The Senior Researcher presented a draft programme on the International Women’s Conference on Women and the “Changing World of Work” – Preparatory Workshop. Members were not at all happy that all women Members of Parliament will not attend the Women’s Conference because of the limited numbers stipulated in the draft programme. Members were aggrieved that female MPs were tasked with implementing resolutions taken at the Conference, pushing female agendas and gender sensitivity in Committees but could not attend the Conference because of limited resources – Members said this was simply unacceptable. A formal response from the Speaker in response to the Multi-Party Women’s Caucus communication of these concerns, was still awaited. It was important that the Speaker was aware of how serious the situation was and, if necessary, a delegation from the Caucus would meet with the Speaker in this regard.
The Steering Committee had lengthy discussion on the issue of the Way forward on the Roundtable Resolution on the decriminalisation of Sex Work: Discussion on the Summit with Stakeholders on responses to the Report of the SA Law Reform Commission (SALRC) Project 107 Sexual Offences Adult Prostitution. An ANC position on the matter was not yet taken – it was due to be discussed at the party’s policy conference but certain legal issues had not been finalised which resulted in the matter not being discussed. Lobbying however would still continue. Members suggested the report of SALRC be debated and discussed amongst the different political parties. Perhaps next year the Multi Party Women’s Caucus would be in more of a position to pronounce itself on the decriminalisation of sex work.
The consideration of the Draft Report on the Strategic Planning Workshop on 20 June 2017 was shifted for the next meeting of the Steering Committee to enable Members to go through the Draft Report and provide input.
The meeting with the SA Police Service on the Statistics on Trafficking in persons (particularly women and young girls and boys) and measures undertaken to curb the phenomenon, was also shifted to be discussed when the Minister of Police came before the Steering Committee to address it on this matter together with the issue of Gender Based Violence (GBV).
The Chairperson noted the purpose of the meeting was for Members to be briefed on the International Women’s Conference to be held in Parliament on 29 and 30 August 2017, discuss the way forward on the Roundtable Resolution on the decriminalisation of Sex Work, discuss the Summit with Stakeholders on responses to the Report of the SA Law Reform Commission (SALRC) Project 107 Sexual Offences Adult Prostitution, consider the Draft Report on the Strategic Planning Workshop on 20 June 2017 and meet with the SA Police Service (SAPS) on the statistics on trafficking in persons (particularly women and young girls and boys) and measures undertaken to curb the phenomenon.
International Women’s Conference
The Chairperson said all Members should be aware of the Conference which would take place over 29 and 30 August 2017 – the first day was going to be women’s conference in the provinces and those in Parliament, which the Senior Researcher will explain further.
Ms Joy Watson, Senior Parliamentary Researcher, said that since she had already presented about the Conference to the Committee, she would just give brief Members on the way forward. The Conference was an international one under the theme “Women and the Changing World of Work”. There were three themes for the conference namely, Women and the Changing World of Work, secondly, how sexual advancement and sexual harassment impacted women and be productive in terms of the economy, and thirdly, the role of Parliaments in changing the world of works so that it was more conducive to women in terms of gender news.
The Conference was hosted by the Presiding Officers in partnership with the Women’s Caucus. A day before the Conference there will be a preparatory workshop hosted by the Women’s Caucus. The idea was that there were three days, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. On Tuesday there will be a closed group hosted by the Women’s Caucus inviting provinces and Commonwealth Women’s Parliament (CWPs) to come to Parliament - this will create space for Members to come to the workshop. Yesterday there was a meeting with the Speaker and the Chairperson of the National Council of Provinces (NCOP) to chat about the way forward. The Speaker and NCOP Chairperson made changes to the programme which would need to be implemented.
Ms Watson highlighted the workshop programme had not been changed – it would start at 09h00 with the opening remarks by the Chairperson of the NCOP, Ms Thandi Modise. Ms Thoko Didiza (National Assembly House Chairperson) will locate the workshop in terms of why was it important to change the world of work to be sensitive to women’s gender needs and interests. This will be located within the context of taking up the issues of provinces in this regard.
The workshop will also be contextualised in the framework of creating an enabling environment for Women’s Caucuses and the Commonwealth Parliamentarians Chapters to effectively take up gender issues in legislatures.
The Chairperson, Ms Morutoa, will then set the scene in terms of how legislatures can effectively take up gender issues, what have been the key gains and challenges in this regard and how the national and provincial could legislatures collaborate more effectively.
Ms Watson said there would then be various activities which included areas of collaboration across legislatures on advancing meaningful and active inclusion of women in the economy. This will include looking at barriers/challenges in implementing policies and laws that promoted economic activity of women and if there were areas of activity that CWPs and Women’s Caucuses can collectively act on.
After tea, the Conference will explore Gender-based Violence, its impact on the world of work and if the South African legal framework adequate enough. Debunking social stereo types of the role of women in society and areas of activity that CWPs and Women’s Caucuses can collectively act on will also be addressed.
After lunch, the Conference will look at Gender Justice and Human Rights focusing on policies and laws to facilitate gender-sensitive work places and if there were areas of activity that CWPs and Women’s Caucuses can collectively act on.
Ms Watson said there will also be a discussion and input from provincial CWPs and Women’s Caucuses in terms of developing action plans for Women’s Causes and CWPs.
The Chairperson will end the workshop with closing remarks.
Ms G Tseke (ANC) thanked Ms Watson for the brief preparation for the workshop. She asked for clarity on the statement that Members of the Committee would only attend day one of the Women’s Conference - what will happen on day two and three of the Conference because Members of the Steering Committee were also Members of the Multi-Party Women’s Caucus and also serving as Members of the Commonwealth Women’s Parliament (CWPs) of which they are hosting. How can Members of the Steering Committee be excluded from the last two days of the Conference where resolutions and commitments will be made? The Committee should take this concern to the Speaker for her to understand the seriousness of this matter. Actually, all female Members of Parliament should be part of this Conference because, at the end of the day, they were the ones to implement resolutions taken at the Conference. Female MPs serving in different Committees were expected to push women agendas and gender sensitive issues in those Committees and implement resolutions of the Women’s Conference – how could these Members then be excluded?
Ms M Chueu (ANC) agreed with Ms Tseke because if the Conference was meant to mainstream gender within the work of legislatures, how could women, particularly those in the Executive, be excluded? A meeting of the Multi-Party Women’s Caucus was needed to engage these critical issues so that Members went to the Conference with the mandate of the Women’s Caucus - Members cannot go there, take decisions and implement them of which were not part of the mandate of the Women’s Caucus. If the Committee did not win the issue of all women going to the Conference, there should be a collective mandate for those that will attend the conference so that decisions taken could be binding on all. The Committee should welcome the decision of the Speaker to host the Conference because Members have, for a long time, wanted the Speaker to spearhead gender issues. However, excluding female MPs, who were supposed to implement resolutions of the Conference, was unacceptable.
Ms N Khunou (ANC) agreed with what her colleagues were saying however, getting buy-in from all women in Parliament before the Conference was simply not possible because of the lack of time. The Multi-Party Women’s Caucus would have to meet next week in order to address the concerns of Members before the Conference began. The message coming from the Caucus should be loud and clear and that whatever was discussed at the Conference would have to be implemented by the Caucus – it was unacceptable that Members of the Caucus were excluded from the Conference. A delegation from the Multi Party Women’s Caucus should relay this message to the Speaker.
The Chairperson said it was a pity that Members were addressing Ms Watson instead of the relevant people. A letter had already been sent to the Speaker addressing the issues raised by Ms Khunou but no response was received.
Ms Watson said, in this regard, there should be a result at a political level. The explanation provided was resources available could only accommodate 250 people at the Conference. The Multi Party Women’s Caucus would be represented by eight Members along with representatives from the provinces and international guests. Provinces have also asked that their numbers be increased. The decision was that the numbers could only be increased for the preparatory workshop and a parallel programme could be organised for those that will not be accommodated at the Conference. A parallel programme would be in terms of Members visiting NGOs and farms where women worked. Communication had already been made to provinces to increase their numbers only for the preparatory workshop and not the main event.
Ms Khunou felt that if people were not taking the Multi Party Women’s Caucus seriously, it should not attend the Conference. If the Speaker of Parliament was hosting the Conference on behalf of Parliament, who was she talking about? Who was representing women and their views in this Parliament? The Caucus should not be treated as if it did not exist. A delegation from the Caucus needed to go to the Speaker to raise the concerns of Members – if the concerns were not addressed, the Caucus Members should not attend the Conference. The Conference will cover important topics affecting women and so the Caucus would need to be part of the resolutions reached.
Ms Tseke said it should be noted the issue was not about the budget because if the numbers coming from the province could be increased, why could the number of representatives from Parliament be increased so that all women were fully represented?
The Chairperson agreed with Members that a meeting with the Speaker be arranged to iron out the concerns of Members regarding the Conference. Why was the Multi Party Women’s Caucus established in the first place if it was going to be excluded from events that affected women? It was important that the Speaker address the concerns of Members before the Conference started.
The Chairperson requested Ms Watson to go to the Office of the Speaker to enquire about why all women in Parliament could attend the Conference.
Way Forward on the Roundtable Resolution on the Decriminalisation of Sex Work: Discussion on Summit with Stakeholders on Responses to the Report of the SALRC 107 Sexual Offences Adult Prostitution
The Chairperson said it should be remembered this issue was introduced to the Committee in 2015 for the commemoration of women. Secondly, there were steps taken by the Multi-Party Women’s Caucus in relation to the decriminalisation of sex work. When the Caucus took on the issues of sex work, the South African Law Reform Commission (SALRC) had not published its report. The SALRC started working way back in 2002 when the issue paper was published, discussions were published on adult prostitution in 2009 and the SALRC asked for public comments. The second step of the Multi-Party Women Caucus was to get a briefing from the SALRC and the Ministry of Justice about the latest speakers of the reform. On the first briefing from the Commission it briefed the Committee on the latest report it submitted to the Ministry of Justice – this was in a closed meeting. The other step taken by the Multi-Party Women’s Caucus was engagement with the civil society organisations in support of the decriminalisation of sex work. The Multi-Party Women’s Caucus took a position and pronounced itself in support of the decriminalisation of sex work.
The Ministry of Justice briefed the Multi-Party Women’s Caucus about the report in terms of the Constitution. The Deputy Minister of Justice noted the report was referred to Cabinet for consideration and to formulate a position. The Deputy Minister of Justice, during the briefing, hinted that the recommendations of the report were not in support of the decriminalisation of sex work and that Cabinet was divided on the issue. The Deputy Minister then requested to meet with the Chairperson of the Multi-Party Women’s Caucus to discuss the report on prostitution to be released and informed the Chairperson that Cabinet was unable to take a position on the report and so the report recommended either continuing with the option of partial criminalisation where the buyer was criminalised but not the sex worker.
The report on adult prostitution was released in May 2017 and the Minister of Justice noted that Cabinet supported the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development’s decision not to make a policy choice with regards to adult prostitution. The Minister also promised the Department will conduct extensive public consultation on this matter. On 31 May 2017, the Deputy Minister and the SALRC briefed the Multi-Party Women’s Caucus about the contents and recommendations provided in the report on adult prostitution. At the present moment the Ministry of Justice had not undertaken public consultation on the matter of adult prostitution.
The Chairperson said that when the ANC held its policy conference, the media reported that delegates from the Gauteng Province proposed there should be decriminalisation of sex work. However, the proposed decriminalisation of sex work was not part of the discussion document of social transformation that was circulated at the policy conference. It was reported that during the report back session, the proposal was not accepted citing that the proposal did not go through the necessary steps as a proposal during the policy conference. This therefore meant that decriminalisation of sex work was not on the cards for the ruling party as a resolution of the policy conference. The adopted resolutions will form part of the ANC manifesto for the next election to be held.
The ANC Women’s League had once supported the decriminalisation of sex work. The way forward for the Multi-Party Women’s Caucus in relation to lobbying and advocating for the decriminalisation of sex work was for the Steering Committee to take a decision about the way forward about the Multi-Party Women’s Caucus efforts in lobbying and advocating for the decriminalisation of sex work taking into consideration the ability to communicate its decisions to civil society groups that the Multi-Party Women’s Caucus engaged with.
Ms Khunou said that, as the ANC, they discussed their position on this matter and will continue lobbying. Their policies will be discussed at the ANC conference in December and lobbying will continue. From the side of the ANC, an official position on the decriminalisation of sex work still needed to be taken.
Ms Chueu concurred with Ms Khunou. The ANC Women’s League, in the run up to the policy conference, held consultative meetings where the issue was discussed but it was not ready to be processed because there were other legal matters that came out of those discussions which resulted in the issue not taken to the policy conference. The Women’s League went to the policy conference without a position on the issue of decriminalisation of sex work. The discussion document of the ANC was open to the public and there were many people who made inputs on the discussion document.
The Chairperson asked Members what the next steps of the Multi Party Women’s Caucus should be on the matter.
Ms Khunou said the matter should be put on hold and sent to the different political parties, represented in the Multi-Party Women’s Caucus, for discussion and debate. Perhaps next year the Caucus would be in more of a position to pronounce itself on the matter.
The Chairperson said the ANC was leading in Parliament and so should have insight on matters contributed to. Perhaps the matter should be taken to the study group.
Ms Chueu said because the resolution was taken by the women of SA and there would be engagement with the various political parties until consensus was reached and a position formulated to be taken to Cabinet or any other implementing structure.
The Chairperson said that will assist because the different political parties had different positions.
Ms Tseke said that as part of discussion going forward, the Multi Party Women’s Caucus should include the Portfolio Committee on Justice and Constitutional Development.
The Chairperson said the necessary consultation will be taken so that all stakeholders were part of discussions at the study group.
Consideration of the Draft Report on the Strategic Planning Workshop: 20 June 2017
The Chairperson said that now that Members had the draft report, Members should come back and consider the report at its next meeting because many matters arose in the workshop.
The Committee agreed.
The Chairperson asked Ms Watson to explain, with regard to issue of Women’s Conference, which Members were disappointed with the numbers that will attend the Conference.
Ms Watson responded that the Speaker indicated all Members of the Multi-Party Women’s Caucus can attend the Conference.
The Chairperson said they will play ignorant on what Ms Watson was saying. The Multi-Party Women’s Caucus will continue to inform the Speaker that the Caucus was awaiting a formal response from her office.
The Committee agreed.
Meeting with SAPS on the Statistics on Trafficking in Persons (particularly women and young girls and boys) and measures undertaken to curb the phenomenon
The Chairperson said the Caucus had already written a letter to the Minister of Police to brief Members on the issue at the next meeting of the Caucus.
Ms Tseke said the issue of Gender Based Violence could be included in the briefing.
The Chairperson said Members should prepare themselves to raise their issues when the Minister appeared before the Caucus.
The Committee agreed.
The meeting was adjourned.
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