Gender Equality and Violence Against Women

Meeting Summary

A summary of this committee meeting is not yet available.

Meeting report

Ms Ngcobo (ANC) said that the Limpopo province was very rural

25 August 2006

Ms M Morutoa (ANC)

Relevant documents:
Department of Health submission
Tshwarang Legal Advocacy Centre submission
Department of Land Affair presentation
Department of Justice & Constitutional Affairs presentation


The Committee met with the Departments of Justice, Health and Land Affairs and the National Prosecuting Authority to discuss the implementation of gender equality in their departments and their work, and to hear how the Promotion of Equality Act and the Prevention of Unfair Discrimination Act were being interpreted and implemented. Each Department and the Authority advised the Committee of the progress made and challenges to achieving gender representivity within their own organizations as well as the challenges to the efficient implementation and streamlining of gender focused programmes.

Common challenges highlighted by these public institutions included the lack of critical skills and training needed to implement policies and programmes, insufficient representation of women in senior and management positions. Concerns were raised over the differences between rural and urban women and communities. Each presenter acknowledged the need for improved service to enhance the status of women in society.

General questions by members to all Departments related to their activity in rural areas, their internal human resource disability and gender component, and their contribution to curbing gender based violence. Specific questions put to the Department of Justice addressed numbers of males being victims of and reporting domestic violence, languages used in outreach programmes, lack of sensitivity by police investigators, lack of women in many positions and the relationship with traditional leaders. Questions were put to the National Prosecuting Authority on the educational campaigns, the effective management of gender based violence, and the Sexual Offences Courts. Members expressed their concern to the Department of Land Affairs that many policies had not yet been implemented and staff not yet dedicated. Questions were asked on the grants and credit system, the success of the public awareness campaigns, evictions of women and children, the land restitution process and the relationship with traditional leaders. Questions were put to the Department of Health on the budget and unfilled posts, promotion of the female condom, maternal deaths, and women’s access to testing.

Challenges faced to gender equality: Presentation by the Chief Magistrate of the Limpopo Province
Ms Molamu, (Chief magistrate: Limpopo province) highlighted the challenges the judiciary faced in its drive to achieve gender equity. There had been a steady increase in the appointment of women, especially in senior positions of the magistracy. Three out of seven Regional Court presidents were women, 72 out of 307 Regional Magistrates were women. She expressed her concerns over the composition of regional magistrates as these courts tried sexual offences.

She highlighted that most women were not willing to work in mostly rural areas. Two senior positions had remained vacant for the past two years as women were unwilling to work in certain areas. Rural areas were of particular concern as most women residing there were not aware of their rights. The presence of women judicial officers would contribute to the empowerment of women.

The Magistrates’ Commission had taken strides to train women of all ranks in issues regarding management and leadership. A training programme called the ‘Jurisprudence of Equality’ training aimed at empowering women to apply international conventions in cases appearing before them, specifically those relating to sexual offences and domestic violence. The launch of the International Association of Women Judges in 2004 established a mentoring programme between judicial officers of the High Court and the lower courts. Training was also provided to make judicial officers aware of the social contexts in which courts operated. This would ensure that judicial officers made socially contextualised decisions that were specific to communities that they served. This was particularly important in rural areas where people were not knowledgeable about their rights.

Assessors would also be used in courts to ensure greater community involvement in the judicial process. Women had to be encouraged also to participate in this process as most cases tried in courts impacted on the lives of women.

Ms B Ngcobo (ANC) said that there were many rural areas in the Limpopo province. She asked whether the Department of Justice had any incentive programmes in place in order to ensure that magistrates and prosecutors were present in rural areas.

Ms Mulamo said that there was no policy within the Department at this stage, but that this was a possibility that should be further explored. The lower court management committee would try to develop a proposal to promote this issue.

The Chairperson asked what measures magistrates were taking to ensure that men who were exploited by their partners also reported incidents of domestic violence. This often did not happen as men tended to be shy and did not like to be seen as weak.

Ms Mulamo acknowledged that this was a serious challenge. Women were the major targets in public awareness campaigns. The Department of Justice made efforts to ensure that programmes were gender sensitive and anti–violence rather than specifically focused on women. The involvement of male counterparts of the judiciary was critical to ensure that men commited themselves to the fight against domestic violence and sexual offences as well as to develop male confidence in the system.

Ms Ngcobo asked whether the department’s planned community outreach programmes were sensitive to the local languages and whether the language issue was considered when the accessibility of offices and completion of forms were considered.

Ms Mulamo acknowledged that language posed a challenge. However, in most magistrates’ courts the main languages of the community in that jurisdiction were often represented. People of all races and languages were able to access the services of the judiciary. The use of interpreters was common practice. Members of the public were thus able to speak in their most known language.

Ms Ngcobo raised her concerns that the lack of sensitivity of police deterred men from reporting acts of domestic violence against them. She suggested that there was a need to train the police officers on the sensitivities of gender and domestic violence to ensure that men felt comfortable to report incidences of domestic violence against them.

Ms Mulamo said that the Department of Justice were involved in the training of police officers. She had also been involved in the training of police offices across a range of provinces. Justice College was available to train police officers in the social context in which they serve.

Ms D Morobi (ANC) asked what the reasons could be for the lack of representation of women in certain positions.

Ms Mulamo said that she did not know the reasons. The vacant positions available within the higher positions were quite limited. The appointment of women to these positions would take time.

Ms M Meruti (ANC) said that women in the past had often withdrawn cases of domestic violence due to their financial dependence on their husbands, and enquired whether this was still the case.

Ms Mulamo said that the judiciary had to empower women regarding their rights. Dependency and the lack of support systems in the forms of shelters and halfway houses made it difficult for women to report domestic violence. If resources were in place to assist women to continue with their lives, women had no need to fear the report of domestic violence. There were too many counter applications against protection orders, and these should be considered during the next hearing. The withdrawal of cases would be a reality for as long as women were financially dependent on their male counterparts.

Ms Ngcobo asked whether the department had to deal with cases where the Equality Act had not been implemented.

Ms Mulamo said that since her appointment last year, there had been no cases under this Act. There were ongoing cases in Cape Town, Port Elizabeth where one of the white male magistrates had challenged the appointment criteria used by the Magistrates’ Commission in respect of Regional Court appointments.

The Chairperson expressed her concerns regarding the term ‘judicial discretion’ and asked what would constitute an interference in this discretion. She felt that this could become problematic in the implementation of the sexual offences legislation.

Ms Mulamo answered that the term meant that a Chief Magistrate or any other judicial officer, could not challenge the correctness of the decisions made by a magistrate. A High Court process would have to be used for cases where the evidence showed that a magistrate had committed a ‘gross irregularity in terms of procedure’.

Ms Ngcobo asked whether women were more comfortable with reporting incidences of domestic violence.

Ms Mulamo responded that more women were talking about domestic violence, owing to the awareness campaigns of the Department of Justice. Female magistrates were also contributing to the creation of an atmosphere where the public would be more willing to report and follow through matters.

The Chairperson expressed her concerns that women magistrates were not willing to work in rural areas. She asked if the judiciary had a long term strategy in place to deal with this unwillingness. Related to this, she asked what strides were being made to empower rural populations, especially women, and how this compared to other countries.

Ms Mulamo replied that an incentive should be introduced. She said that South Africans should be proud to serve any community. This should be instilled in every one and should perhaps start at university level.

Ms Morobi asked about the challenges experienced in dealing with Equality Courts since the establishment of the Equality Act.

Ms Mulamo replied that she was not aware of any challenges to the Equality legislation because she had not yet had the opportunity to engage and apply the legislation. She was receiving ongoing training by the Justice College as part of empowering magistrates to deal with it. There was a greater need for public awareness regarding Equality Act.

Ms Meruti expressed her concerns over the low representation of women in the judiciary. It was essential that women should be appointed to assist women in the rural areas as well as to encourage younger women to join the prosecuting profession. Bursaries should also be made available for these women.

Ms Mulamo admitted that the appointment of women was a challenge. There were a limited number of positions available and these positions were occupied by men not yet near the retirement age. There was a steady increase in appointments.

The Chairperson asked what the relationship was between the pubic awareness programmes and the House of Traditional Leaders.

Ms Mulamo said that she had the opportunity to be involved in the training of Traditional Leaders. Magistrates in Limpopo province were encouraged and trained to engage Traditional Leaders to address and alleviate case backlogs. Petty cases should be dealt with through traditional courts, as well as appeals from traditional courts.

Ms Meruti asked how many disabled women were on the staff of the justice department. She also asked now many courts had disabled access.

Ms Mulamo admitted that most courts were still not compliant. The Department of Justice had employed a black African disabled woman but her office was currently not yet accessible. There were only two disabled magistrates.

Progress on achieving gender equality: Presentation by the National Prosecuting Authority
Ms B Pithey, (Senior Advocate: Sexual Offences and Community Affairs Unit, National Prosecuting Authority(NPA)) outlined the progress made to achieve gender equity. She said that that statistics regarding the gender composition of the NPA would be made available once approved by the national director. The NPA had a very clear commitment regarding gender equality expressed in its policies and within the various gender-focused programmes. The establishment of the Sexual Offences and Community Affairs Unit to specifically address issues of gender also indicated that commitment. This Unit focused on sexual offences, domestic violence, and maintenance and child justice. She said that the NPA considered children, especially the girl-child, and women to be particularly vulnerable groups.

A core focus point of the NPA was the training of prosecutors around sensitivity issues and social context training. The training not only focused on gender based violence, but the role of women in society, the dynamics around gender, race and class and how these manifested themselves through the criminal justice system.

The NPA highlighted its important projects. These included the Serurubele Programme (Butterfly) which was symbolic of the detailed transformation of the organization. The NPA would move away from a criminal justice focus to a customer focus. Customers included victims, complainants, departments of the criminal justice system and any other organizations.

The rollout of Sexual Offences Courts had helped to address the secondary victimization of victims (by the criminal justice system). The courts used specially trained prosecutors, and there were waiting rooms, and victim-friendly spaces.

The NPA had created the Ntuthuzelo Care Centres, which were a collaborative effort with the Department of Health. They operated from one-stop health care centres, where a victim of a sexual offence would have access to and care from health care workers, police and social workers. These centres would have a clear link to prosecution services. They aimed to increase the finalization of cases, decrease secondary victimization, and increase conviction rates. There were currently ten centres around the country, and would increase to 80 around the country.

The NPA was very actively involved in public awareness campaigns. These included the ‘Adopt-a-School’ project for prosecutors, and the ‘Speak Out’ Campaigns concentrated at about 450 schools through out the country.

Ms Ngcobo (ANC) asked to what extent the work of the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) was popularised.

Ms Pithey replied that the popularisation of programmes was hampered by the limited capacity of the organization. The NPA had reached roughly 500 000 people through adult workshops and 336 000 learners in across 450 schools nation-wide over the last two years. Written materials were also distributed through schools that were a key place of intervention.

Ms Ngcobo asked how effectively gender based violence was managed by the state.

Ms Pithey explained that the NPA and the criminal justice system lacked credibility. People were still reluctant to utilise the criminal justice system for a number of reasons. There was a concern that victims, especially of sexually based violence, would suffer humiliation and secondary victimization from public institutions, including the judiciary.

The most significant manner of changing this perception was to improve service delivery. This would be achieved through training and sensitising prosecutors with programmes aimed at developing and building skills capacity. Prosecutors of the Sexual Offences Courts were both working in and products of a society in which the most horrific gender based violence occurred.

Additionally, the authority strove to bring justice to gender based violence. The Sexual Offences Courts had a 20% higher conviction rate than cases of heard in normal Regional Courts, and were therefore producing better results.

Ms Ngcobo (ANC) asked what the gender composition of the National Prosecuting Authority was.

The Chairperson expressed her concern that statistics were not yet available and asked if the audit had not yet been completed.

Ms Pithey responded that although statistics were available, she had not been supplied with this information. However, NPA had a very clear gender breakdown and the statistical research had been very clearly done. The NPA has a very clearly directed recruitment and promotions policy regarding gender and disability. About 48% of positions at NPA were occupied by women. However, women were still inadequately represented in senior management level.

Ms Ngcobo (ANC) said that there had been complaints by victims of sexual crimes regarding their treatment at the Sexual Offences Courts. She asked where they were situated and how many had been established.

Ms Pithey conceded that the Sexual Offences Courts were not perfect institutions. She expressed her dismay that victims had suffered any abuse and assured the committee that these incidences would be investigated. The courts should create an environment where the victims felt safer and more cared for. A clear line of communication should be established between the Committee and the NPA to ensure that these courts ran efficiently. The courts were situated in both urban and rural areas, and most of the prosecutors were women. Many men were reluctant to prosecute in these courts and women generally displayed a deeper commitment to these issues. Unfortunately, there was a reluctance to work in certain areas and thus there was a shortage of skilled prosecutors. This work was highly difficult as prosecutors had to deal with sexually abused children on a daily basis.

Ms Meruti asked where the Ntuthuzelo centres were based and whether they extended to rural areas.

Ms Pithey responded that there were currently ten centres. The NPA tried to balance the location of these areas but its choices were limited by their need to be linked to courts. They were currently located in Mannenburg, Umthatha, Lebode, Umlazi, Phoenix, Kimberley, Mafikeng, Baragwanath and Natalspruit.

The Chairperson asked which gender committed the most offences, and what was done to ensure that they did not repeat their offences.

Ms Pithey answered that the majority of sexual violence offenders were men. Disturbingly, the majority of offenders against youth were young boys. The NPA was committed to active involvement in diversion programmes to ensure that crimes were not repeated. Female offenders were mostly involved in petty crimes and fraud. She could not supply the exact statistics now. Moreover, more men than women tended to kill their partners than women.

Ms Ngcobo suggested a mentorship programme be instituted to ensure that the skills of more experienced prosecutors were passed down to the younger prosecutors.

Ms Pithey explained that the existing mentoring programme, ‘Aspirant Prosecutor’ and the recruitment drive at universities were aimed to ensure that experienced prosecutors trained new members of the profession and to persuade students to join the prosecuting profession. She added that all prosecutors involved in the Sexual Offences Court had received the necessary additional training.

Ms Ngcobo requested information regarding the Ntuthuzelo Care Centres in Mpumalanga and Limpopo Provinces. The Committee would be visiting these provinces soon and would like to meet with those involved in the centre.

Ms Pithey replied that these centres had not yet been established in Mpumalanga and Limpopo. However she would supply the committee with a list of existing and planned centres. She stressed that NPA would facilitate visitations to any of these centres at any time.

Gender Equity: Presentation by the Department of Land Affairs:
Ms M Tong, (Chief Operations Officer, Department of Land Affairs (DLA)) presented the Committee with the progress made in ensuring equity between genders. She stated that important structural challenges hampered the facilitation of a gender programme by the National DLA. DLA lacked dedicated staff members to ensure the mainstreaming of gender specific programmes. Moreover, land reform implementers lacked the necessary gender skills. No clear gender specific education and information dissemination mechanisms were in place.

Ms Tong highlighted the particular challenges faced by women. These included their inability to access grants, and the lack of gender sensitive grants. 60.5% of the land grant beneficiaries were male and only 39.5% female. With female headed households 84.8% of land grant beneficiaries were female (84.8%) compared with 79.4% in male – headed households. Most provinces had more male land grant beneficiaries than female.

The Department outlined its gender specific targets for 2006-2007. These included the development of a gender checklist, the gender disaggregated data on land reform implementation, the development of a Children’s Rights Framework as well as four advocacy programmes within the department.

Women were represented in the decision making process of the department. There were two out of four Deputy Director-Generals, 16 women in Director positions and 157 in Deputy Director positions.

The Chairperson asked whether DLA had the required gender unit in place.

Ms Tong replied that although the department had established this unit, it suffered from a range of inadequacies. The unit was currently being restructured and this would elevate the status of its Head to Director level so as to ensure that gender issues would be directly considered on a policy level. DLA was also working closely with the Office of the Status of Women in the Presidency.

Ms X Makasi (ANC) commented that she could not accept the challenges set out in the presentation. She asked why policies had not been implemented, and why staff had not been dedicated to the issues. The National department should be an example to its local and provincial counterparts.

Mrs Ngcobo asked what the challenges were in accessing the agricultural grants by women, and how DLA would ensure greater accessibility to these grants.

Ms Masilo asked whether the existing grant and credit system was viable as it did not improve the chances of establishing a business.

Ms Tong confirmed that there were serious challenges in the rollout of grants and that these would be reviewed.

Ms Morobi asked how successful the public awareness programmes had been.

Ms Tong replied that members should bear in mind that DLA was one component of the Department of Land Affairs and Agriculture. She suggested that perhaps it would have been better for the entire department to have given a joint presentation as she would not be able to answer some of the questions.

However, she explained that the 2005 Land Summit had identified the problems relating to the implementation of land reform strategies and also explored the ways in which this process could be made more efficient. However the mandate of the relevant Department at that time was to deliver land only. Other departments were responsible for ensuring that land recipients received the necessary technical and financial support to develop their land could be developed. The summit had developed a number of a number of resolutions and recommendations. Ventures emanating from it the Comprehensive Agricultural Support Programme to provide agricultural support for new farmers, and the credit system, Maeesa, which aimed to provide funding and credit to specifically gender sensitive projects.

Ms Masilo asked what mechanisms were in place to protect women and children from evictions.

Ms Tong suggested that legislation should provide for a class of non-evictable persons. She admitted that evictions were a challenge.

Mrs Ngcobo said that the Department envisaged the finalizations of claims by 2008. However, many who had claimed land had not yet received acknowledgement of their sclaim application.

Ms Makazi asked whether these individuals could claim their land again.

Ms Tong admitted that the deadline for land restitution processes needed to be extended again. However, DLA was not able to change legislation itself. As the right to land and land restitution was enshrined in the Bill of Rights, a 2/3 majority was needed to change the deadline. She said that politically there was little support for this matter.

The Chairperson asked whether the House of Traditional Leaders had challenged the land restitution process.
Ms Tong admitted that the land redistribution process challenged the status of traditional leaders as the trustees of communal land. DLA had engaged directly with individuals and communities, and this was perceived as a threat to the status of traditional leaders. She said that in the former TBVC areas, some traditional leaders had utilised the restitution to regain control of communal land and control over their jurisdiction. This was a challenge to the correct implementation of the land restitution policy.

Gender Equality: Presentation by the Department of Health
Ms Maluleke, (Director: Gender Focal Points and Women’s Health Directorate, Department of Health (DOH)) highlighted the ways in which DOH promoted gender equity through its activities and programmes.

She presented the committee with an organogram of the recently restructured Department, which highlighted that the Heads of the Gender Focal points had been elevated to Director status. Moreover an additional R30 million would be spent on specifically female targeted programmes. These programmes included the termination of pregnancy services, maternal health care, nutritional, and child and youth health programmes.

Ms Maluleke admitted that key challenges faced by the Department included the lack of skilled nurses and other health care workers, lack of resources, and improving the accessibility of Anti-retroviral drugs.

Ms Masilo asked which provinces had not yet identified their focal points, so that Members could assist in engaging their constituencies in order to overcome challenges.

Ms Maluleke replied that all provinces had gender focal points and that all positions had been filled. However, some appointments were hampered by the lack of resources, which was still a major challenge faced by provinces.

Ms Masilo expressed her disapproval that budget remained unspent because posts were still vacant. She said that these funds could not be rolled over to the next financial year.

Ms Maluleke responded that although they were halfway through the financial year, DOH’s budget for the creation of these posts had been approved only two months ago.

Ms Masilo asked why the Department promoted the use of male condoms rather than female ones, and asked if DOH shared the view that distribution and manufacturing of the Femidom would be too expensive.

Ms Maluleke answered that the HIV/Aids research unit at DOH considered female condoms to be highly expensive technologically.

Ms J Semple (DA) asked why a contradiction existed between the number of women attending pre-natal programmes and the high levels of maternal deaths.

Ms Maluleke said that the high levels of maternal deaths could be explained by the lack of skilled nurses or health workers in hospitals and clinics. Measures were needed to retain nurses in the country as well as to ensure that rural communities had adequate health care workers.

Ms Semple (DA) said that she shared the enthusiasm of the Chairperson regarding microbiocide research during a recent visit to New York. She asked if DOH was involved in the development of this research?

Ms Maluleke replied that this research was very expensive, but that South Africa, Brazil and India were included in the current clinical trials.

Ms Moruti expressed her concern over the shortage of both staff and medicines in clinics and hospitals and asked how DOH was planning on coping with this challenge.

Ms Morobe asked whether women still had access to pap smears.

Ms Maluleke answered that the accessibility to pap smears was part of the Presidential programme entitled ‘Healthy Lifestyles’. This programme mainstreamed gender based health care. During the Women’s Day celebrations at the Union buildings, 600 women were tested for, among others, diabetes.

Ms Ngcobo asked what the contribution of DOH was in curbing gender based violence.

Ms Maluleke said that DOH had partnered with other relevant departments including Justice, Social Development and the National Prosecuting Authority to provide health care services in initiatives such as the Ntutukele centres. However she acknowledged that there was currently a need for more co-ordination between the various departments as the process was too fragmented

The meeting was adjourned.


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