The Department of Women in the Presidency (the Department) presented South Africa’s 5th Periodic Report on the Implementation of the Convention on Elimination of all forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), during the period 2009-2014. The history and background of the signing and ratification of the instrument, and the years in which previous reports were handed in were summarised. Points that were made in this report included the significant increase in the number of women who had access to tertiary education and financial support for economic participation. The report looked at the effectiveness of laws, policies and programmes, and gave examples of some court decisions impacting strongly on women around discrimination. It also highlighted the achievements the country had made on women’s empowerment and gender equality in the areas of political and decision-making positions, provision of basic services, inclusion in economic activities, poverty reduction, gender based violence and prevention of mother to child transmission of HIV and AIDS. Persistent patriarchal attitudes and practices, including customary law, still had a negative impact on women and girls, and there was at times inadequate implementation and monitoring of legislation that regulated certain rights, such as access to property and inheritance law. There was still not enough disaggregated data and access to economic opportunities and finances, though improving, was not at the same level. All Magistrates Courts had been designated as Equality courts and there had been a 40% increase in unfair discrimination matters considered. Particular areas addressed included discussions on ukuthwala, sexual offences courts, prevention of trafficking, representation of women in Parliament, Cabinet, SMS and the private sector, and education measures. Women still remained the lowest paid in the country, although the concept of equal pay for equal work was being promoted. A report on gender-based and sexual-orientation based violence, and strategies to address it, would be forwarded to the CEDAW committee. Members commented that they would find more oversight visits useful to determine what was really happening on the ground, asked how secondary victimisation of sexual offence victims was being handled, and expressed concern about the plight of many older women. They asked if it was possible to get a provincially-based report, and requested statistics on women in business, the judiciary, and disabled women, but were informed that this report covered the period up to 2014. Written responses were to be forwarded.
Ms P Bhengu (ANC) was requested to take over as Acting Chairperson.
Convention on Elimination of all forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW): South Africa's Fifth Periodic Report: Department of Women briefing
Ms Jenny Schreiner, Director-General, Department of Women, tendered an apology on behalf of Minister of Women Susan Shabangu, who was unable to attend the meeting.
Ms Mmabatho Ramagoshi, Deputy Director-General: Policy, Stakeholder Coordination and Knowledge Management, Department of Women, thanked the Committee for the opportunity to present South Africa's Fifth Country Report (the report) on the Convention on Elimination of all forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW). She set out the background into the signing and ratification of CEDAW by South Africa, and the dates on which previous reports were submitted to the UN Human Rights Council. Tshwaranang Legal Advocacy Centre, People Opposing Women Abuse, Legal Resources Centre, Centre for Applied Legal Studies, Sex Workers Education and Advocacy Taskforce (SWEAT), Women’s Legal Centre (WLC) and the Commission for Gender Equality (CGE) were some of the interested stakeholders who gave comments on the report.
The final report was presented and approved by Cabinet in December 2015. It was compliant with the CEDAW committee guidelines, including a maximum of 40 pages and information previously reported on or in the Common Core Document. The report responds to the concluding observations, and focuses on achievements in the implementation of human rights instruments and legislation in the actual political, economic, social and cultural realities and conditions in the country.
The report provides an overview of the effectiveness of laws, policies and programmes implemented in the country, and shares some court decisions that were handed down, in favour of women, on issues of discrimination. It also highlighted the achievements the country had made on women’s empowerment and gender equality in the areas of political and decision-making positions, provision of basic services, inclusion in economic activities, poverty reduction, gender based violence ,and prevention of mother to child transmission of HIV and AIDS.
She noted that there were persistent patriarchal attitudes and practices that negatively impacted the socio-economic empowerment of women. There were also cultural and traditional practices perpetuating negative impact on women and girls. Inadequate implementation and monitoring of legislation that regulates certain rights of women, such as issues of land and property ownership and inheritance rights, access to economic opportunities and finances, and lack of gender-disaggregated data, indicators and targets remained a challenge.
The report also highlighted the oversight monitoring role of Parliament on women’s empowerment. It was noted that all magistrates courts were designated as Equality Courts from 2009, thus improving access to justice on equality matters. There had been a 40% increase in matters of unfair discrimination in Equality Courts, and the report shares landmark rulings in favour of women.
The report takes the position that Ukuthwala is an “irregular” form of marriage. It also indicates the accountability measures that are in place to address violence against women, such as the Ministerial Task Team on Adjudication of Sexual Offences Matters that resulted in the provision of the Sexual Offence Courtroom based on the victim friendly model.
There had been 33 sexual offences courtrooms set up by 2015. The measures to address human trafficking included the enactment of legislation.
The representation of women in Parliament is 41% and it is 43% in Cabinet. Representation in Senior Management Services, in the public sector, sat at 40.6%, while the private sector had less than 5% women representation as Chief Executive Officers (CEOs). The report highlighted the progress made in education, with a 19, 8% of women in education, training and related fields. The report identified measures to address illiteracy in adults, the majority of whom are women, through the Kha ri Gude programmes. Poor students are supported through programmes of no fees schools, school nutrition and Thuthuka bursaries.
The amendment of the Employment Equity Act incorporated the concept of equal pay for work of equal value, which will protect women from unfair wage disparities. Women remained the lowest paid in the country. It was estimated that 38% of businesses were owned by women. Rural women were gradually benefiting from land access, and a total of 5 681 females were beneficiaries of the redistribution and land tenure reform programme.
The National Task Team had addressed gender-based and sexual orientation-based violence perpetrated on lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) and had developed a strategy to address corrective rape. The report will be forwarded to the CEDAW Committee in Geneva Switzerland.
Mr M Dirks (ANC) thanked the Department of Women (DOW or the Department) for the presentation. He commented that it would perhaps be more valuable if the number of meetings and trips to Parliament by Departments was reduced and more oversight visits instead took place. He said his problem was that what was being presented and what was actually being done on the ground were often very different, and that Parliament should ensure that implementation of plans and policies was actually happening.
Ms D Robinson (DA) thanked the presenters and commented on the number of Family Violence, Child Protection and Sexual Offences (FCS) units in the country, commenting also on the lack of presence in the communities where these services were required. She requested what could be done to address the issue of secondary victimisation of persons who attempted to open cases of sexual violence at police stations. More needs to be done to assist police officers with adequate training and counselling, because there were some who had confided that they lose out on promotion opportunities if they showed signs of trauma, which was in turn viewed as a sign of weakness.
Ms Robinson said that she was particularly concerned about the status of aged widows, some of whom were now senile, who would often be accused of witchcraft and be violated.
Ms O Matshoba (ANC) congratulated the Department of Women on submitting the report on time. She requested whether the report showed the nationwide status of women, and whether it would be possible to get a province by province report. She requested to know more about the statistics of women in business, and whether the percentage reported on is the recent number.
The Acting Chairperson asked about the number of women in the judiciary and what the status is of women living with disabilities in South Africa and their representation in the workplace.
Ms Schreiner responded by saying that the report is given on a periodic basis and only showed what the statistics had been up until the year 2014. The next report, that will include the statistics for the present time, will be presented in 2019.
Ms Ramagoshi added that the report is a nationwide report and does not give a province by province report. All the departments were consulted, as well as the relevant and interested stakeholders, to give comments and recommendations on this report..
She noted that the same Government Gazette as had published the report for public comment had also set out the statistics of women in the judiciary and women living with disabilities. The Kha Ri Gude programme was aimed at improving the literacy status of women living in the rural areas, who did not have an opportunity to go to school.
He noted that the Department would furnish written responses for any other questions.
The meeting was adjourned.
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