The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women today concluded its consideration of South Africa’s fifth periodic report, with Committee experts commending South Africa’s strong political will to supporting women’s rights and questioning the efforts being made to mitigate gender-based violence in the country.
A Committee expert praised South Africa’s strong political will to support women’s rights, adding that the country’s vibrant civil society also benefits women’s rights. Another expert commended South Africa for the high level of representation of women in Parliament. An expert, while noting that South Africa had made progress towards achieving gender equality, said women suffered high levels of violence and asked the delegation to provide information on services. for survivors of gender-based violence. Could the delegation provide information on violence, including sexual violence, against women with disabilities, asked an expert?
The delegation of South Africa stated that the National Strategic Plan on Gender-Based Violence and Femicide had been adopted and legislation was being developed. The National Prosecution Authority has developed a specific training model on gender-based violence. A dashboard had been created to have an overview of the data on the problem of femicide. It would provide comprehensive data on issues relating to femicide and related criminal cases of gender-based violence. In addition to COVID-19, gender-based violence had been described as “the second pandemic” in the country, the delegation noted. With regard to what is being done with regard to women with disabilities, legislation on gender-based violence and femicide contains provisions specifically aimed at people with disabilities.
Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, South Africa’s presiding minister for women, youth and persons with disabilities and head of the delegation, presenting the report, said the COVID-19 pandemic had reversed some of the progress made in promotion of gender equality, and as a result, women and girls were exposed to human rights violations. In addition, a “phantom pandemic” of gender-based violence and femicide also existed. South Africa has collectively pledged to implement a comprehensive and effective prevention and response program to end gender-based violence and femicide in the country. To adequately respond to the extremely high prevalence of gender-based violence and femicide, a national strategic plan on gender-based violence and femicide has been adopted.
The delegation of South Africa was composed of representatives of the Department of International Relations and Cooperation; the police department; the Department of Social Development; the Department of Justice and Correctional Services; the Ministry of Health; the Ministry of Small Business Development; a member of the Gauteng Executive Council; a member of the Executive Council from KwaZulu-Natal; a member of the Eastern Cape Executive Council; a member of the Western Cape Executive Council; the National Prosecution Authority; the Department of Women, Youth and Persons with Disabilities; and the Permanent Mission of South Africa to the United Nations Office at Geneva.
The eightieth session of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women is being held from October 18 to November 12. All documents relating to the work of the Committee, including reports submitted by States Parties, are available on the session’s web page. The meeting summary statements prepared on the Committee’s public meetings can be viewed here. The webcast of the Committee’s public meetings is available at https://webtv.un.org/.
The Committee will then meet at 4 p.m. on Friday 12 November to formally close its eightieth session.
The Committee has before it the fifth periodic report of South Africa (CEDAW / C / ZAF / 5).
Presentation of the report
MAITE NKOANA-MASHABANE, Minister in the Presidency of South Africa for Women, Youth and Persons with Disabilities and Head of Delegation, said South Africa is committed to eliminating all forms of discrimination with regard to women. The Constitution guarantees that the state cannot discriminate against anyone on any grounds, including sex. South Africa has made significant progress in protecting, promoting and fulfilling the rights of women guaranteed by the various provisions of the Convention. The COVID-19 pandemic has reversed some of the progress made in promoting gender equality and, as a result, has exposed women and girls to human rights violations, including limiting their access to basic health services. sexual and reproductive health. In addition, a “phantom pandemic” of gender-based violence and femicide also existed. The closures have made women more vulnerable to poverty, and an alarming number of teenage pregnancies was recorded between April 2020 and March 2021.
Children remain vulnerable to various forms of violence in communities and households in South Africa, and the country’s periodic report therefore highlighted the main legislative, policy and administrative reforms put in place to follow up on the provisions of South Africa. the Convention.
Under President Cyril Ramaphosa’s administration, South Africa has seen key moments in defining and advancing the gender equality mandate, Nkoana-Mashabane said, noting that a summit meeting on gender-based violence and femicide led to the adoption of the Declaration on Gender-Based Violence and Femicide. This declaration represented a collective commitment to implement a comprehensive and effective prevention and response program to end gender-based violence and femicide in South Africa. To adequately respond to the extremely high prevalence of gender-based violence and femicide, a national strategic plan on gender-based violence and femicide has been adopted. A report was released in 2021 highlighting some of the progress made in implementing the National Strategic Plan. To ensure the full implementation of the plan, resource mobilization strategies must be strengthened, particularly through private sector financing.
South Africa has continued to engage in legal reform to ensure that women’s rights are protected and promoted within the country’s legal framework. Recent progressive reforms included the Bill to Amend the Criminal and Related Matters Bill, the Bill to Amend the Domestic Violence and Criminal Law (Sexual Offenses and Related Matters) Act, and the Bill amending the law. These three bills aimed to strengthen the criminal justice system to respond effectively to gender-based violence. Gaps remained in existing legislation and needed to be filled to ensure that the rights of women and girls were promoted as enshrined in the Constitution of South Africa. One such example was an explicit law prohibiting the practice of early, forced or child marriages. Anyone participating in forced marriage rituals could be subject to criminal prosecution. A marriage policy under development aimed to harmonize the different marriage records across the country and would explicitly ban early, forced and child marriages by setting the age of marriage at 18. A review process for the Women’s Empowerment and Gender Equality Bill is also underway.
Quoting former South African President Nelson Mandela, Ms Nkoana-Mashabane said that freedom can only be achieved if women are emancipated from all forms of oppression. In its mandate to advance gender equality, South Africa would continue to be committed to addressing the challenges facing lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex and asexual communities. The Department of Justice and Constitutional Development reinstated the Hate Crimes Bill in Parliament for adoption. The South African Government remains committed to working with the Committee to achieve the collective goal of eliminating all forms of discrimination against women. South Africa supported the work of the Committee and the work of other partners such as civil society organizations towards the fulfillment of the Committee’s mandate.
Questions from a committee expert
NÁELA GABR, Committee member and rapporteur for South Africa, praised the delegation and South Africa’s strong political will to support women’s rights. The vibrant civil society in South Africa has also benefited women’s rights in the country. South Africa’s constitution had a mixed approach to incorporating international law into the country’s domestic law, taking a dualist approach to treaties. This meant that international law was not directly applicable at the national level, but had to be translated into national law before it could be applied in court. Has the Convention been directly invoked in legal proceedings? As for access to justice, she noted that positive measures had been taken. How many judicial officers have benefited from training? Legal Aid is an independent statutory body and women constitute the majority of clients. Could the delegation provide information on the budget allocated to legal aid? As for the traditional courts, what does South Africa intend to do to pass a related bill? Can women appeal to ordinary courts against any decision made by a traditional court?
Responses from the delegation
The delegation, responding to the question on the training of prosecutors on gender-based violence and the acts in place, said that the National Prosecution Authority had developed a specific training model in this regard. Training sessions on sexual offenses were provided to just under 900 prosecutors. Training sessions were also provided to prosecutors on other issues, including domestic violence, the feminization of poverty, human trafficking and other issues.
After the training, a stabilization was observed in the number of cases of sexual offenses.
Follow-up questions from a committee expert