The Multi-Party Women’s Caucus received a briefing on the Model Law that was being developed to focus on gender-based violence (GBV). It had been born out of the information-sharing sessions on GBV by members of the Southern African Development Committee Parliamentary Forum (SADC-FP), which was comprised of Members of Parliaments in the SADC region.
The Caucus heard that the Model Law was still in its infancy, and was aimed at looking at loopholes in domestic legislation so that it could make the necessary improvements. No draft document had been produced so far, but it was expected to be finalised by November next year, after which it would be submitted to all Parliaments for comments.
The Model Law was seen as a yardstick, but it was not binding. It tried to influence other countries in the region, because these countries were also faced with GBV and other forms of violence. It was aimed at enriching domestic legislation.
The Caucus was also updated on progress regarding inputs on the eight focus areas of the caucus that were identified during its last meeting. Only four submissions had been received, and Members were asked to continue with their submissions even if they focused on fewer areas than those listed. The deadline for submissions was 7 November 2019. It was noted that the received inputs had made additional suggestions on the inclusion of women farm workers and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning (LGBTQ+) groups.
Members wanted to know if the Model Law was going to address the problem of young girls that were being married to older men, because the focus seemed to be on GBV only. They suggested there should also be discussions on the boy child, and that it was important to first discuss the process going forward in the form of a workshop before Members could discuss the content of the Model Law. They also indicated there was a need to strengthen the Sexual Offences Act and make written submissions.
It was proposed that the steering committee should establish a programme for the draft document, because the Caucus would be sitting for discussions during the 6th Parliament. Members were also urged to take the matter seriously, because the public would start giving the Caucus respect when it recognised how the Caucus handled its work.
SADC-PF Framework and Model Law on Gender-Based Violence
Dr Natalie Leibrandt-Loxton, Parliamentary Researcher, said the Southern African Development Community Parliamentary Forum (SADC-FP) was a gathering of parliaments and members of parliaments in the SADC region, which shared information on gender-based violence (GBV). The gathering started to develop a Model Law, which was a “soft law” -- a yardstick that was not binding. It was relatively new. The process and interest in South Africa had started after the Chairperson of the Multi-Party Women’s Caucus, Ms N Bilankulu (ANC), attended the SADC-PF meeting in September 2019.
It usually took a year to develop a Model Law, and the SADC-PF was collaborating with various partners. The Model Law could be compared with the domestic legislation with the aim of looking at loopholes in the domestic legislation and making improvements on it. It was seen as a yardstick, even though it was not binding. It tries to influence other countries in the region, because these countries were also faced with gender-based violence. It also provided an opportunity for Members of Parliament across the region to improve domestic legislation.
She said the draft document of the Model Law was expected to be finalised in November next year, and would be tabled to Parliament for comments.
Committee’s focus areas
Ms Thembakazi Baphela, Committee Content Advisor: Multi-Party Women’s Caucus (MPWC), said that at the Caucus’s last meeting there had been suggestions on focus areas that were brought forward to be adopted and implemented during the 6th Parliament. The eight focus areas were:
- decriminalisation of sex work;
- women in politics;
- sanitary dignity;
- gender-based violence
- strengthening of the National Gender Machinery;
- gender responsive budgeting; and
- building relations with stakeholders.
Only four submissions had been received in support of the focus areas. It was indicated the inputs could focus on fewer areas instead of all those listed. The received inputs suggested additional focus should be on women farm workers, including people from the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning (LGBTQ+) group. Some of the inputs included empowerment programmes for Members of the MPWC with regard to leadership and sexual harassment at work. She said more inputs were still welcomed.
Deliberations on the Model Law
Ms N Mashabela (EFF) asked if the Model Law was going to address the problem of young girls that were being married to older men, because the focus seemed to be on gender-based violence only.
Dr Leibrandt-Loxton said the SADC-PF in the first quarter was developing a model on child marriages in an effort to address this problem. Once the information was ready, it would be shared with the Caucus to compare with the existing domestic legislation.
Ms S Lucas (ANC, Northern Cape) (Deputy Chairperson of the NCOP) commented it was important first to discuss the process going forward before Members could discuss content with regard to the Model Law. She suggested the process should be workshopped so that all Members were fully briefed about the document of the Model Law. The participation of the Chairperson of the Caucus had to come from a thorough process, so that she had been able to represent the participation of South Africa and the views of the Caucus. She said gender-based violence was in their faces, and it should not be forgotten that some SADC countries were coming out of wars, and that the children and women of those countries were still suffering from the after effects of those conflicts.
Minister of Public Works and Infrastructure, Patricia de Lille, suggested it was a good idea to look at the process first, in order to make submissions on the Model Law. She added that there was a need to strengthen the Sexual Offences Act and make written submissions.
Dr Leibrandt-Loxton explained that the process had started in September 2019. The Model Law needed to be given space to be developed. The legislative drafters at the regional level were busy drafting this Model Law. Once it was finished, after approximately a year, the draft would be shared with the Caucus for inputs. The Chairperson would then represent the Caucus at the regional level. The Caucus would have an input once the draft had been submitted to Parliament.
Ms M Dunjwa (ANC) suggested the Caucus should also consider the boy child in its discussions, because the Caucus wanted to build a balanced, solid society.
Dr Leibrandt-Loxton indicated there was no draft in the Model Law yet about the boy child, but that was an area that SA could consider submitting.
The Chairperson said the Model Law was intended to assist the work of the Caucus. That was why a workshop had been suggested, so that its work could take a further step forward.
Ms Lucas added the workshop would also be used as an opportunity to strengthen SA’s domestic legislation. The workshop also needed to have timelines, and should take place before the next SADC-PF sitting.
Dr Leibrandt-Loxton made it clear the Model Law was a yardstick. It was not binding. At this stage, there was no draft that was available. As the process unfolded, some of the concerns of the Caucus would be included in the final draft. Other points in the draft could be used to improve the domestic legislation.
Deliberations on the Focus Areas
The Chairperson told Members the steering committee would sit again on 7 November, and there was still an opportunity to make submissions. The four submissions were not enough for the work the Caucus needed to do.
Ms F Masiko (ANC) welcomed the idea for more time to make submissions, and she asked the steering committee to compile all the inputs and send a consolidated document to Members before the Caucus could discuss the document.
Ms B Maluleke (ANC) urged Members to take the matter seriously, because they had been given enough time to make submissions. Four submissions were not enough. The date of 7 November was not far off.
Ms R Semenya (ANC) suggested the steering committee should establish a programme for the draft document, as the Caucus would be sitting for discussions during the 6th Parliament.
A Member asked the secretariat to ensure it had all the email addresses of the Members, because there were Members who claimed not to have received Caucus correspondence. She asked all those Members who preferred to use private emails, to activate their Parliamentary email addresses so that it was easy for the secretariat to do its work and ensure all received correspondence. She also remarked there was no programme, monitoring and evaluation of the work of the Caucus, and that was something the Members should think about.
Ms Lucas suggested communication should be improved, but she commended the attendance by Members, saying it was getting better gradually. She reminded the Members the Caucus was scheduled to meet every last Thursday of the month.
The Chairperson commented that everything had to start with all of them as Members. There was no need for them, as women, not to take their work seriously just because they were women. The members of the public would start giving the Caucus respect when they noticed how the Caucus handled its work. She would talk to other political parties, urging that women should attend the Caucus.
It was important that when the Caucus was given the responsibility, Members read the documents before attending meetings to ensure they were informed and ready, so as not to prolong the deliberations and work. She, once again, reminded the Caucus that 7 November was the last day for submissions.
She also informed the Caucus it had received an invitation from the Portfolio Committee on Women, Youth and Persons with Disabilities to a function to be held on 19 November. The invitation had also been extended to committees such as health, basic education, higher education and science and technology, social development, justice and correctional services, security and social services, and women in the Presidency. The meeting would be about the structure, representation and mandate of the interim steering committee that was drafting the national strategic plan (NSP) on gender-based violence and femicide. The interim steering committee would be briefing the other committees on the progress done on the drafting of the NSP; the cost of the plan; the approval processes; the establishment of the Council Against Gender-Based Violence; a progress report and costs related to the establishment of the Council; and the emergency response on GBV and femicide.
Ms N Ntobongwana (ANC) asked if the whole Caucus was invited, or only the steering committee of the Caucus.
Ms Baphela said the Caucus had been invited by the interim steering committee that had drafted the NSP. It was the Interim Steering Committee that would be doing the briefing to the other committees.
The meeting was adjourned.
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