House

124 Adderley Street

Cape Town

Tel:  (021) 424 5660

Fax: (021) 424 5206

E-Mail: hoodah at wlce.co.za

 

Muslim Marriages Bill workshop in Paarl

 

In a diverse society like South Africa there are many forms of relationships among people. Some enter into civil marriages; others enter into customary marriages, religious marriages, same sex marriages and domestic partnerships.

However, not all relationships are recognised and protected by the law. For example, religious marriages are not protected by the law. This means that when you marry according to Muslim rites i.e only according to Shariah with the performance of a nikah, your marriage is not recognised.

This begs the question about what this means for the parties when the relationship ends either by death or divorce?

The Women’s Legal Centre wishes to engage with the Muslim community to gain insight into the problems that they face when their Muslim marriage ends and have a dialogue with the community about what their Shariah benefits are and which rights are legally protected.

Ms Hoodah Abrahams-Fayker, who is an attorney at the Women’s Legal Centre, will give a legal insight into the remedies available for the problems arising from the marital issues. Dr Waheeda Amien, who teaches Muslim Personal Law in the Law Faculty at the University of Cape Town will give us her input for remedies available from a Shariah perspective. The workshop will then explore the pending legislation to govern Muslim marriages.

While there might not be any progress on the Draft Bill on Muslim Marriages after the deadline closed on 31 May 3011 for public comment, the Women's Legal Centre (WLC) is continuing to create awareness about the impact that the bill would have on Muslim marriages once enacted by engaging with the community. To this end, the Women’s Legal Centre will be having a workshop in Paarl at the Lappert Street Mosque in Lappert Street on Saturday 19 May 2012 from 15h00 to 17h00.

"We want to know what the community wants in the MMB as they will be primarily affected by the Bill by having due consideration from the lived reality of Muslim women in a country that does not recognise their religious marriage. Muslim women are discriminated against and marginalised by the fact that their Muslim marriages are not recognised. This means that Muslim women do not have the same rights on the dissolution of marriages through death or divorce as women who are married by civil law or in terms of African customary law. So it is necessary to consult women - whose voices have been largely silent - on the content of the Bill."

The workshop targets mainly the Muslim community for them to know how legislation will affect them. This will dispel much of the confusion and scare-mongering about the Bill. This would also enable the WLC to make submissions to the Department, and later to parliament that would incorporate women’s lived experiences and informed views on what the Bill does contain and what it should rather contain.

The WLC hopes that the workshop would encourage community based women’s organizations and groups of women to make their voices heard about the Bill and their rights. "It is necessary for marginalized groupings within the Muslim community - such as women - to know why the Bill is necessary and be provided with answers on any questions related to the Bill so that the community can make an informed decision supporting the Bill and actively participate in decisions that affect them by submitting their comments on the Bill to the Department of Justice and Constitutional development

The workshop will take the form of a dialogue among the presenters and participants so that through a conversation with each other, we can all gain an understanding of the issues that face Muslims, especially women and the remedies available to them to protect their rights.

Date: Saturday 19 May 2012

Time: 15h00 - 17h00

Venue: Lappert Street Mosque, Paarl


 

The Women’s Legal Centre and the Muslim Youth Movement wishes to engage with the Muslim community through workshops in Port Elizabeth and Uitenhage

In a diverse society like South Africa there are many forms of relationships among people. Some enter into civil marriages; others enter into customary marriages, religious marriages, same sex marriages and domestic partnerships.

However, not all relationships are recognised and protected by the law. For example, religious marriages are not protected by the law, which means that when you marry according to Shariah with the performance of a nikah your marriage is not recognised.

This begs the question about what this means for the parties when the relationship ends either by death or divorce?

The Women’s Legal Centre and the Muslim Youth Movement wishes to engage with the Muslim community to gain insight into the problems that they face when their Muslim marriage ends and have a dialogue with the community about what their Shariah benefits are and which rights are legally protected.

The workshop will be introduced by a local religious leader who is active in the community and who is knowledgeable about the marital issues that are experienced within the community. He will give us a brief description of the problems that Muslims, especially women, face in the community. Ms Hoodah Abrahams-Fayker, who is an attorney at the Women’s Legal Centre, will give a legal insight into the remedies available for the problems arising from the marital issues. Dr Waheeda Amien, who teaches Muslim Personal Law in the Law Faculty at the University of Cape Town will give us her input for remedies available from a Shariah perspective.

The workshop will take the form of a dialogue among the presenters and participants so that through a conversation with each other, we can all gain an understanding of the issues that face Muslims, especially women.

 

The WLC and MYM will be hosting a workshop on Muslim Marriages and Relationship Rights

Be aware of your rights  from  marital relationships

We want to talk to YOU about your marital issues and experiences  and being able to claim your benefits according to Shariah and civilly

 

Workshop 1

Date  :  21 April 2012

Time    :  12h00 – 14h00

Venue    :  Elukhanyisweni Library Hall

Presenters    Mr Tandile Kona, Dr. Waheeda Amien &  Ms Hoodah Abrahams-Fayker

For further information, please contact Ingrid Tel : 021 424 5660  Fax: (021) 424 5206 alternatively ingrid at wlce.co.za or

Tandile on 0844229336

 

 

Workshop 2

Date : 21 April 2012

Time : 3.30 p.m. – 5.30p.m.

Venue : Parkside Muslim Movement Hall Port Elizabeth

Presenters : Sheikh Majdie Jardien

Dr. Waheeda Amien & Ms Hoodah Abrahams-Fayker

 

For further information, please contact Ingrid @  Tel : 021 424 5660  Fax: (021) 424 5206 alternatively ingrid at wlce.co.za

Razaana Denson @ Tel : 041 504 2591  Cell : 082  202  2401 email : razaana.denson at nmmu.ac.za

 

---END---

 

 

 

PRESS RELEASE: Civil society organisations in alliance to stop the Traditional Courts Bill.

 

 

PRESS RELEASE:

Civil society organisations raise the alarm on the Traditional Courts Bill public meetings

 

The Alliance for Rural Democracy is alarmed by the extent to which public meetings on the Traditional Courts Bill presently underway in provinces are excluding the very communities that stand to be most affected by the Bill.

Alliance partners have attended the education sessions and parliamentary public consultations held so far and have witnessed the voices of rural communities being effectively hindered.

 

Justice Khumalo from Sonke Gender Justice who attended today’s hearing in Kabokweni, Mpumalanga, says that, “Community members had never seen the Bill before today.  The provincial legislature only wants to hear input from those who support the Bill. The hearing did not do justice to consulting community members on issues that will affect their lives.”

 

Nolundi Luwaya from the Law, Race and Gender Research Unit, who attended today’s hearing in Kabokweni says that, “The chairperson of the hearing gave a misleading and inaccurate explanation of the Bill and the concerns people raised were largely glossed over.”

 

At the Port Shepstone public education session on 16 April only a handful of women were present and their attempt to talk was shut down by traditional leaders. This contradicts democratic practice. The Alliance demands that parliamentarians listen to women’s voices, especially since they were excluded from the drafting process in which traditional leaders were the only ones properly consulted.

 

Many rural communities seem entirely unaware of the draft Bill, the education sessions and public hearings, which suggests that insufficient efforts have been made by the provincial legislatures to publicise these.

Fearful community members have expressed disbelief at being expected to comment in the presence of traditional leaders.

 

The Alliance is concerned that people are scared of coming to the public hearings and speaking out against the Bill, in case they may be victimised by traditional leaders as a result.

 

The Alliance makes the following calls on:

The Minister of the Department of Women, Children and People with Disabilities, Lulu Xingwana, to follow her recent public commitment to support rural women on this Bill with action. We implore her to ensure that their views are not ridden rough-shod over in favour of traditional leaders.

The South African Human Rights Commission and the Commission on Gender Equality to take specific steps to ensure that the voices of ordinary rural people are adequately considered. Safe spaces should be created for people to talk freely about their opinions on this draft legislation. We urge the Commissions to send their provincial commissioners to the hearings to announce that they are there to protect and defend people's right to speak freely and without fear of intimidation.

Parliament to stop the Bill and to ensure that the rights and participation of rural people, particularly women, take centre stage in the development of a new Bill that is based on constitutional rights and values.

 

The next public hearings on the Bill are scheduled in the Western Cape Provincial Legislature in Cape Town, on 24 and 25 April. The Alliance will continue to monitor these and other public hearings and we urge all stakeholders to attend and make their voices heard.

 

The Alliance for Rural Democracy is a cross-section of civil society organisations sharing a common concern about the detrimental effects that the Traditional Courts Bill will have on the rural constituencies they serve and support. It includes the following organisations:  Community Law Centre, University of the Western Cape (CLC); Corruption Watch; Co-operative Policy Alternative Centre (COPAC); Council for the Advancement of the South African Constitution (CASAC);Democratic Governance and Rights Unit, University of Cape Town (DGRU); Embrace Dignity Campaign; Empilisweni AIDS Education and Training Centre; Institute for Justice and Reconciliation (IJR); Law, Race and Gender Research Unit, University of Cape Town (LRG); Lesbian and Gay Equality Project (LGEP); Masimanyane Women’s Support Centre; Open Democracy Advice Centre (ODAC); Peddie Women’s Support Centre; Rural People’s Movement; Rural Women’s Movement; Section 27; Sonke Gender Justice; Students for Law and Social Justice (SLSJ); Treatment Action Campaign (TAC); Triangle Project; Tshwaranang Legal Advocacy Centre; Unemployed People’s Movement; Women's Health Research Unit, School of Public Health and Family Medicine, University of Cape Town; Women’s Legal Centre Trust. The Legal Resources Centre (LRC) acts as legal advisor to the alliance.

Released on 18 April 2012.

 

For more information contact

 

Sindiso Mnisi Weeks

Cell: 072 616 8299

 

Mazibuko Jara

Cell: 083 6510271

 

Justice Khumalo

Cell: 073 0851794

 

 

 

WLC submission on Muslim Marriage Bill

In response to the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development’s invitation to comment on the proposed draft Muslim Marriages Bill after it published the Bill in December 2010, the Women’s Legal Centre ( the “WLC”) has made written submissions which consider the Bill in the context of the Constitution and gender equality and provide specific recommendations, to ensure that the Bill complies with the South African Constitution and international and regional frameworks that protect the equality rights of women.

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