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IMPROVEMENT OF QUALITY OF LIFE AND STATUS OF WOMEN JOINT MONITORING COMMITTEE
29 May 2002
COMMITTEE REPORT ON VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN: ADOPTION
Chairperson: Miss P Govender (ANC)
Documents handed out:
Final Report on Violence against Women Adopted
Overview of Committee Work with regard to Violence Against Women (See Appendix)
The Committee Report on violence after a few additions was adopted by the committee and will be presented to Parliament. The issue of a public debate on the committee's HIV/AIDS report was deliberated upon. This was followed by the brief discussion on the proposed motion on legislation and its impact on improvement of poor women's status and lives that the committee felt should also be debated in parliament.
The Committee adopted the minutes of the previous committee meetings, conforming to the past committee agreement to have previous committee minutes adopted before every committee meeting.
Members were reminded that Miss P Govender was chairing the committee meeting for the last time as she was leaving the committee for reasons not specified.
Committee Report On Violence Against Women
Chairperson Miss Pregs Govender explained to members that the committee would not go through all the documents handed out as the committee had discussed and agreed upon them in the past except for the 'Overview of the committee has done to date with regard to violence against women - May 2002' (see Appendix). She asked members to add anything they asked on the latter overview document.
Ms B Sono (DP) raised the issue of customary law as her proposed addition to the overview document. She said the issue of customary law did not feature in all the committee reports
Chairperson under guidance from the committee members agreed that the issue of customary law should indeed be added to the overview document. She asked Mrs Sono to write her point down and give it to Sune Pauw who must in turn add it to the overview document.
Ms S Maine (ANC) suggested that the committee should look into the issue of women who were in prison following their murdering of their partners as a way of avenging themselves for the violence they had been subjected to by their partners. She said the acts committed against those women who murdered their partners should be taken into account by the Justice department. She also complained that issue had not been dealt with in the committee report.
Ms R Maloney (ANC) suggested that the issue raised by Miss Maine should, instead of being added to the overview document, be followed up with the Justice department.
Mr Bheki Ntuli (ANC) said that the women imprisoned for murdering their partners should be informed of their rights to, among other things, file for presidential pardon.
In her contribution to the issue to the issue women imprisoned for murdering their partners the chairperson suggested that the committee should arrange a meeting with the Minister in the Presidency on the issue. She further suggested that the committee should go back to the co-ordinating committee dealing with the issue of pardon of women imprisoned for murdering their partners on what it thought was the next step up.
Mr Ntuli proposed that the issue of violence that took place at Nongoma in KwaZulu-Natal when some committee members were doing a workshop on 3 May 2001 on rural women -- teaching them their rights should also be added to the overview document.
The chairperson, embracing Mr Ntuli's proposal asked Mr Ntuli to write a note on his proposal and that to be added to the overview document.
Dr Usha Roopnarain (IFP) raised a complaint about the lack of sensitivity of the Justice department when dealing with women issues. She accused the Justice system of being biased towards men. She proposed that something be done to make the Justice department gender sensitive to make it able to respond effectively to women cases.
The chairperson, in agreement with the committee, agreed that Dr Roopnarain's point should also be included in the overview document. She asked Dr Roopnarain to word a draft and give it Sune Pauw to include it in the overview document.
In the absence of further additions to the overview document, the chairman asked for the adoption of the overview document with the proposed additions or changes.
Miss Maine moved for adoption of the document.
Dr Roopnarain seconded and the document was subsequently adopted
The chairperson said that the documents would constitute the committee Report on violence against women. She also mentioned that, henceforth, the committee would act on the recommendations of that Report on violence against women.
Committee Minutes Adoption
The chairperson explained to the meeting that the committee had taken a decision to look at minutes of the previous committee meeting before any committee meeting could take place. In line with that committee, the previous committee had been prepared by Sune Pauw for the committee to adopt, the chairperson said. She explained the point of having minutes for adoption as to allow committee to go through the minutes and look at decisions taken in the past committee meetings.
Mr B Ntuli (ANC) asked how the minutes could be adopted.
The chairperson asked the members for suggestions on how they could be adopted.
Mr Ntuli said that he had thought that the committee would ensure that the committee meetings were facilitated procedurally. He said he did not see any problem in adopting the minutes. The adoption of the minutes now did not mean that someone could not go back to the minutes later and update them.
The chairperson asked for the adoption of the minutes.
Mr Ntuli moved for the minutes to be adopted.
Ms S Maine seconded him and the previous meeting minutes were officially adopted.
The chairperson said that the committee had tabled the committee's HIV/AIDS Report on the first day of parliament when parliament reopened in February this year. She said the committee had requested a debate on the report before the debate on international women's day. She said the committee was subsequently promised that a debate would be scheduled very soon thereafter. However, although it was the end of May 2002, there was still no debate on the table. She asked what the committee was recommending to be done about that.
Mr Ntuli asked if the recommendations were to be written down. He also raised concern about the current status of the committee's HIV.AIDS Report. He proposed that the committee insisted that the report be debated as soon as possible.
The chairperson said that members' recommendations should be written down.
Ms Sono asked the reasons why the debate of the committee's HIV/AIDS Report was not on the programme.
The chairperson replied by saying that the whip Miss Maine had the report.
Ms J Semple (ACDP) expressed her amazement that what she saw 'a ground breaking report' was being shelved under the carpet and that nobody wanted to deal with it.
Ms Maine said the explanation for the delay with regard to the committee's HIV/AIDS Report was because the programme was dealing with Budget votes. She promised that after budget votes, the report will be discussed.
The chairman proposed that the committee follow Mr Ntuli's proposal. She the committee should follow the issue of the report up by sending a copy of the letter to the Programming officer and Presiding officer. She said the debate should not have been delayed this long. She proposed that the committee should send a strong worded letter saying the HIV/AIDS Report debate should be treated as a priority. She also proposed that all parties represented in the committee should speak to their chief whips about the delay in the public debating of the committee's HIV/AIDS Report. She asked if everybody accepted. The response to that was in the affirmative.
Motion on Legislation and Women
The chairperson explained that few committee meetings back, the committee had discussed taking the motion to the House. She said the draft motion would be, noting the constitutional commitments in relation to CEDAW Report, Beijing Platform for Action, the national budget review of 1999. She called on all departments that whenever there was any piece of legislation coming before the House it should have a substantive memorandum which spelt out its budget specifically in relation to improve status and lives of poorest women in South Africa. If legislation did not have such a memo it should be rejected.
The chairperson further explained that the committee decision was to take that motion to the House for a debate and to be hopefully adopted by the House. She said the committee did not have the capacity to check all pieces of legislation and that it was therefore asking those given the task of checking pieces of legislation to do so. She said the committee had asked Ms Maine to forward that motion and report back to the committee. She said Ms Maine had duly taken it to the whips meeting. She asked if that was an acceptable route to go.
Ms Sono asked for the copies of the motion to be given to members so that they could give them to their respective party whips. The members agreed upon the point.
The chairperson proposed that the motion be taken to the Programming Committee Whip and that on top of asking for a motion the committee should also ask for the House resolution on the issue to make it binding. She asked if that was acceptable. The answer was in the affirmative.
The meeting ended with the reminder from Ms Maine that Miss Pregs Govender was chairing the committee for the last as she was leaving the committee.
The Joint Monitoring Committee on the Improvement of Quality of Life and Status of Women's: Overview of the work the Committee has done to date with regard to Violence Against Women
This Parliamentary Committee (hereinafter called the Committee) was established as an Ad Hoc Committee in 1996 and at the end of 1998 became a Standing Committee. The specific role of this committee is to monitor and oversee Government's implementation of the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) and the Beijing Platform for Action. One of the priorities set by the committee was to address itself to their oversight function regarding the monitoring of violence against women. In this regard, the Committee has undertaken several activities, which are discussed below.
Activities of the Committee
1. Violence Against Women Hearings during 1997 and 1999
The Portfolio Committee on Justice and the Ad Hoc Committee held hearings during 1997 and 1998 on Violence Against Women. A report was tabled in this regard. Part of the 1998 hearings also focused on other aspects relating to gender and justice. These include Domestic Violence, the legal system, spousal killings, sexual offences and sexual offence pilot courts.
At the time of these hearings, the Committee made a call that the Justice Ministry and other role-players accelerate the introduction of the proposed legislation on Domestic Violence and comprehensive legislation on sexual offences against women. To date, the Domestic Violence Act (Act 116 of 1998) has been enacted but the Sexual Offences legislation has still not come before Parliament.
2. Violence Against Women Hearings - November 1999
The Committee held hearings from the 8th to the 17th of November 1999. Written and oral submissions were made. The objective of the hearings were to:
- Identify what and where the blockages are which impede women who have been victims of all forms of violence, from having access to justice.
- Determine the varied ways in which such obstacles to justice can be addressed and eliminated.
The report emanating from the hearings thematically categorises the information under the following headings:
- Criminal Justice.
- Law enforcement.
- Welfare services and shelter.
- Health care.
- Incarceration of offenders.
- Recent research on violence against women.
- Public awareness and education.
- Allocation of financial resources and the Budget.
- Inter-ministerial co-operation and co-operative governance.
- Co-operation between Government and civil society.
- The need for statistical databases.
Although the hearings were held before the Domestic Violence Act 116 of 1998 came into operation, it highlighted difficulties anticipated with the implementation of the legislation. Many of these difficulties also emerged later in a workshop held by the Committee after the implementation of the Act. The Committee furthermore makes very specific recommendations with regards to the different thematic areas.
In addition to the detailed report on the hearings, a summary report (July 2001) is also available.
3. Provincial visits
Delegations from the Committee visited Nelspruit, Mpumalanga, Port -Elizabeth and Pietersburg from April to June 2000. They visited Magistrates, the South African Police Service (SAPS) Commissioners and Prosecutors. These meetings formed part of the Committee's investigation into the difficulties experienced by these officials in the implementation on the Domestic Violence Act and Maintenance Act 99 of 1998.
4. A Joint 2-day workshop between the Committee and the Public Participation Unit (PPU) of Parliament, 25 - 26 July 2001.
The Parliamentary Public Participation Unit PPU) and the Committee convened a National Conference on enhancing the participation of women in the law making process.
The objectives of the conference were to:
- Audit the experiences of civil society with respect to how women have experienced participation in the legislative processes.
- Audit the obstacles which impede the participation of women.
- Elicit information on how the participation of women can be improved.
- Gather and collate information on problems experienced with respect to the implementation of the Domestic Violence Act.
- Gather and collate information on problems experienced with respect to the implementation of the Maintenance Act.
- Reflect on methodologies for making gendered impact on how budgets are drawn up and how public sector resources are allocated (at national, provincial and local levels).
- Gather and collate information on women's legislative needs with respect to issues of inheritance and succession.
Some of the specific problems that emerged from the presentations on the implementation of the Domestic Violence Act included:
- Inadequate resources being allocated to the implementation of the Act.
- Sexual abuse of often not seen as abuse.
- When SAPS are called, the onus is often placed on women to say what they want SAPS to do with the perpetrator.
- The forms are difficult to complete.
A detailed report entitled "Strengthening Women's Voices though Participation: Consultative Conference on engaging Women in Parliament" is available.
5. Rural workshops
The PPU and the Committee hosted capacity building workshops for rural women in four provinces during 2001. The provinces were Mpumalanga, North-West, Limpopo and Kwa-Zulu Natal. These workshops constituted the pilot Rural Women's Project.
The objectives of the workshops were to:
- Create an understanding amongst rural women about Parliament and the law making process.
- Create an understanding of how to participate in the legislative process.
- Obtain submissions on the implementation of the Domestic Violence Act and the proposals for the proposed Inheritance and Succession legislation.
It was evident from the workshops that there is a need for public education around the Domestic Violence Act. Many of the women who attended the workshops thought that only physical violence constituted domestic violence. It was only after the Act was explained to them that they understood that there were different types of domestic violence.
6. Committee report commissioned from the Center for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation (CSVR) on Budgets and Violence Against Women
The Committee commissioned the Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation to investigate the extent of government financial aid to non-profit organisations (NPOs) providing support services to women experiencing violence.
The aims of the study were to:
- Quantify government departments' financial aid and support to organisations providing some kind of support to girls and women aged fifteen years and older who have experienced gender-based violence.
- Identify factors enhancing and/or constraining organisations' ability to access government funds for this work.
- Describe the type of activities for which organisations receive government support.
The research findings will be used to assist members of the Parliamentary Committee to undertake a range of activities aimed at ensuring that future budgets allocate sufficient funds to address the needs of women who are experiencing gender violence.
The Committee in fulfillment with its oversight role has undertaken several informative initiatives in respect to violence against women. The reports resulting from the various initiatives are rich with information and recommendations to various Government Departments. It is thus recommended that:
- Questions emanating from the various forums be posed to the different departments with regard to the implementation of the Act, resources available and budgetary requirements.
- The various reports should be disseminated to the various departments and they should be asked to formally respond to it.
- A huge public education initiative be undertaken by GCIS to ensure that the domestic Violence Act becomes more accessible to women, especially rural women.
- The rural workshops be continued in the provinces not covered in 2001 rural workshops and the 2000 provincial visits.
- A debate on Domestic Violence be held in the National Assembly and the National Council of Provinces.
Attached to this report are the following appendixes:
- Report on Violence Against Women in South Africa based on the public hearings held in November 1999. Compiled in February 2001.
- Addendum to the Violence Against Women report of February 2001.
- Summary report on Violence Against Women. July 2001.
- Summary report on Violence Against Women. October 2001.
The Committee wishes to thank the following people who helped to compile this report:
1. Melissa Fourie, who as a volunteer undertook the mammoth task of collating and compiling the report on the hearings on Violence Against Women that took place in November 1999.
2. Shereen Dawood, researcher for the ANC Study Group of the Committee, who assisted in compiling the July and October summary reports of the hearings.
3. Carmine Rustin, of the Parliamentary Research Unit, who assisted in compiling the final report on the work undertaken by the Committee on Violence against Women.
Ms. P. Govender
Chairperson of the Joint Monitoring Committee on the Improvement of Quality of Life and Status of Women.
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