Impact of Equality Act on Lives of Women: Committee Report; Review of Chapter 9 Body

Meeting Summary

A summary of this committee meeting is not yet available.

Meeting report


14 February 2007

Ms M Morutoa (ANC)

Relevant Documents:
Draft Committee Report on Impact of Equality Act on Lives of Women and People with Disabilities: Gender Sector
Committee’s draft submission to Ad Hoc Committee on Review of Chapter 9 Bodies (not yet available to public)

Audio Recording of the meeting

The Committee adopted its Gender Sector Report on the Impact of the Equality Act on the Lives of Women and People with Disabilities. This report and the hearings it had held was its response to Parliament's Equality Review Campaign.

The Committee discussed its submission to the Ad Hoc Committee on the Review of Chapter 9 and Associated Institutions. The submission gave a detailed breakdown of the Commission on Gender Equality’s activities and the Committee’s relationship with it.

The Committee raised concern that it was not been given the opportunity to exercise oversight over the Office on the Status of Women’s Reports in response to the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women.

It was agreed that the Committee would elect a management committee so that their activities could be better organised and coordinated.

Consideration of Gender Sector Report to Parliament's Equality Review Campaign: Impact of the Equality Act on the Lives of Women and People with Disabilities
The Chairperson noted that this Committee and the Joint Monitoring Committee on Improvement of Quality of Life and Status of Youth and People with Disabilities had agreed that each committee would assess whether their contribution had been accurately captured in the report so that the report tabled in Parliament would be complete and accurate. She asked members to voice any challenges they had experienced during the review.

Ms C Botha (DA) said that this was the first time that Parliament had reviewed legislation and she had been asked to compile a report on how it had preceded so as to develop a best practice model.

Ms J Semple (DA) wondered whether such a review could in future be scheduled so that committee members would be able to attend meetings and hearings regularly. She had wanted to participate more, but due to other commitments, she and others were unable to do so.

Ms E Mabe (ANC) said that when next they had to review legislation, topics to be explored should be considered more carefully. A few should be selected, developed and pursued to conclusion.

The Chairperson said that at the beginning of the review there had been three chairpersons and it was not clear who would be taking the process forward. She agreed that many issues had been brought to the table, and that next time some of them should have been selected for closer scrutiny.

Moving to the People’s Parliament held in Oudtshoorn in 2006, the Chairperson pointed out that while for the most part arrangements were in order, she felt that a special programme for the Committee could have been put in place too. She also commented that the locals should have been given the transport contracts for that weekend.

Ms C Zikalala (ANC) felt that the event had been poorly organised and that those doing the transport had not even known where many of the venues were.

Ms Semple remarked that had locals been used, they would not only have made money, but would also have known where the venues were.

The Chairperson said that there had been a suggestion to address violence against women in relation to gender based inequality. She wondered if that had been reflected in the report.

Ms Botha thought that the original idea had been to review the equality legislation, and that other, more specific legislation was brought into the picture at a later stage. While the equality legislation obviously had to do with violence and inequality, there were other pieces of legislation that were more specific. It was then decided to concentrate only on issues that were impacted on by the Equality Act. The process started off in a muddle, but in the end the focus was narrowed.

Ms S Camerer (DA) felt that the statement that “theorists on gender based violence have long argued that violence against women is inextricably linked to women’s unequal status in society”, (p10) succinctly captured what they had tried to achieve.

Ms Semple pointed out that the paragraph Ms Camerer quoted later went on to say that it had not been possible through the review to determine exactly what the impact of the Equality Act had been on the incidence of gender based violence in South Africa.

Ms Camerer said that one could not ignore the possible link. She suggested that perhaps one could suggest that it was too early to tell whether there was a link or not.

The Chairperson wondered at what stage one would be able to tell.

Ms Camerer said that Equality Act was enacted in 2000 but had only been in operation for the past six years. It had taken a very long time for equality courts to be rolled out - initially there had been very few and now there were more. One should now be better able to deal with and monitor equality issues.

The Chairperson felt that the comments from members were helping her to get a clearer understanding. She wondered at what stage the matter would be defined properly.

Members adopted the report for consideration by the National Assembly.

Committee’s draft submission to Ad Hoc Committee on Review of Chapter 9 Bodies

The Chairperson informed the Committee of the current parliamentary review of the Chapter 9 and associated bodies that supported constitutional democracy. The Ad Hoc Committee on the Review of State Institutions Supporting Constitutional Democracy which was steering the process, had requested the Committee to make a submission on the performance of the Commission on Gender Equality (CGE) and the relationship that existed between the Committee and the national gender machinery.
The Chairperson, the secretary and the researchers had prepared a document and she requested the members to go through it. She said that the research staff had suggested that the Committee reflected on the activities of the CGE and then indicate what the challenges and shortcomings were. The report had not been refined and members were welcome to give feedback.

Ms Botha reminded members that they had always objected that the Committee did not have an opportunity to see the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) report that was submitted to the United Nations every five years. This report was prepared by the Office on the Status of Women in the Office of the President. Although there was no legal requirement for the report to be tabled before the Committee, she pointed out that there were other countries that required it. She wondered whether the Committee could not make a recommendation that the process be reconsidered so that the Committee could see the document. She found it “a great lack” that they did not see the document and that there was no oversight at all. Parliament agreed to abide by the agreement and yet there was no oversight of the report.

The Chairperson wondered if this had bearing on the CGE.

Ms Camerer supported Ms Botha’s suggestion. The matter had been a sore point between the Committee and the Office on the Status of Women, with the latter seeming to think that they could ignore the Committee as far as the report was concerned. The Office of the Status of Women compiled the report but it should come before the Committee before its submission to the United Nations.

The Chairperson agreed that the matter should be raised.

Ms S Rwexana said that she was concerned that the focus of the meeting had now shifted to CEDAW when they should be focusing on what the Ad Hoc Committee expected of them. She did not think that they should focus on the status of women because that fell under the national gender machinery.

The Chairperson thought it best if she explained what she thought the Ad Hoc Committee expected. That committee was interested in the relationship been the Chapter 9 bodies and associated bodies. The Committee’s submission should comprise information on the National Gender Machinery as a whole.

Ms D Morobi (ANC) asked where the women’s movement fitted in.

The Chairperson did not think that the women’s movement was an area of focus in this regard. They should elaborate on the CGE’s interaction with the Committee.

Ms Camerer said that the CGE would be appearing before the Ad Hoc Committee on 2 March. She presumed that the Chairperson would be attending the meeting on the Committee’s behalf. Returning to the CEDAW matter, she pointed out that the Committee was established in terms of the rules of Parliament and had a clear mandate. She said that one had to ask why the Committee was even in existence if it could not oversee the country’s report to CEDAW because that was most important. She felt that it should be queried and point out that in terms of parliamentary rules that was what they were supposed to do. She was very concerned about the matter and felt that all bodies that were able to, should work together on gender related matters.

The Chairperson asked members to voice their opinions about the Committee’s interaction with the CGE and its activities.

Ms Botha said that her own experience with the CGE was fairly negative. She felt that due to its internal administrative problems, it had not fulfilled its mandate. There was constant tension between the administration and the commissioners. The way it was structured also presented problems - sometimes a commission worked better if there were fewer commissioners.

The Chairperson recalled that the previous year the Committee had asked strategic people within the CGE to appear before it to give a presentation and they could not because they had no commissioners.

Ms Semple agreed with the Chairperson. She said that the Commissioners were appointed in November 2006. She felt that the Committee should make it a priority that the CGE be required to report to them on a regular basis. The CGE had for far too long operated in a vacuum because they had not had enough commissioners and had only had a Chairperson. The Committee had to increase its interactions with the CGE so that key issues such as lack of information could be addressed.

Ms Rwexana did not agree with the complaints around the administration of the CGE. She felt that the CGE’s budget was one of its major problems. She felt that commissioners’ part time appointment was problematic. All commissioners should be appointed on a full time basis so that their activities could have the required impact. Those deployed in the provinces were deployed without budgets.

Mr F Maserumule (ANC) said that issues should not be confused. He felt that what was contained in the draft submission was enough. The Committee had the right to call anyone before it and had the right to request to see any report, including the CEDAW one.

Ms Botha felt that the Committee had been experiencing problems because they were expected to oversee areas in which they also actually participated.

The Chairperson commented that the Minister of Social Development had also raised this concern.

Mr Maserumule said that in his opinion gender issues cut across all sectors of life and involved very many structures. In order for the Committee to lessen the conflict, it needed to look at how coordination and communication took place. He felt all the sectors involved should manage information, coordination and communication better.

The Committee adopted the draft submission with the amendments made.

Additional business
The Chairperson felt that the Committee needed a management committee and the Committee agreed with Mr Maserumule’s suggestion that a draft of what such a committee’s tasks would be so that Members could consider this at the next meeting. They could then nominate members to serve on it.

The Chairperson said that there also needed to be clarity on who actually served on the Committee and who did not.

The Chairperson said that the Committee had been invited to an Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) conference. The IPU fell within the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women (UN CSW). It had not been clear if the Committee would be expected to attend the IPU. The Speaker now required a letter addressed to her before she could approve their attendance.

Ms Zikalala wondered if it would be possible for the Committee to shift meetings from Fridays to other days of the week. She had had to miss many meetings that she had wanted to attend.

The Chairperson said that this matter had been debated often. Everyone felt uncomfortable with meeting on Fridays because their homes were far away. She pointed out that Friday, was a working day.

Ms Zikalala suggested that perhaps if the agenda was very short they could meet on another day.

The Chairperson said that the Committee needed to form a management committee so that these issues could be discussed.

The meeting was adjourned.


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