Meeting SummarySix presenters addressed the continuing Workshop of the Portfolio Committee. The South African Human Rights Commission made the Committee aware of a number of international and regional covenants that South Africa had signed, and in some cases ratified. The presentation highlighted some of the major issues that still needed attention by the Committee, including the International Treaty on Economic Cultural Rights and the International Covenant against Torture. The presenter also made the Committee of the fact that the South African government had neglected to follow up on and to write reports on many of the treaties signed. The Universal Periodic Review was explained, and it was noted that the aim was to improve the human rights situation on the ground in all countries.
The presentation by the Commission on Gender Equality highlighted the fact that gender equality was supposed to be implemented in public and private sectors. The main problem area for gender equality lay within the bounds of traditional and religious cultures, where communities or groupings would argue that their religion or cultural traditions entitled them to treat women in a certain way. The presentation also emphasised the importance of South Africa giving off the correct impression to the rest of the world with regard to gender equality and that could be done through signing and following up on the appropriate treaties.
The third presentation was given by the Children's Institute, on child rights, noted that although there was legislation enacted, such as the Children’s Act, it was not being implemented, or was being insufficiently implemented to give due regard to the rights of children. The various grants that were available were listed. It was emphasised that more attention must be given to children’s issues in South Africa, as these were far-reaching
The fourth presentation on Women's Rights emphasised that women in rural areas were not given enough consideration. Their needs and wants should be looked at because they could not access Parliament very easily, and a failure to address their issues meant that there could not be proper equality in South Africa. The issue of grants was also touched upon in this presentation, noting that many women were falling through the cracks.
The fifth presentation on Youth Development, given by the Human Sciences Research Council, emphasised that there were several definitions for “youth”. The opportunities for youth ranged from the need to ensure that there was early childhood development and attention that would help to prevent later problems, right through to ensuring sufficient employment and educational opportunities, through to the need for recreational facilities, which were sorely lacking. The concept of the Youth Bulge, First Chancers and Second Chancers initiatives were introduced and discussed, all of which concentrated upon how to include the youth in economic development and address issues either to prevent problems, or address the problems from the past.
The final presentation by the Disability Alliance focused on the rights of Disabled persons, and the need to ensure that these were not only understood, but that real and meaningful contribution was made to mainstreaming and addressing disability. A study done on disabled Members of Parliament had shown the need to have a Disability Office in Parliament and to address basic issues such as assistance in the Chamber and placing interpreters where they could easily be seen. Transport, access to the 2010 events, and oversight were highlighted as key.
Members expressed their appreciation, agreed that certain issues should be included in the Committee’s work and urged that closer relationships be forged with the various organizations to assist in greater awareness and resources to Parliament. Members then considered the Committee programme and strategic objectives, and noted that the Committee must also have influence in budgetary matters. The Committee would need to decide which of the international treaties was handled by which department, to ensure that the obligations were complied with.
South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) presentation
Ms Judith Cohen, Head of Parliamentary and International Affairs Programme, SAHRC, said that the South African Constitution was a symbol of unity, and of history. People would focus on it and forget that there was also an entire body of law made up of many international agreements, instruments, treaties, many of which were developed by South Africa. The first treaty body to be established was the International Covenant on the Elimination of all forms of Racial Discrimination established in 1964. This Convention was so important because at that time South Africa was experiencing apartheid. The death of Steve Biko had put the Convention against Torture firmly back onto the agenda. South Africa needed that Convention to set international norms for itself. South Africa's history meant that it was a very important catalyst in the international arena.
Ms Cohen made a comparison between looking at South Africa's role post-1994, when South Africa was embraced by the international community, and looking at its current role was. South Africa played an important role because of it having many different international treaties. South Africa should also be enormously proud of the role it played in the International Covenant on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and in the drafting of that Convention. However, the world would be anxious to see how South Africa would use those conventions to support the much-needed work around disability in the country. The same went for the optional protocol for the International Covenant on Economic and Social Cultural Rights, which would be opening for signature on 24 September, Heritage Day. New York would be hosting a large ceremony. South Africa was largely involved in the behind the scenes debate, arguing that the international instrument was not strong enough and it did not have enough force. The optional protocol would allow individuals as well as different countries to take complaints to the United Nations (UN) system.
Ms Cohen explained the differences of the nexuses between the great body of International Law such as the UN system, and the African system. She said that many of the African instruments could be considered greater than many of the international instruments, and that this was an entirely different area in terms of South Africa's Human Rights System.
The UN oversaw a number of international treaty bodies. Government then signed those International Treaties, which sent a strong message to the rest of the world about the commitment to Human Rights. It was very symbolic that South Africa signed those instruments even though it had the best Constitution, to support Human Rights.
Ms Cohen said that countries were expected to report on a regular basis to the committees who were formed under each of the treaty bodies. Generally, about a year after a country had signed, its country report was expected, followed by other reports ranging between two and five years in general. Examples of some of those covenants were the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Even though South Africa signed it in 1994, it was only in June 2009 that South Africa submitted its first report to the Human Rights Committee. The International Covenant on Economic Cultural Rights was signed by Nelson Mandela in 1994. However, South Africa must still ratify it. Ms Cohen informed the Committee that it was definitely an issue of which Members must still be aware. With the optional protocol being opened for signature in September 2009, there was a big campaign amongst civil society, being led by organisations such as the Black Sash, to ratify the Covenant. The Human Rights Commission certainly supported the idea of ratifying the Covenant, since only upon ratification would South Africa be accountable under the Covenant and start reporting.
Ms Cohen explained that the problem was that many people could not understand why South Africa, with its Constitution and with its economic and social rights, had not yet ratified those Covenants. Vulnerable groups such as women, children and people with disabilities would bear the brunt if the Government did not ensure that the laws and social grants which South Africa had did not reach those who were entitled to their protection.
Ms Cohen referred to the International Covenant on the Elimination of all Forms of Racial Discrimination, and said that when South Africa first appeared before that Covenant’s committee in 2007 they admired the good work South Africa had done around the issue of xenophobia, requested the sharing of information so that it could be regarded as an example of best practice. The irony was that by May 2008 South Africa was alight with xenophobic violence, despite its good work in the field.
Ms Cohen mentioned the International Covenant against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment was important to that particular Committee because South Africa still needed to criminalise torture, in terms of this Covenant. Under the optional Protocol, South Africa needed to set up a National Convention Mechanism which would deal with torture if it occurred. In any place where a person was deprived of their liberty against their will, there was always the potential for torture. Ms Cohen believed that interaction between this Portfolio Committee and the optional Protocol was important. For example, all places where children were deprived of their liberty and kept by a court order could fall under that Committee. Youth for example, between the ages of 13 and 25, who were currently imprisoned would also fall under the Committee.
Ms Cohen explained that there were many places with institutional care in the country for people with psychiatric disabilities. They were often very vulnerable and often they could not speak about or explain treatment that they may be subjected to. It was very important for South Africa to set up a mechanism to prevent torture before it occurred, so that South Africa was a society free from torture. South Africa had signed and ratified the Disability Convention. The treaty body committee however should now be getting up and running. In terms of that Convention, since in May 2010 South Africa should submit its first report. The question was whether South Africa would be ready.
Ms Cohen said that in terms of signing status South Africa could be doing a lot better, given its aspirations and given how serious it was on Human Rights culture.
Ms Cohen made mention to the African Regional System as important. Since South Africa was one of the dominant countries on the African continent, it needed to take those issues, support that system and make sure it worked. There was a need to ensure that Government submitted the reports to the African Commission, and that it engaged in all those processes on a regional level to give proper support.
Ms Cohen then moved on to describe the new process of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR). This was established by the Human Rights Council. Its aim was to improve the Human Rights situation on the ground on all countries. It was a peer review mechanism. The first countries were reviewed in April 2008, including South Africa. There was some disappointment in that South Africa did not submit to the new council a written report prior to appearing before it. South Africa, as distinct from other countries, did not bring a large and senior delegation comprising government ministers and the like, but only a Geneva based delegation. On many questions South Africa could have given better answers if the delegation were from Pretoria and could have given the most up-to-date information.
Ms Cohen said that many recommendations made would lie at the heart of the Committee’s work, being issues around gender based violence, corporal punishment, and violence against children, which was a very contentious issue.
The Chairperson said that Parliament and the Portfolio Committee on Women, Youth, Children and People with Disabilities should use the SAHRC as one of the tools to ensure that people were afforded rights such as their grants, their health and their basic rights. The SAHRC was not widely known or visible, and she suggested that it must find a way to popularise itself
The Chairperson said that she was very interested in the talk about torture, and asked whether the SAHRC would view the issue of circumcision as torture, even though it occurred under the umbrella of culture.
Ms Cohen replied that circumcision was a very debatable issue. A small organisation had approached SAHRC strongly arguing that circumcision was a form of torture. It was practiced in many parts of Africa. Muslims and Jews, for example, made arguments that it was beneficial in terms of the spread of HIV/AIDS. The question that people should be asking was rather the manner in which circumcision was done, and how any inherent dangers arising from the practice could be addressed. The provincial legislation regulated many of the traditional circumcision schools, and the issue was whether these were registered and whether they were allowing medical doctors to go in to do the checks. It was important to consider what the processes were, and how to ensure that they did not infringe upon human rights but upheld the Constitution.
Ms D Robinson (DA) said that the Committee had a lot to learn, and she would certainly welcome a closer interaction with the SAHRC. She was pleased that there was now a Ministry and that implementation had begun. She said it was “shameful” that South Africa was not following up on Conventions.
Ms H Malgas (ANC) asked whether women and female trafficking fell under the International Covenant for the Protection of all Persons from Enforced Disappearances. She suggested that this Committee needed to get a list of unsigned covenants, and devise a strategy to get the work done. She enquired whether the treaties fell under the Presidency, who the SAHRC reported to, or whether reports were sent to the Presidency by different departments.
A Member asked what the SAHRC was doing to protect the rights of the most vulnerable people, especially disabled people.
Ms Cohen replied that she was aware of the concerns about the Disability Convention and the related report, which would be due in May 2010. Everyone was waiting since the committee was still forming itself in Geneva. The SAHRC formed a Section 5 committee who had representatives from the disability sector.
Ms Cohen explained that the role of the SAHRC was being examined. It could not take on the roles or work of Government. However, its employees in nine provinces were doing oversight in the disability sector, as they had drafted a disability convention tool kit, containing workshop material for targeted audiences, such as educators, so that they could understand the importance of inclusive education. One section covered employers, to sensitise them to the importance of including the disabled, and another section was for care givers of people with disabilities.
A Member said that the Committee should push for ratification of those treaties that had not yet been ratified, and asked what would happen in the case where the treaty impacted on other committees as well.
Ms Cohen said that in a case of overlap, once the treaty or convention was ratified, it would be assigned to a particular government department, which then took responsibility for that treaty body and the drafting of the reports. Government was still unable to find a “home” for the International Covenant on Economic Social and Cultural Rights.
Ms Cohen said that was an urgent need to create some kind of a central place where there could be debates, and that there was a need to decide if this should reside in the Presidency, the Planning Commission, or a particular government department. There was a need to find some sort of a co-ordinating body, which would have the responsibility, ability and powers to access the information which was needed.
The Chairperson asked what caused the delays in the ratification of the treaties.
Ms Cohen said that that question should be answered by the formerly named Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA). She believed it was a lack of capacity. People did not know how to write the reports, having had no experience. However, the UN would provide technical assistance and relevant officials to assist in the drafting of the report. She said that the SAHRC was also engaging with this Department in order to gain more clarity on the matter of delays.
Ms Cohen said that internationally, the SAHRC was regarded as a national Human Rights Institution. The SAHRC was independent of government and independent of civil society. As a national institution it must draft its own separate report and submit it to the UN, independent of civil society and government. It could not do so on behalf of Government.
The Chairperson wanted clarity on whether the SAHRC could draft the report without going through the Government.
Ms Cohen said that the SAHRC could certainly send a report directly to the UN if it wanted to. Certain reports by the SAHRC would first be sent to the relevant government department for comment. SAHRC recognised its enormous responsibility in drafting those reports, because those reports were taken very seriously on an international level, and accuracy was vital. The independence of the SAHRC was guaranteed to it in terms of the Constitution.
Ms P Duncan (DA) said that the Committee was accountable to the National Assembly and needed to report on a yearly basis. She wanted to know what the SAHRC was doing to actually make the leaders aware that they were neglecting very important treaties and conventions, and whether it was emphasising this enough that the leadership recognised the importance of ratifying and signing those treaties and reports.
Ms Cohen said that, at the moment, matters were done in an ad-hoc way by the SAHRC. It had formed a dedicated programme to centralise these matters, which was, as far as she knew, unique to the human rights commissions worldwide. The SAHRC reported to the Portfolio Committee on Justice, but also appeared before other portfolio committees. Each year it would include a table in its report, stating which treaties had been signed and ratified. It would also meet with the (formerly named) DFA, to try to settle where some of those delays were.
Ms Cohen said that the SAHRC also did a lot of work around torture, having a separate unit called the Sector Five Unit. It partnered with the Judicial Inspectorate for Correctional Services, had experts from the Association for the Prevention of Torture on their committee. It would like to see the Torture Bill coming in to Parliament, to find a national preventative mechanism.
Ms Vuyiswa Nxasana, Acting Director General, Department of Women, Youth, Children and Persons with Disabilities, said that the problem was that SAHRC were not taken seriously enough. People were not aware of the work that the Commission did. She enquired whether the SAHRC were designing score cards. She suggested that should have a reward/punishment system, so that society was aware what would happen if it failed to do something. The Department needed to set a strict strategic objective for itself, and this would include the facilitation of domestication of regional conventional and international instruments, and promotion of ratification, implementation and reporting of the regional and international instruments. The Department also needed to establish and maintain sectoral and intergovernmental relations as well as partnerships with the private sector, interest groups, strategic partners and democratic groups to promote that kind of work. She thought that it was embarrassing that South Africa, having a strong human rights culture, to be neglecting issues, and the Department would follow up on those outstanding reports.
Commission on Gender Equality (CGE) presentation
Mr Mzolisi Shozi, Deputy Chairperson, Commission on Gender Equality, outlined that the vision of the CGE was to create a society which was free from gender inequality. The CGE was still regulated under the 1993 Interim Constitution, and it was critical that this position be regularised to be brought in line with the final Constitution, so that the CGE could promote gender equality.
Mr Shozi said that the other critical issue in terms of the mandate was that people should engender their own treaties. This was not a narrow scope, but was work that required in depth analysis. Section 11 gave the CGE the mandate to monitor all institutions, private, provincial organizations, and even Parliament, for compliance with gender issues. CGE was about to release a research on the private sector, showing where it was not complying with gender equality. Mr Shozi suggested that the Committee asked the CGE to make a formal presentation to it. The Minister wanted to propose an Act to ensure that everyone complied with gender equality.
The CGE would investigate gender related complaints. The Commission had three strategic departments, which were the Research Department, the Public Information Department and the Legal Department. It also had a Finance and Administration Department. The CGE also had to lobby different societies and different people in terms of gender equality, such as partnering with traditional leaders to educate them about gender equality.
Mr Shozi explained that their rule was not only to monitor and litigate but also to educate people about gender inequality, to analyse and report issues to promote gender equality, and to make submissions to Parliament about various Legislation that would need to have gender issues addressed. The CGE had a programme of six schematic areas in order to look at all gender related issues. One of those schematic areas was gender and poverty, others included gender, democracy and good governance, which was very critical as it related to other institutions which were observing gender equality issues.
Mr Shozi said that it was critical to develop a strategic plan for five years so that the commissioners of the CGE would know, when their term ended, what issues they had dealt with and indicate which issues they could not do, with reasons being provided.
The CGE was also doing research on gender based violence. Departments did not want to provide information on that topic. With regards to democracy and good governance, the CGE would try to include the political parties and assess how they were going to promote gender equality in Parliament and in government. With regard to Gender Culture and Religion, this was a difficult area for work alone, and there was a need to bring together organisations to valuate the role of African cultures in South Africa. Mr Shozi noted that the CGE had sometimes become unpopular because when starting to tackle the issues, people would become aware that there was a unicentric perspective and would fear that the CGE wanted to change their culture. There should be a workshop to educate people in relation to those issues. CGE had also done a report on the issue of gender and HIV/AIDS and the impact which it had.
Mr Shozi said that there was one particular case study which he would like to discuss. This was based on the Gender, Democracy and Good Governance Study, promoting 50/50 representation as a project. Various political parties were called to provide their manifestos, to speak to the CGE, and it was noted that some political parties had listed only men in their top positions, with women starting only from number 19. This was an important and interesting issue.
Mr Shozi said that during May the CGE was involved in a planning session with other Commissions, and had noted that a report had been put together on the Convention for Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) by the Ministry. The CGE Act stipulated that it must report to Parliament, and so the CGE decided to do its own reports on international instruments. The African and EU Protocols also needed attention. Mr Shozi said that the CGE would like to do everything, but due to time constraints it was going to start with the CEDAW report in this year. This CEDAW report must be referred to the debating platform for action.
Ms Rasheeda Shabodien, CGE Commissioner, said that the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Gender Protocol had not been signed, and it was critical that the implementation of this be included in the Committee’s programme. This was because the National Gender Policy Framework did not have the status of law. The President had removed the Office on the Status of Women, instead replacing it with the Ministry for Women, which was an Executive decision and was therefore difficult for the CGE to monitor.
The Chairperson said that the work of the Gender Commission seemed to be very difficult. She would caution the Commission not to allow the bulk of its budget to go to salaries and buildings, as this would prevent resources from reaching the correct beneficiaries.
Ms Duncan agreed with the Chairperson, noting that the business was not to do with profit, but rather with the message needing to be put out to the people. She asked if the CGE could also, in its themes, look at gender and the economy. She believed that it was no longer possible to look at purely social development of people, because Government got stuck with grants.
Ms Abrahams said that the CGE did respond to the presidential Development Report each year. The CGE would not only cover issues on the economy, but also issues around climate change and environmental awareness. It specifically took note of women in the economy, reporting that women owned 40% of the economy and men 60%. The Commission’s job, however, was not to implement – that was the job of Government. The CGE could only monitor and report upon the implementation.
The Chairperson said that all people wanted to be at least self- sustainable, if not wealthy, as a small sector of the population were.
Ms I Ditshetelo (UCDP) asked how the CGE reached out in the rural areas in terms of their programmes. She also wanted to know whether the CGE would examine religion in its studies into African cultures, religions and traditions. She also asked whether the Commission would conduct workshops in order to change the mindsets of people in terms of their cultural background.
Mr Shozi said that the CGE commissioned an Education Report, focusing on the fact that children were spending six hours being educated per day, but the CGE wanted to know what information was being imparted. He thought that the education system was prime in educating people about changing their mindsets. The Gender Commission Report was going to highlight that.
Ms Shabodien said that the issue around changing a society had to do with inherent beliefs about women's role in society, and the role that the girl child had in society. The programme that the CGE was working on in terms of culture, tradition and religion was challenging, because it often impacted upon what people believed God or the higher being of their beliefs had said. When the CGE visited people, they would say that the Bible, the Quran, or the Torah said that that was their God-given right to treat women in a certain way. The CGE said that while it would respect culture, religion and tradition, it could not support discrimination against women. People had every right to practise their culture, but discriminatory practices would not be allowed in South Africa. Ms Shabodien gave the example of customary marriages, which could be African traditional marriages, or Hindu or Moslem marriages. Some of these were legalised, but others were not. Women were the ones who bore the brunt of the problems that arose from this.
Ms Robinson said that the Commission needed to alert the Committee, and assist its Members, on gender equality but confirmed that the CGE could not do everything. The Committee rather should set the example. It was a matter of education on parenting skills and an issue of early child education, where people could be trained on how to bring up their children in a gender-sensitive way.
Ms Malgas noted that under the topic of gender and HIV/AIDS she wanted to hear the Commission’s opinion on cervical cancer, and whether it would be treated alongside HIV/AIDS in the future.
Ms Shabodien said that there was a problem in South Africa, since a lot of attention was being focused on the major problem of HIV/AIDS although many black women were dying from cervical cancer. All that was required in its prevention was one pap smear. This disease was curable, yet so many women were dying from it.
Ms Nxasana said that she saw the possibility of a role conflict emerging. She cited, by way of example, who should be responsible for submitting the Country Reports.
Ms Shabodien said that it was unfortunate that countries would go out of their way to be in line to sign the treaties and protocols, but that often Government would not report on them, and the Country Report was in fact the only way to monitor.
Mr Shozi clarified that the CGE would not be developing the Government’s CEDAW Report, but that it would be compiling its own report.
The Chairperson said that in future the Committee would like to be certain as to which department the CGE fell under. She said that the CGE was doing a lot of work that was going unnoticed. She asked how it would measure its performance.
Ms Yvette Abrahams, CGE Commissioner, noted that the CGE, in response to the recommendations of the Ad Hoc Committee that was chaired by Kader Asmal in relation to the Chapter 9 institutions, had held a long discussion on how CGE developed indicators for the progress on gender equality, and took Britain and Ireland as the baseline. The CGE was progressing ten times faster than those countries in terms of gender equality, and, in terms of cost effectiveness, it was rated by the Ad Hoc Committee as being about one and a half times more effective than the HRC and twice as effective as the Office of Public Protector.
Children's Institute, University of Cape Town Presentation on Child Rights
Ms Lucy Jamieson, Senior Advocacy Co-ordinator, Children's Institute, UCT, xplained that her role was to ensure that the research was sent into government and Parliamentary processes and to link civil society with the debates that were going on in Parliament around engaging with children, in order to monitor what was being done.
Ms Jamieson highlighted the Children's Act, which had passed and enacted but not yet enforced. She said that she brought a 15 year old girl to present to the Select Committee on Social Services. The girl presented three case studies, including her own, of children from the Eastern Cape who had been abducted and forced into marriage. The Committee, as a result of those facts, had increased the sanction for abduction from a R200 fine to ten years in prison.
Ms Jamieson said that because of the HIV pandemic the country had seen a huge increase in grants. In 2000 there were 47 000 children in foster care. At the end of 2008 there were 517 000 children in foster care. These were predominantly children who had been looked after by their grandparents, aunts or other relatives, who wanted to access the Foster Child grant rather than the Child Support grant, because the former was R670 and the latter was R240. As a result enormous strain was being put on court services and social services.
Ms Jamieson said that another major problem related to young children not being able to access the Child Support Grant as they did not have birth certificates.
Ms Jamieson turned to the issue of keeping children out of the criminal justice system, based on a restorative justice model, which involved use of diversion programmes, crime prevention programmes, and also changing the age of criminal capacity, which had been seven years of age, and was now ten. This was not quite yet in line with international best practice, which was 12. However, the Criminal Justice Act noted that a child aged between 10 and 14 could be prosecuted, but the Prosecutor had to prove that the child had criminal capacity. The issue was discussed, and the Act now also required the Minister of Justice to report to Parliament within five years on the age of criminal capacity and whether it should remain at 10, or be changed. The Constitution and international law said that children should only be imprisoned as a measure of last resort. There were some instances when it was the only option, but the Constitution required the judicial officers to look at other possible options first. The Criminal Law Amendment Act said that minimum sentencing could be applied to 16 and 17 year olds for certain serious offences.
Ms Jamieson said that the Sexual Offences Act had brought in a new definition of rape, which meant that men and boy children could also be raped. One of the problematic issues was that the Act defined the age of consent for sexual activity, which media reports had said even included kissing, as 16. The issue was that Parliament did not consult children on the issue, although it did consult with civil society organisations.
Ms Jamieson said that there had been massive steps for access to education made, and it was gratifying to note that children were getting to schools. In 2005 major amendments had been made to models of school infrastructure, to try to address the apartheid legacy of the Model C schools, which were equipped with swimming pools, sports grounds, libraries and other facilities, whilst other government schools were not. The Education Laws Amendment Act required addressing those inequalities, starting by ensuring that all children had access to schools that had proper libraries, and IT resources.
One of the weaknesses in the legislation had been around access to schools for children with disabilities. This was not only about physical access, but also about creating an enabling environment, and that was partly based on attitudes from teachers. Another aspect that by introduced by the Education Amendment Act, and that needed to be monitored, related to the measures around safety aimed at curbing dangerous objects coming in to schools.
The Child Justice Act was an excellent piece of legislation that made a huge difference to the Child Justice system, by keeping it in line with both the Constitution and international obligations. The Children’s Act was the biggest piece of legislation on the South African statute books but it still awaited implementation. It gave effect to critically important rights such as the right to family care and the right to protection from abuse. Community based services fell under the Children’s Act. This was not only because there was not yet a regulatory framework, but that there was no budget assigned to it. Donor funding had dried up, and South Africa was suffering also from the global economic recession. All of the community based organisations, such as groups of women in rural communities, had been struggling to put together some basic but extremely critical services such as food for children, or a place to go, to release some of the pressure from young families. The funding would only follow the enforcement of the Act.
Ms Jamieson said that the Institute would like to work with the Committee to ensure that Parliament was doing some sort of review on what needed to be addressed.
The Chairperson said that some of the issues which were raised were embarrassing to the Committee, such as the Children’s Act lack of enforcement, which arose from insufficient attention being paid to these matters. She agreed that the Committee would try to work closely with the institute.
University of Stellenbosch Presentation on Women's Rights
Prof Amanda Gouws, Professor of Political Science at the University of Stellenbosch, said that her research had shown that the previous Joint Monitoring Committees (JMC) had been a pivotal structure in Parliament and in government, with important oversight and monetary roles over legislation, provided that the members of the committee were vigilant. This workshop was an opportunity for the new Portfolio Committee to look at many things which had been neglected over the years. The JMC had been successful in efforts to fast-track the Recognition of Customary Marriages Act.
Prof Gouws said that it was very difficult to know what rural women wanted because they were far from Parliament, they could not make submissions and very often there were huge gaps in the legislation around their issues. Women's budgeting had also neglected this grouping. She believed it was important for all to know that budgets were being spent differently on issues related to women, men and children. It would be a good thing to bring back the Women's Budgeting Initiative.
Prof Gouws said that the relationship with the CGE was very important, especially in terms of the role of oversight. There was a huge gap regarding gender issues because there was very little interaction with the women in society. The CGE and the Committee really needed to know what women's needs and wants were in order to serve them.
Prof Gouws said that the issue of rural women was very important. Many of the issues which she had singled out related to women, but unless the conditions of poverty and the conditions of disempowerment of rural women were changed, South Africa would not be able to address issues of gender inequality in South Africa. Rural women formed a large constituency. There was much legislation that needed to be changed to address their needs. She noted that the Communal Land Rights Act (CLaRA) was passed despite the opposition from women's organisations and NGOs about its lack of focus on the empowerment of women to work the land and to own the land. Traditional leaders had been given the power to distribute land and it diminished women's access to land and security of ten years. It also could lead to women being evicted from land in the cases where they had been widowed or divorced. The Act had not addressed any of those issues.
The recognition of Customary Law marriages was given already in 1998, but the relevant amendments in relation to customary law spouses had still not been effected under the law of succession legislation. Women under some customary marriages were still being left destitute when their husbands died. This was why the recent Constitutional Law case was a landmark, yet the legislation necessary was yet to be passed. This must be fast-tracked.
Prof Gouws said that the recognition of Muslim marriages contracted under the Muslim Personal Law, and the fact that Muslim women were not protected by South African law because these marriages were not included in the Recognition of Customary Law Act must still be addressed. The draft Bill to regularise the position had been produced, but nothing was begin done to take it further.
Prof Gouws said that legislation around sex workers had not been produced to the satisfaction of women in the sex industry. The legislation actually still criminalized sex work and the women involved in it. This was urgent, particularly in light of the 2010 World Cup, as there was likely to be an increase in the number of women being trafficked to service men visitors to the World Cup. Germany, by contrast, had recognised the issue and had taken special measures to prevent human trafficking in that period.
Prof Gouws said that although there was a Domestic Violence Act, which in theory empowered women to obtain court orders and interdicts to prevent rape and other domestic violence, often did not make much difference, because it was not properly policed. The South African Police Service (SAPS) needed to ask for permission to enter into homes where it was alleged that violence was in progress, and it was unlikely that this would be granted where violence was being perpetrated. This was something that needed to be addressed from the gender angle.
Prof Gouws said that the Committee must also revisit the issue on the Sexual Offences Court. The research that had been done showed that secondary victimisation of survivors of rape was very largely reduced through those Courts, but she had been given to understand that these Courts were to be closed. She believed they played an important role in those societies where there were high levels of rape.
Prof Gouws said that she did not understand why the Child Protection Unit was closed, as it also had played a very important role in looking at sexual offences against children.
Prof Gouws then addressed the issue of socio- economic rights, or second generation rights, which she explained were access rights in the Constitution. The problem was that the way this was framed did not put an obligation on the State to provide access to education, access to a house and access to a job. In theory, the State had provided access by having schools, businesses and housing. However, as long as the extreme levels of poverty remained, especially rural poverty, women would bear the brunt of not actually having those rights.
Prof Gouws said that the social welfare system was presently run by offering various grants, which was an important short term solution, but which did not change the conditions in which the people lived. There were grants for foster care, disabled and old age people. People who were not yet 60 years old, and who had no children, were not eligible for any grant. It was important to consider the position of people who might have lost their job and these people often fell through the cracks in the systems.
Prof Gouws said that there were more women being affected by the HIV virus, and more women died of it, than men. Some research had shown that the context of stigma was very debilitating and some women had actually been killed for admitting they were HIV positive. The legislation should ensure that it was not discriminating against women, and that the stigma for disclosing HIV status should be decreased so that more people did notify others about their infection. This was also problematic since more women than men tended to know of their status.
Prof Gouws referred to the issue of termination of pregnancy. The relevant legislation had failed in its implementation often because the medical profession was supposed to save, not to take, lives. Nurses were often claimed to mistreat women who asked for abortions, and there were no penalties for practitioners. She believed that gender equality would only be achieved when women had full control over their bodies.
Prof Gouws said that discourse around women also related to the issue of education and raising consciousness. Discourse about women's sexuality, for example by the ANC Youth League, was very problematic, yet it was not being dealt with. The Committee must start discussion on these issues, which related to everyone’s Constitutional right to human dignity.
The Chairperson agreed that this presentation had really opened the Committee’s eyes to the need to look more closely at legislative issues.
Ms Robinson said that there had been some discussion around certain tribal practices, and the fact that young people who had attended the circumcision rites still were to be cleansed and then were to have sex with “worthless women”, who were unmarried or widowed older women. This was closely related to the issues of rural women’s’ rights and traditional cultural regard for these women. Women and girl children would have to be respected and their rights enforced, and the notion that they were “worthless” must be countered.
The Chairperson noted that there were many resources that were available to the Committee.
Human Sciences Research Council Presentation on Youth Development in South Africa
Dr Sharlene Swartz, Human Sciences Research Council, said that she would speak to the four issues of who the youth were, legislative frameworks, three seminal concepts and what issues required attention paid to them. She noted that there were still different definitions of “youth” in South Africa. The Constitution said a young person or a child was one under the age of 18 years old. The White Paper on Social Welfare referred to youth as those between 16 and 30 years of age. Youth had to be 18 to vote or get their drivers’ licence. The legal age of majority was 21. The National Youth Police defined youth as those between 14 and 35.
Younger people in the past used to go out to work at a much younger age and it would take them a long time to become employed and to get their own homes and achieve financial independence. However, young people today had greater expectations for their future, yet found themselves in a socio- economic environment where they could not achieve these high expectations.
The African Youth Charter tried to ensure that youth development across the Continent was homogenous and catered for in each country, and set out the principles on which it should be driven, which included basic human rights such as freedom of association, expression and religion (Articles 2 to 9) . It also asked that countries acted on national youth policies.
Dr Swartz said that the Education and Skills Development Article spoke about quality education, holistic development of free society, free to basic education, no exclusion for pregnant young women, sex education across the board for young women, and education that would prepare young people for work. Most of those were set out in the National Youth Policy.
Dr Swartz said that the issues around youth also included poverty eradication and socio- economic integration of youth, rural regeneration, assistance to the youth in finding meaningful employment and helping them to find their productive niche in rural communities rather than always having to migrate to the cities.
It was regrettable that so little was done for leisure and recreation. Many young people had sex as they saw it as a form of recreation, and therefore more had to be provided for them to do.
The South African National Youth Policy focused on six major areas, as set out in the attached document. The fifth area of National Youth Services was very successful in small pockets. However, people coming out of National Youth Service or volunteer programme would still have the problem that there were no opportunities for full time employment.
Dr Swartz turned to the concept of the “youth bulge”. South Africa currently had the largest number of young people than at any other time in its history. Young people were healthier and better educated, mortality rates were dropping worldwide. When this happened, life expectancy was positive, and families tended to have fewer children and put more energy and quality into these fewer children. The youth bulge in South Africa was an enormous opportunity for rapid human and economic development. About 25 to 40% of the East Asian Economic development was attributed to the Youth Bulge. South Africa had almost reached the pinnacle of its Youth Bulge. In the next 10 to 30 years the age groups from 15 to 19, and 20 to 24, would become the country’s biggest resources, providing that jobs were available. If no jobs were found, then they would become the country’s biggest liability.
The Youth Bulge came at a cost. It was necessary not only to decrease the numbers of children being produced, not only so that there were less mouths to feed but also so that the young parents could become involved in the economy, with fewer children to look after and to support. The young people’s health must be protected. A major problem related to high incidents of infection and death from HIV and AIDS in the working population aged from 25 to 35. There had to be an upscaling of treatment and prevention. There was a need to increase the quality and the quantity of education, and to train children to participate in knowledge based economy. The number of young women in the market must be increased. There was a need to shift the concept of young people from being a drag on economic development to being at the heart of development.
Youth development, despite the potential, was lagging. There was a high pregnancy rate of young women, and most of these pregnancies were unplanned. The HIV rates were tailing off for young teenagers, but were increasing for the 19 to 45 year olds.
Dr Swartz then introduced the concepts of First Chancers and Second Chancers. First Chancers were initiatives being done at ground level to try to regularize matters, ensuring early childhood development education, and looking after child needs now to prevent future problems. Second Chancers concentrated on policies for secondary resources for children who had, for example dropped, out of school, who were in prison, or who had young children themselves but who wanted to return to school. It was important to maintain the impetus in every area of education, HIV/AIDS, job creation, health and well-being. She believed that the current policy of the HSRC enabled it to do so.
Ms Malgas said that one question related to whether there would be enough money to support the old people in future. She noted that Dr Swartz gave Members a lot to think about and she reminded them of their responsibilities.
Ms Duncan said that she had a problem with programmes shown on television, as the values of a solid family environment were often not being promoted. Family policies were not getting enough attention.
Dr Swartz said that the public broadcaster SABC was doing a good job of combining education and entertainment. However, in her opinion ETV was not, as she was concerned about the number of violent and soft porn programmes being viewed. She believed that parents needed help, and the broadcasters needed help, in the form of educational guidance.
Mr Mabaso said that he wanted to emphasise the need for Broad Based Black Economic Empowerment, gambling, and street children to be addressed. He also said that the Committee should give attention to children in communities, and Cooperatives, because when economic growth was available only to a few then the bulk of parents were being excluded from opportunities to take part in economic growth.
Ms Robinson agreed fully with Mr Mabaso. She added that there was a need to strengthen local government, encourage mentorships and create an enabling environment for people through helpful structures.
Dr Swartz said that young people were capable and able, not the no-hopers that many claimed them to be.
Disability in South Africa Presentation
Mr M Katoni, representative of South African Disability Alliance, said that there was a need to increase the momentum around issues of disability. He noted that the South African Disability Alliance was constituted of 13 organisations.
Mr Katoni said that the Government had signed the UN Convention around disabled persons. The census of 2007 had claimed that there were 1.2 million disabled people in South Africa, but he was not sure that this figure was high enough.
The Disability Alliance (SADA) had worked with the previous Parliament to ensure that there was understanding of the mainstreaming and integration issues relating to disability. Research was done on disabled members of Parliament. The severely disabled did not always have a personal attendant inside the Chamber. Often, the sign language interpreter was not sitting close to the disabled person. He urged this Committee to set up a disability office within Parliament so that service was readily available to all members of Parliament.
Mr Katoni said that the understanding of Members of Parliament and the language used around sensitivity training were quite important. Government was supposed to produce a report next year in terms on how it was dealing with the implementation of the UN Convention and this Committee should be making a significant input into ensuring that there was a programme that would make ordinary South Africans understand what the UN Convention stood for and how it was supposed to benefit all disabled people in South Africa.
Mr Katoni said that a critical issue was around the 2010 World Cup Event. The Committee should have played a role, as they had been talking about access to physical environments such as buildings. The stadiums, as they currently stood, presented a problem. There was no clear understanding how a disabled person would be able to participate as a South African spectator. Money was allocated for that purpose. Transport was another major issue as many of the taxis were not prepared to think how they would accommodate disabled people. They were rather concerned about the routes.
Mr Katoni said that the other area of concern was the area of unemployment. His understanding was that the Minister of Labour would be launching the 2008 and 2009 report.
The Chairperson said this presentation had made Members aware of their oversight role in terms of disability.
Ms Duncan was pleased to hear the emphasis that governments had an obligation to look after people with disability.
Ms Robinson said that wheelchairs, when made available, were not checked for size. Overseas, many motorized wheelchairs were available to people, yet in South Africa many disabled people were still being transported in wheelbarrows, which was tragic.
The Acting Chairperson, Ms Malgas, said that the Members had, on the previous day, considered their programme and strategic plan. She would be asking the Committee Researchers to speak to the summary on key issues relating to the Committee’s activities and business plan.
Ms Kashifa Abrahams, Committee Researcher, Parliamentary Research Unit, said that the Members had discussed issues around the mandate already, but she wished to go through the six key objectives under that mandate.
The first was to hold the Executive structures responsible to account for improving the lives of their target groups. Those would be the Department, the National Youth Development Agency and other State organs. The second objective was to ensure that targeted groups were considered and prioritised in all legislation, policies and programmes. The third objective was to initiate, monitor and evaluate implementation and oversee legislation with respect to the target groups of the Committee. The fourth objective was to monitor and oversee that the appropriate budgets were allocated for the implementation of legislation, policies and programmes targeted at women, youth, children and persons with disabilities. The fifth objective was to ensure compliance with international and regional treaties that had a bearing on the needs of women, youth, children and persons with disabilities. The sixth objective was to create opportunities for public participation with civil society in matters pertaining to the Committee’s target group.
Ms Abrahams said that on the previous day it had been agreed that the proposed mandate be forwarded to the Speaker of Parliament, and once there was final agreement as to the programme, it would then be adopted formally by the Committee and circulated.
Ms Duncan said that with the fourth objective relating to monitoring and oversight meant scrutiny and asked whether the Committee would also monitor debates and speeches, and would be able to influence the budget.
Ms Robinson would like to refine this point further, and suggested that the Committee needed to say that it must give input to the budgetary process, by interaction with National Treasury, and the Financial and Fiscal Commission.
Ms Abrahams suggested that perhaps the legal advisers should be asked to substitute a better word than “influence” and bring this point back to the Committee.
Ms Duncan suggested that the Committee get semester reports instead of yearly reports, to help to guide the Department.
Ms Abrahams asked to what extent the Committee would look at issues around mainstreaming target groups, and whether this was sufficiently captured in what had been documented.
Ms Malgas said that she did not think that there should be references to mainstreaming, because this would imply mainstreaming target groups in the core functions of each Department, and this was in fact the role of the Ministry.
Ms Duncan asked that whether the Committee should consider the treaties which Ms Cohen had spoken about, to make sure which departments these fell under.
Ms Duncan asked what was the budget of the Committee.
The Committee Secretary noted that R450 000 was allocated.
Ms Malgas said that this was insufficient to allow the Committee to achieve all its work and must be looked into.
The meeting was adjourned
- Women, Youth, Children and People with Disabilities: Strategic Planning Workshop [Part 2]
- Women, Youth, Children and People with Disabilities: Strategic Planning Workshop [Part 1]
- Women, Youth, Children and People with Disabilities: Strategic Planning Workshop [Part 4]
- Women, Youth, Children and People with Disabilities: Strategic Planning Workshop [Part 3]
- Women, Youth, Children and People with Disabilities: Strategic Planning Workshop [Part 1]
- Women, Youth, Children and People with Disabilities: Strategic Planning Workshop [Part 3]
- Women, Youth, Children and People with Disabilities: Strategic Planning Workshop [Part 2]
- Women, Youth, Children and People with Disabilities: Strategic Planning Workshop [Part 4]
- Draft Strategic Plan 2009-2012- Programme: Persons with Disabilities.
- Commission for Gender Equality Presentation
- Legal guide to age thresholds for children
- Parliament research Unit: Gender and Women’s Issues (2004 – 2009)
- Parliament research Unit: Children, Youth and Persons with Disabilities (2004-2009)
- NYDA Strategy 2009-2012
- Youth Development in SA: Legislation and key issues
- Professor Amanda Gouws: Submission to Portfolio Committee on Women, Youth, Children and People with Disabilities
- South African Human Rights Commission- Human Rights Development Report 2008/09- Treaty Body Chapter
- We don't have attendance info for this committee meeting
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