The Committee met to consider and adopt the Embrace Dignity Petition Report, its Study Tour Report to Sweden and to consider and outstanding Committee minutes. Following adoption of the Committee agenda for the meeting, the DA wished to add to the agenda that the Committee discuss the visit made by the Chairperson to the Khayelitsha District Hospital. Other Members objected and said this should first have been raised with the Committee Secretariat especially as the agenda had already been adopted. Following this, the DA walked out of the meeting.
Members raised the work done by the Multiparty Women’s Caucus, particularly the sex workers summit held, and the need for Committees of Parliament to be working together on the matter. Members also briefly discussed the need for public participation, role of the Committee and processes going forward. The socio-economic impact of decriminalising sex, taxes and value for money in decisions taken, were also raised. Both Reports were adopted with amendments.
The Chairperson asked if the Committee would adopt the agenda for the day as is or if there is anything Members would like to add.
Mr S Mthimunye (ANC; KwaZulu-Natal) moved to adopt the agenda as is.
Mr J Mthethwa (ANC; Mpumalanga) seconded the motion.
Ms B Engelbrecht (DA; Gauteng) wished to add to the agenda the unauthorised visit made by the Chairperson of the Committee to the Khayelitsha District Hospital.
The Chairperson asked the Committee if there were any objections.
Ms T Wana (ANC; Eastern Cape) said the item should have been raised with the Committee secretariat. She proposed the Committee take up the matter at its next meeting.
Mr G Michalakis (DA; Free State) noted the item on the agenda requesting adoption of the agenda. He believed it to be standard procedure for Members to place addition items on the agenda at the discretion of the Committee.
The Chairperson said this was correct had it not been for the fact that the Committee had already adopted the agenda for the day.
Ms Engelbrecht said at the previous Committee meeting she handed an officially signed document to the Chairperson of the NCOP requesting the Committee investigate the matter she raised.
The Chairperson said Ms Engelbrecht has to write a letter to him and he will respond.
Ms Engelbrecht said the matter has to be discussed because the visit took place on behalf of the Committee. The Chairperson conducted an oversight meeting by himself without permission of the Committee.
The Chairperson said a matter to be put on the Committee meeting agenda needs to be taken to the Committee secretariat. The request cannot be made after adoption of the agenda.
The DA walked out of the meeting.
Consideration and Adoption of the Embrace Dignity Petition Report
The Committee went through the Report page by page.
It was drawn to the attention of Members that the Multiparty Women’s Caucus recently held a sex workers summit as mandated by the 2015/2016 Women’s Parliament to advocate for full decriminalisation of sex work. The summit was held to get an idea of the feeling among organisations around sex work and what policy position SA should take as a country. The Caucus has not yet adopted its Report on the summit.
Ms Wana said that the position in Sweden around this is that the person buying the service of sex workers is the criminal. Whatever gets proposed, the buyer must be criminalised and not the person who is being bought to sell sex.
The Chairperson noted that this is called partial decriminalisation.
Consideration and Adoption of the Committee Report on its Study Tour to Sweden
The Committee went through the Report page by page.
Ms Wana referred to the observations of the Report and requested “Police officers” should be replaced by “State of Sweden” because the police are implementing policies of the state.
Mr Mthethwa proposed adoption of both Reports with amendments.
The Embrace Dignity Petition Report and Committee Report on its Study Tour to Sweden were adopted with amendments.
Mr Mthimunye asked after public consultations and adoption of the Report by the House what the role of the Committee was.
Ms Wana said if a decision is made to visit Sweden, the primary objective of the matter is to draft a law to protect sex workers. Sex workers are exploited and infected by HIV, among other problems. The role of public participation is to elaborate on the issues of victims. The process is going to concretise the protection of women.
The Chairperson did not think it is the Committee who will be conducting public participation. The relevant government department will be doing public participation. The role of the Committee is just to give advice according to witnesses, hearings and experiences from other countries. The Committee will submit the adopted Report to Council and then it will go to the relevant department. The relevant department will then conduct public participation.
A member of the Committee Secretariat mentioned the Multiparty Women’s Caucus as she did not want the Committee to be running parallel processes around the matter. It is important that the Committees of Parliament work together on this matter. She saw the Report as contributing to what the Multiparty Women’s Caucus is doing. During the recent conference of the ruling party there was a resolution taken around sex work. The resolution was that decriminalisation of sex work needs more dialogue from entities in a policy position.
Mr Mthimunye was unfamiliar with the organisations which presented the petition and did not know if they are national advocacy groups, operated in a provincial sphere and other specifics. What other organisations are in the process of developing legislation on the matter? He wanted to know the socio-economic impact if sex work is decriminalised.
Ms Wana said the matter will not be able to be dealt with in a short space of time. She raised concern over how taxes and VAT would work if sex work is decriminalised.
The Chairperson agreed with Mr Mthimunye in that there needs to be direction around timeframes and when the Committee will hear back from the relevant council.
Ms Wana said there also needs to be a meeting between the Committee and lawmakers.
Mr Mthimunye said that in closing the matter, there must be a strong business case that shows it has been worth it and value for money.
Adoption of Committee Minutes Dated 13 September 2017
Mr Mthethwa moved for adoption of the minutes.
The Chairperson seconded the motion.
Committee Minutes dated 13 September 2017 were adopted without amendments.
Adoption of Committee Minutes dated 21 April 2018
Committee Minutes dated 21 April 2018 were adopted without amendments.
The Chairperson wished to clarify a matter - on 12 April 2018, he undertook an unannounced oversight visit to the Khayelitsha District Hospital. The visit was justified according to rule 91 (2) (b) of the Rules of the NCOP.
Mr Mthimunye noted his disappointment at the behaviour of the DA in the Committee. He agreed that the Chairperson had the right to conduct an oversight visit without consulting the Committee. In terms of jurisprudence, even if wrong was done, the DA should have taken the matter elsewhere as the Committee cannot investigate itself.
The meeting was adjourned.
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