Shukumisa letter to parliament 4 June 2014

For attention:

  1. Hon. B Mbete – Speaker: National Assembly, Parliament of South Africa
  2. Hon. T Modise – Chairperson: National Council of Provinces, Parliament of South Africa

CC:

  1. Hon. P Mabe – Member: National Assembly, Parliament of South Africa
  2. Hon. L Greyling – Member: National Assembly, Parliament of South Africa
  3. Hon. L van der Merwe – Member: National Assembly, Parliament of South Africa
  4. Mr. M Shozi – Chairperson: Commission on Gender Equality
  5. Adv. ML Mushwana – Chairperson: South African Human Rights Commission

The Shukumisa Campaign would like to take this opportunity to congratulate you on your respective appointments as the Speaker of the National Assembly and Chairperson of the National Council of Provinces. We look forward to a fruitful engagement with you in the coming term.

The Shukumisa Campaign was developed in 2008 by members of the National Working Group on Sexual Offences (NWGSO). The NWGSO was originally formed in 2004 to advocate around the proposed Sexual Offences Bill. On the Bill’s enactment in late 2007, the NWGSO turned its focus to the implementation of the Act via the Shukumisa Campaign. The Shukumisa Campaign has a vision of a South Africa with well crafted, well implemented sexual offences legislation and a strong criminal justice system that supports rape survivor’s access to justice and provides a clear deterrent to rapists.

We are aware that this is a busy time for you both, organising and establishing the various committees in the legislatures. This correspondence serves to enquire about the plans for legislative oversight and accountability mechanisms to promote women’s and gender rights and to encourage the establishment of NA and NCOP committees dedicated to these issues.

With the recent announcement of Cabinet, the President has advised that the Ministry of Women would once again be brought under the auspices of the Presidents’ office. This raises obvious questions about the continued existence of the Portfolio Committee WCPD, and the programmes and legislation that was put forward during the past term.

We believe that the establishment of the Ministry is not sufficient. We note that the role of the legislatures in our representative (and participatory) democracy is distinct from that of the executive in its mandate inter alia to serve as a public forum for political accountability and oversight over the executive. We recognise the previous role of the Multi-Party Women’s Caucus as a forum for discussion and strategy on these issues in Parliament, however this forum did not function directly to address accountability of departments; nor did the caucus provide a sufficiently public forum for public engagement in these issues.

We believe that there must be dedicated oversight and accountability mechanisms in the legislatures, and in particular in the National Assembly and National Council of Provinces to focus on the amendment, development and implementation of law, policy and programmes to promote women’s rights. Such committees should be responsible for oversight and accountability regarding the strategies, budgets and accountability of the new Women’s Ministry in the Presidency and the Commission on Gender Equality.

In addition to this role of direct accountability over the CGE and the Women’s Ministry, the more critical role that such committees can play, is to promote coordinated oversight and accountability on the implementation of law, policy and programmes to promote women’s rights across the range of responsible government departments. These include Justice, Health, Social Development, and Police amongst others.

During the fourth Parliament the Portfolio and Select Committees on Women, Children and People with Disabilities undertook a number of such initiatives. Examples relating to women include their work in calling various departments to address failures in implementation of the Domestic Violence Act, addressing ukuthwala and virginity testing practices, and promoting the rights of lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, transgendered and intersex people amongst others. These committees undertook many other such processes of oversight in relation to the rights of people with disabilities and children’s rights. In our view these proved vital to ensuring a stronger strategic focus and accountability within these institutions on issues relating to women.

There are a number of outstanding issues with significant impact on women in need of progress beyond the question of implementing existing legislation including the decriminalisation of sex work, and the recognition of religious marriages, prevention of hate crimes, as well as domestic partnerships.

We believe that legislative oversight is a critical element of the National Gender Machinery, the current failure to realise women’s rights through the established legal and policy framework call for high level political leadership to address the ongoing challenges of implementation. While this should partly be provided by the structures established in the executive, we submit that a dedicated focus on women’s lives within the legislatures, and strong leadership in those structures remain central.

We look forward to continued and robust engagement with the legislatures to promote women’s rights in South Africa in this next phase.

Yours sincerely

Samantha Waterhouse
Parliamentary Programme
Community Law Centre
University of the Western Cape
021 461 2647
084 522 9646
swaterhouse@uwc.ac.za
On behalf of the Shukumisa Campaign

Shukumisa Campaign members

1. Agisanang Domestic Abuse Prevention and Training (ADAPT) – Gauteng
2. AIDS Legal Network – Western Cape
3. Childline SA – KZN
4. CINDI Network – KZN
5. Community Law Centre, UWC – Western Cape
6. Coping Centre – Eastern Cape
7. Dept. of Social Responsibility – Anglican Church Eastern Cape
8. Ekupholeni Mental Health and Trauma – Gauteng
9. Epilepsy SA – Western Cape
10. FAMSA Pietermaritzburg – KZN
11. GRIP – Mpumalanga
12. Ikhwezi Womens Support Centre – Eastern Cape
13. WISER, Wits University – Gauteng
14. Justice and Women – KZN
15. Legal Resource Centre – National
16. Lethabong Legal Advice Centre – North West
17. Lifeline Durban – KZN
18. Lifeline PMB – KZN
19. Limpopo Legal Advice Centre – Limpopo
20. Masimanyane Women’s Support Centre – Eastern Cape
21. MOSAIC Training, Service and Healing Centre for Women – Western Cape
22. NISAA – Gauteng
23. Peddie WSC – Eastern Cape
24. POWA – Gauteng
25. Project Empower – KZN
26. RAPCAN – Western Cape
27. Rape Crisis Cape Town – Western Cape
28. Rape Crisis PE – Eastern Cape
29. REMMOHO Womens Organisation – Gauteng
30. SANAC Womens Sector/ WC Network on Violence Against Women – Western Cape
31. Sexual Assault Clinic – Gauteng
32. Sonke Gender Justice – Western Cape
33. Sex Workers Education and Advocacy Taskforce and Sisonke Sex Workers’ Movement – Western Cape
34. Teddy Bear Clinic – Gauteng
35. Thohoyandou Victim Empowerment Project – Limpopo
36. Thusanang Advice Centre – Free State
37. Tipfuxeni – Limpopo
38. Triangle Project – Western Cape
39. Tshwaranang Legal Advocacy Centre – Gauteng
40. Gender Health and Justice Research Unit, UCT – Western Cape
41. Voice Movement Therapy Eastern Cape – Eastern Cape
42. Women and Men Against Child Abuse – Gauteng
43. Women on Farms – Western Cape
44. Women on Farms – Northern Cape
45. Women’s Legal Centre – Western Cape

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