The Commission for Gender Equality (CGE) met with the Committee to present its first quarter report, and said there had been many cases of sexual harassment during the review period. It had made progress by extending its engagements with various government departments -- the Departments of Social Development, Higher Education and the Police -- to discuss matters on gender equality.
During the first quarter, over 82% of planned targets had been finalised. This included the submission to Parliament for women to be involved in the debates relating to Section25 of the constitution – expropriation without compensation -- and engagements with mines to release their gender transformation plans. The CGE Commissioners were involved in various projects that included writing articles for national weekend publications, and various articles that explained what gender violence meant in various indigenous languages.
The CGE had distributed various reports on the reluctance to promote gender equality in the mining sector, the non-availability of sanitary pads, which was still an issue in 2018, and gender mainstreaming through the Houses of Traditional Leaders. It had supported the amendment of the Recognition of Customary Marriages Act (RCMA). It had supported a review of the list of zero rated items for value-added tax (VAT), and had recommended the inclusion of items such as sanitary towels, text books for schools and tertiary institutions, basic services (electricity/water) and baby food. It had endorsed the removal of the discriminatory provisions in the Civil Union Act, and also denounced the increased VAT rate from 14 to 15%, as this would affect the livelihood of millions of men and women who lived on the brink of poverty.
Members commended the CGE for the great work they had done so far, and said the Committee needed to work hard to make the Commission a top priority when it came to finances. The CGE could look for stakeholders to assist financially, as there was an urgent need to address the issues affecting young women. The Committee was disheartened to learn about the statistics in a report stating that 120 000 young women had fallen pregnant in 2017, most of whom were still at school and some were between the ages of 10 and 14 years. The Committee said the CGE must work hard to initiate awareness programmes that aimed at educating young girls in schools.
Commission for Gender Equality: First quarter report
Ms Keketso Maema, Chief Executive Officer, Commission for Gender Equality (CGE), gave a summary of the first quarter report.
She said the CGE had many cases of sexual harassment in the first quarter from the Special Investigating Unit (SIU) and the South African Local Government Association (SALGA), where the perpetrators were represented by a state attorney and senior attorneys while the victims, who were women, were not represented -- although both the perpetrator and the victim were from the same organisation.
The CGE had been exploring under-age marriages with the courts to find out the legal age for women to get married. The CGE was involved in various activities, such as the men’s march, with the Government Communication and Information System (GCIS). Lastly, the CGE had made appearances in front of the Departments of Social Development, Higher Education and the Police to discuss matters related to gender equality.
The CGE had had various requests to train people in gender mainstreaming. However, there was a limited budget for this initiative. The Commission would present on the United Nations Women’s report titled, “Leave No One Behind,” which was geared to remind them not to forget about women in rural areas and townships. It had been accepted as part of the African Union (AU), and would be reporting to the AU as an affiliate going forward. It had approached the President to table gender and human rights issues. The CGE would like the Women’s ministry to join them to resolve the issues that were an impediment to gender equality. It had made a submission to Parliament for women to be involved in the debates relating to land redistribution.
The following reports had been launched:
- the reluctance to promote gender equality in the mining sector;
- the non-availability of sanitary pads, which was still an issue in 2018; and
- gender mainstreaming through the House of Traditional Leaders.
Mr Moshabi Putu, Chief Financial Officer, CGE, presented on the first quarter report, and said 82.76% of planned targets had been finalised. The first quarter was mainly for drafting concept notes and assessment tools relating to the monitoring and evaluation function of the institution, such as the public education and information projects dealing with outreach, advocacy and legal clinics, training on gender mainstreaming, conducting community radio interviews and social media campaigns.
The legal function of the organisation had focused on complaints handling and investigations. In the previous financial year, the Commission had released a report on mining, and some of the mining houses had requested support on their journey to realise gender transformation. This showed that the report had had an impact and propelled change. Generally, during the quarter, the Commission had seen an influx of requests following up on findings and recommendations that had been done in various reports.
Since the first workshop was high level and attended by the various leaders, all the subsidiaries had been following through and requesting that they, at their own mines, be taken through a much deeper process and understanding. The engagements had been done at various levels -- senior management, employees and trade unions. These requests had been from various mines in Mpumalanga and the Northern Cape. The mines had been covering the travel and accommodation expenses for this work. The support had focused on identifying and indicating processes that would be necessary to achieve gender mainstreaming, such as a gender audit process, gender policies, mainstreaming strategy, plan implementation and reporting. This process would be documented as they went along to ensure that the Commission had tangible information on the journey travelled, and improvements effected based on its work.
The Mining Qualifications Authority, a sector in the education and training authority responsible for skills development programmes for mining and minerals in South Africa, had approached the CGE after having had sight of the reports released on transformation within the sector. The Mining Qualifications Authority had highlighted that they were in the process of undertaking a research project on understanding women’s career progression within the sector, concentrating specifically on women’s career progression within various areas of the mining sector, especially technical occupational structures.
There had been progress on the following:
The Commission had put in place a complaints management system, which would assist the institution in improving management and properly keeping records of complaints lodged, and avert several issues that had been highlighted by auditors in the last financial year. All relevant stakeholders had been trained on the system and plans had been put in place to tally and ensure that everything that would be captured agreed with what would be concluded by the audit that was due to be finalised in July.
Draft Recognition of Customary Marriages Act (RCMA) Amendment Bill
The Bill was in response to the Constitutional Court case of Ramuhovhi v President of RSA. The judgment confirmed the invalidity of Section 7(1) of the RCMA. The section allowed for customary marriages conducted prior to the RCMA to be regulated to customary law. The CGE supported the amendment of the RCMA aimed at aligning it with the judgment, as this would extend protection to millions of women.
Review of Section25 of the constitution -- expropriation without compensation
The National Assembly (NA) had called for submissions on the proposal to amend Section 25 of the Constitution to transform land ownership through expropriation without compensation. The CGE supported an amendment to Section 25(8), to include expropriation that sought to address gender-related imbalances in land ownership. The CGE had also supported expropriation without compensation where it was rational, targeted a specific category of beneficiaries, and was conducted in a reasonable and justifiable manner.
Independent review panel on list of zero rated items
National Treasury had appointed an independent panel of experts to review the current list of zero rated items. The CGE supported a review of the list of zero rated items, and recommended the inclusion of items such as sanitary towels, text books for school and tertiary institutions, basic services (electricity /water) and baby food.
The VAT Bill
The Bill proposed to fix the rate of normal tax, amend the Customs and Excise Act and the Estate Duty Act of 1955. The CGE proposed amendments that would protect women who were beneficiaries in deceased estates which had a high debt burden. The CGE had also denounced the increased VAT rate from 14 to 15%, as this would affect the livelihood of millions of men and women who lived on the brink of poverty.
Railway safety draft bill
This submission had been made to the Department of Transport. The purpose of the bill was to ensure an improved safety level within the railway environment. The CGE proposed revisions that would ensure the safety of women, children and people with disabilities within the railway system.
Civil Union Amendment Bill [PMB-2017]
The Civil Union Act (CUA) allows for marriage officers in the public service to refuse to solemnise a marriage under the CUA. This amounted to indirect discrimination against same sex couples, as well as categories of marriage officers. The CGE supported the removal of discriminatory provisions in the Civil Union Act.
Assessment of women’s representation and participation in traditional sector
This project seeks to assess representation, participation and roles of women in decision-making and other processes within the provincial Houses of Traditional Leaders. In addition to focusing on gender mainstreaming within these institutions, greater emphasis would be placed on how these institutions dealt with issues relating to childhood/forced marriages, as well as reproductive health rights issues for women living in the jurisdictions of Houses of Traditional Laders. During the previous financial year, the focus had been on four provinces: KwaZulu-Natal, North West, Eastern Cape and Mpumalanga. In this new financial year, the focus would be on three provinces: Limpopo, Northern Cape and Free State, as well as the National House of Traditional Leaders.
For the reporting period, tools that would be utilised to gather information were developed -- that is, the schedule of questions and fieldwork observation tools. The research unit had also undertaken the first fieldwork trips to the three provinces and to the Offices of the National House of Traditional Leaders in Pretoria, where introductory meetings with the leadership of these institutions were arranged and took place successfully. The purpose of these introductory meetings was to introduce the team and explain the purpose of the project, as well as secure access and the cooperation of the leadership of these institutions to ensure that the work of the CGE was carried out smoothly.
Assessing the plight of women in correctional services
Three centres would be selected for closer assessment during this financial year: Durban Westville female Correctional Centre in KwaZulu-Natal; Potchefstroom female Correctional Centre in North West; and Thohoyandou female Correctional Services Centre in Limpopo. During this quarter, the project concept note that would guide the process had been drafted. The Department had also designed a set of six fieldwork tools, including interview schedules for various categories of participants, and the observation tools. The research department had been unable to obtain official clearance/permission from the Office of the National Commissioner for Correctional Services. It had been necessary to obtain access to the selected Correctional Services centres at provincial level. Various letters had been sent out in a quest to ensure that the necessary permission was granted.
The Chairperson asked the CEO to explain why the organisations had defended themselves and not the victims.
Ms Maema said the organizations were representing themselves against their employees.
Ms T Stander (DA) asked if it was a constitutional requirement for Chapter 9 institutions to allow for formal legal representation from organisations to be part of an enquiry, and what powers did the CGE have to limit the number of legal representations.
Ms Maema said the Act allowed organisations to have legal representation. When the CGE calls an organisation for an inquiry, they engage with the Chief Executive Officer of the organisation. The CGE allows the attorneys to be part of the inquiry, but insists on engaging with the accounting officers.
The Chairperson said women were not standing together, and that was heartbreaking. She wondered if women would ever see the light at the end of the tunnel. The latest statistics reported that 10 and 14-year olds were being impregnated by older men. She wondered whether these young girls would be able to bear the pain of giving birth to a child.
Ms M Khawula (EFF) said the Department needed to be serious about doing its work, as there had been instances where truck drivers abused women. There were various cases on Facebook where women who were sex workers were killed by men, and young woman were abused by foreign nationals. Child trafficking was still prevalent in Durban -- young woman had been offered jobs to distribute flyers but had ended up being taken to other provinces. The parents needed to be educated on how to follow up and investigate when their children claimed they had found employment in Johannesburg. The creches needed to be investigated to ensure that the owners had legal authority to run the creches.
Ms L van der Merwe (IFP) said the CGE must indicate the input that the Commissioners had made when they attend conferences and presentations. There had been few Commissioners in the presentation who were engaging with the media, and she wanted to know if the other Commissioners were not involved with media work. The Commissioners were expected to interact with the provincial gender machinery, but nothing had been listed in the presentation. She asked if there had been any interaction, and what the status of those interactions had been. The Commissioner needed to monitor the manifestos for political parties and whether they spoke to women’s issues, and whether the issues were reflected in the party manifestos.
Mr T Nkonzo (ANC) thanked the CGE for addressing the concerns raised by the Committee at the previous meeting, especially in areas concerning rural engagements. The Committee was currently aware of traditional and religious sectors, and the CGE should look at other sectors so that these sectors were assisted with the issues of sexual harassment. The Committee needed to work hard to put the CGE as a top priority when it came to finances. The CGE could look for stakeholders to assist financially, as there was an urgent need to address the issues affecting young women.
Ms Stander asked about the dialogues that the CGE was planning to have, and whether they were the same as the dialogues the Department of Women in the Presidency had been having. She asked the CGE to engage with tertiary institutions on the matters arising from campus rapes. So many women had reported that students had been raped, and the institutions had advised them to sort out the issue internally, and the perpetrators were kept at school. It was also unacceptable that the police ask the students who report rape if “they were sure if they were raped”. That type of question was totally unacceptable. She said the CGE was the only institution in the whole country that was doing an excellent job in ensuring that there was gender equality. She asked if the CGE was aware of the tragedies that have occurred on campuses, and whether they had done something about it.
Ms D Robinson (DA) commended the CGE for the great work they had been doing, despite their limited budget. She had been concerned with what had been happened at Rhodes University and was shocked to hear from a young woman who had attended a joint briefing with the police, that her degree was being withheld because she had participated in a protest against rape.
Ms G Tseke (ANC) asked how the CGE recorded the cases and complaints lodged through the toll-free number.
The Chairperson said the Minister of Police was ensuring that all the reported cases were not swept under the carpet. The CGE and the Committee needed to roll up their sleeves to fight for women’s rights, as the situation was becoming worse. What was happening within universities was heartbreaking.
The CEO thanked the Committee for their kind words, and said she would pass on the compliments to the Commission’s hard-working employees around the country. The CGE did not sleep. It writes many media statements to reach a broader audience. In response to various questions from the Committee, Commissioner Mgoqi had been nominated as a board member and had fully declared his involvement.
The Commissioners were appointed by the Presidential Minutes. The CGE had noticed discrepancies within the appointment term stipulated by the Women’s Ministry and the Presidential Minutes in the appointment of Commissioners. The CGE had found that there were two Commissioners whose term had been reduced by three months.
The CGE had smooth engagements with the Women’s Ministry, which had been very helpful in resolving the terms and conditions for the appointment of the Commissioners. The country had not reported to the International Protocol in terms of women, and the status of women. The CGE had raised this issue in the African National Congress manifesto, indicating that reporting internationally by the state on women’s equality was important. The national gender machinery was uncoordinated, the political parties did not fund gender machineries, and if there were any debates, these debates did not go into the mainstreaming resolution process of the organisations. The gender machinery needed to be resuscitated, as there was more work that needed the proper coordination of systems. The Premier of the Western Cape had responded positively to discussion on the gender machinery. The CGE had participated in the total shutdown march in support of women’s rights.
The CGE was working with Rhodes University and Fort Hare University with regard to campus rapes. The University of Fort Hare had had a rape case, but the victim had withdrawn the case. The CGE had requested the university to do something about this matter. Commissioners were involved in various projects that included writing articles for the Sunday Times and other articles which explained what gender violence meant in various indigenous languages. There were articles in the Eastern Cape that had been written by Commissioners to explain the concept of “ukhutwala” and gender violence. Most of the Commissioners were involved in media work.
The CGE had an embassy that funded the media work they were involved in to allow them to go to private radio stations and talk about gender equality issues.
The Chairperson said the wife must be charged with the husband in cases where the husband raped the daughter and the wife was aware of the incident but kept quiet.
Ms Robinson asked to be enlightened about the Law Reform Commission.
The CEO said the Law Reform Commission was a representative of the Department of Justice.
The meeting was adjourned.
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