Gender Justice Barometer, Issue 6: October 2006

Date: July 30, 2009
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Southern Africa

Gender Justice Barometer

Issue 6: October 2006

The Gender Justice Barometer is a joint project of Gender Links and the Gender and Media Southern Africa (GEMSA) Network

In this issue:

1. South Africa: Retreat finalises National Action Plan

2. Mauritius: Extending the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence


* South Africa: National Action Plan Task team makes submission on Sexual Offences Bill

* South Africa: Sexual Offences Bill must not criminalise clients of sex workers

* Zimbabwe: MP opposes Domestic Violence Bill


United Nations study calls upon states to take action to protect women from violence

* Angola: Campaign to reduce domestic violence launched

* United Nations Secretary General Study exposes scale of violence against children


* Unsafe abortion constitutes 30% of maternal mortality in Africa

* Namibia: Government must accelerate gender reform


* Must women choose between motherhood or career?

* South Africa: Civil Union Bill falls short for same sex couples

We encourage your feedback, comments and information you would like us to include. Send an email to:

1. South Africa: Retreat finalises National Action Plan

Members of the National Action Plan Task Team gathered in Cape Town on a working retreat from 26-29 September to take stock of progress made since the 365 Days of Action Kopanong conference in May.

The retreat aimed to finalise the South African National Action Plan and agree on short term targets and indicators, as well as to agree on activities and approaches to the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence.

Opening the retreat, Deputy Minister of Education, Enver Surty urged for interventions to be based on empirical data such as crime statistics. He suggested that the 45 000 early childhood development centres be explored as sites of intervention targeting educators and children. “Quality education is only possible if the environment is safe, and educators and learners aspire to embrace the values of equality,À he said.

Cluster reports underscored the need for research to underpin the work of the Task Team, which prioritised audits of existing services and interventions to avoid duplication. The need to get the support of cultural and religious structures and leaders also featured strongly.

The Task Team identified a number of short-term priority actions during the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence from 25 November to 16 December. It is hoped that this year’s campaign will help to popularise the National Action Plan and increase the number of organisations that are involved, especially at provincial and local level. Speaking at a dinner during the working retreat, Deputy Minister of Provincial and Local Government Nomatyala Hangana, emphasised the critical role that local government and ward structures play in addressing gender violence. Her sentiments were endorsed by Deputy Minister of Arts and Culture, Ntombazana Botha who called for “more integration and co-ordination and involvement of grassroots people.À

“With 16 Days of Activism Campaign I have made a call that it must take a different off-ramp – no longer to become some fancy boardroom subject. Ordinary women must know, see and feel it. The National Action Plan, as a year-running programme must clearly outline how it intends reaching out to the ordinary women,À said Deputy Minister Hangana.

2. Mauritius joins the 365 day campaign

Mauritius has become the fourth Southern African country to extend the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence to a year long programme; moving from 16 days of activism to 365 days of action. The Mauritius National Action Plan to end Violence Against Women and Children was drawn up at a three-day workshop convened by Media Watch Organisation and Gender Links. The National Action Plan is supported by an interim task team consisting of representatives from over 20 groups from government and civil society.

The interim task team will present the draft action plan to key ministers and seek their guidance in ensuring its formal adoption by 8 March (International Women’s Day) 2007.The plan includes a number of targets and indicators that will be monitored by the multi sector task team that will issue quarterly and annual reports on progress made.

The Mauritius National Action Plan has identified a number of priority actions, including the passing of a Sexual Offences Bill; simplification of procedures for implementing the Prevention of Domestic Violence Act and an audit of services available to survivors of sexual assault with a view to ensuring that survivors of gender violence have ready access to redress as well as comprehensive treatment and care under one roof.

For more information contact Loga Virahsawmy email:


South Africa: National Action Plan Task Team prepare submission on Sexual Offences Bill

The controversial Sexual Offences Bill came under the spotlight at the National Action Plan working retreat in September as members prepared a discussion document outlining their concerns which will be presented to the Justice Portfolio Committee. The passing of the Sexual Offences Bill, which is nine years in the making, has been identified as a critical short term priority in the National Action Plan.

A key concern for participants at the retreat is the current “treatment clauseÀ which makes provision for survivors of sexual assault to receive post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) to prevent HIV infection as well as “free medical advice surrounding the administering of PEP prior to the administering thereofÀ amongst other provisions. This section of the Bill currently focuses only on the provision of PEP and ignores other essential preventative and remedial health services. It is recommended that the clause include treatment as contained in the South African Law Review Commission recommendation ie “If it has been established that a person has sustained physical or psychological injuries as the result of a sexual offence, such person shall, as soon as is practicable after the offence, receive adequate medical care, treatment, and counseling as may be required for such injuries.À It is also recommended that the State bear the cost of the medical care, treatment and counseling.

The section on cautionary rules (Section 55B) has also been highlighted as a concern. Participants argued for a reinsertion of the clause abolishing the cautionary rule relating to the evidence of children as there is no proof that the evidence of children is less reliable than that of adults.

Regarding the sections on the National Policy Framework and Inter-Sectoral Committee (Section 57 and Section 58), participants recommended that:

  • The Department of Education and civil society be added to provide for consultation and participation in the development of the National Policy Framework and membership of the Inter-sectoral Committee; and
  • The clause stipulating objectives, priorities and strategies, performance indicators, a framework for co-operative governance, allocation of roles and responsibilities and measures to ensure adequate funding be reinstated into the Bill.

Other recommendations include:

  • The terms ‘consensual rape and ‘consensual sexual assault’ be deleted from Section 14 and Section 15 (Acts of Consensual Penetration with certain children (consensual rape) and acts of consensual sexual violation with certain children (consensual sexual assault);
  • The clauses relating to ‘vulnerable witnesses’ be reinstated into the Bill to provide for both child and vulnerable witnesses.

It is hoped that a revised Sexual Offences Bill we be passed before the end of 2006. For more information contact Loveness Jambaya at or T: +27 11 622 2877 or F: +27 11 622 4732

South Africa: Sexual Offences Bill must not criminalise clients of sex workers

The Sex Worker Education and Advocacy Taskforce (SWEAT) has called on parliament to remove a new provision to the Sexual Offences Bill aimed at criminalising the clients of sex workers.

A press statement issued by SWEAT says that the provision “has not been subject to public participation along with the rest of the bill and SWEAT, who has been working with sex workers for 11 years, is gravely concerned about the possible wide ranging and extremely prejudicial consequences of including this provision in the current bill. This provision will impact on the human rights of sex workers. We feel that Parliament would be remiss should it do so without having properly considered the requisite contextual information.À

For more information contact Anna Weekes, SWEAT Legal Advocacy and Lobbying Coordinator at T: +27 21 448 7875 or

Zimbabwe: MP opposes Domestic Violence Bill

As the debate on the Domestic Violence Bill continues in the Zimbabwean parliament, The Herald reports that MDC Member of the House of Assembly for Tafara-Mabvuku Mr Timothy Mubawu caused a stir when he said the Domestic Violence Bill was “diabolic” alleging that it was against God’s principles that women and men should be equal.

Mubhawu says the proposed law was crafted in a manner that promoted western cultural values. “It is a dangerous Bill and let it be known in Zimbabwe that the right, privilege and status of men is gone. I stand here alone and say this Bill should not be passed in this House. It is a diabolic Bill. Our powers are being usurped … in this House.”

(Source: The Herald)

Read the full story

Gender activists have condemned Mabhawu’s statements. Betty Makoni, founder of the Girl Child Network, a non governmental organisation (NGO) working in 32 of Zimbabwe‘s 58 districts, says, “The MP made some very outrageous and gender-insensitive statements, and we have to express our anger by marching against him – he has made a lot of people angry. It is unfortunate that such statements should come from an official who should be representing both women and men in parliament.”

(Source: Irin News)

Read the full story

South Africa: Civil Unions Bill still discriminates against same sex couples

The Civil Unions Bill has been severely criticized by activists who argue that the Bill continues to discriminate against same sex couples and in fact protects the institution of marriage for homosexuals. The Bill was introduced after a Constitutional Court judgment which declared a ban on same-sex marriages unconstitutional.

The Civil Unions Bill creates a separate regime for same-sex couples, the union cannot be called a ‘marriage,’ and marriage officers can refuse to perform the ceremony.

An article published in the Cape Times quotes Thami Mthembu of the AIDS Legal Network: “The core problem we have with the Civil Union Bill is that it still promotes an equal but separate society and the biggest problem with that is that we’re dealing with a group of people who are still highly marginalised in society today.” Mthembu’s concerns underscore those of LGBTI organisations,

In a submission on the Civil Unions Bill, the Johannesburg based Lesbian and Gay Equality Project argue that: “On its face, the Bill appears to provide equal protection. But its content, context and application effectively reproduce new forms of marginalisation, in direct conflict with the judgment of the Constitutional Court.À

The Lesbian and Gay Equality Project submission proposes three options it believes are open to Parliament at this late stage (these options do not preclude Parliament from considering other constitutionally permissible models at a later stage):

· Enacting legislation along the lines of the Department of Home Affairs’ Draft Marriage Amendment Bill of April 2006, which inserts a gender neutral definition of marriage into the Marriage Act, amends the marriage formula to include the word “spouseÀ and largely resembles the first choice identified in the SALRC report;

· Adopting the SALRC report recommendations regarding an amended Marriage Act and a new Orthodox Marriage Act; or

· Not legislating at all, thereby allowing the law to change automatically on 1 December 2006.

The organisation believes that the third option is the most pragmatic solution to adopt at this stage in the process. For more information contact:

Tel: +27 11 487 3810/1/2, Fax: +27 11 648 4204


United Nations study calls upon states to take action to protect women from violence

A new United Nations study has found that the pervasive and widespread persistence of violence against women, and the impunity with which it is allowed to continue, are clear indications of the failure of States to fully meet their obligations to protect women. Secretary General Kofi Annan has said that as long as violence against women continues “we cannot claim to be making real progress towards equality, development and peace.À

Key findings of the study include:

· The most common form of violence experienced by women globally is physical violence inflicted by an intimate partner;

· The percentage of women who have been subjected to sexual violence by an intimate partner ranges from six percent in Japan to 59 percent in Ethipia;

· Between 40-70 percent of female murder victims are killed by husbands or boyfriends in South Africa, Australia, Canada, Israel, and the United State;

· The costs of violence against women À“ both direct and indirect – are extremely high. These costs include the direct costs of services to treat and support abused women and their children and to bring perpetrators to justice. The indirect costs include lost employment and productivity and the costs in human pain and suffering.

For more information and to download the report visit

Angola: Campaign to reduce domestic violence launched

A campaign against violence in the family has been launched in Lubango, in the southern Huila Province of Angola. The African Press Agency reports that the campaign aims to eradicate and reduce the levels of domestic violence in the province. Provincial Board Manager for Family and Women Promotion, Maria Amélia Metódio says the campaign will look at the causes of violent behaviour within relationships and emphasise alternative ways of conflict resolution.

(Source: APA)

Read the full story

United Nations Secretary General Study exposes scale of violence against children

The UN Secretary General Study on Violence Against Children has found that while all children are potentially at risk of experiencing violence, boys face a greater risk of physical violence than girls and girls face a greater risk of sexual violence, neglect and forced prostitution. The major multi-country study shows that up to 21 percent of women in some countries reported having been sexually abused before the age of 15.

According to the International Labour Office’s latest estimates, 5.7 million children were in forced or bonded labour, 1.8 million in prostitution or pornography and 1.2 million were victims of trafficking in 2000. The study makes a number of recommendations to address violence against children. Including amongst others:

  • The development of a national strategy or plan of action on violence against children which is realistic with time bound targets and integrated into national planning processes;
  • The design and implementation of policies and programmes from a gender perspective, taking into account the different risks faced by girls and boys in respect of violence.

The report is available for download from: Additional information can also be found on the UNICEF website


Unsafe abortion constitutes 30% of maternal mortality in Africa

A special session of Africa Union ministers of states and experts on the provision of sexual reproductive health (SRH) services in Africa concluded that the issue of abortion should be addressed within the laws of each country with a focus on providing comprehensive contraception and family planning services to prevent unwanted pregnancies. This is despite research showing that death resulting from unsafe abortion constituted about 30 percent of maternal mortality.

According to the Ghanaian Chronical, the director-general of the Ghana Health Service, Professor Agyemang Badu Akosa who conducted the research, expressed regret that there was lack of awareness on the topic of abortion and the provision of its services, stressing, “it is the poor who lack information and cannot afford the services even when they are available that resort to unsafe abortion.”

(Source: Ghanaian Chronicle)

Read the full story

Namibia: Government must accelerate gender reform

Namibian women are gearing up for the countries’ 2009 general elections and are calling for a higher representation of women in political structures. Irin News reports that the SWAPO women’s wing, the Women’s Council, resolved at a central committee meeting in September that there should be a 50 percent representation in the party hierarchy and in parliament.

Women’s Manifesto, a women’s advocacy group, called for legislation mandating “50/50 representationÀ, also known as “zebra listingÀ, several years ago. The “zebraÀ system means that male and female election candidates are listed alternately.

“We’re not asking for a quota system,À women’s campaigner Liz Frank said. “We’re asking for a piece of legislation that would make a permanent amendment to the electoral law.À

(Source: Irin News)

Read the full article


Must women choose between motherhood or career?

Mandisadza Kwangwari

Governments must recognise the multiple roles women play in society and put in place strong maternity protections to ensure women can keep their career on track and their income secure when the time comes. Like in many countries, current maternity protections in Zimbabwe are not enough.

The current Zimbabwean law provides for the right to maternity protection to certain categories of women, which includes 14 weeks leave in the private sector, and 12 weeks leave for those in the public sector, 100 percent job security during maternity leave, and an hour breastfeeding break per day for six months.

Read the full article


South Africa: Civil Union Bill falls short for same sex couples

Fikile Vilakazi

Gay and lesbian rights group in South Africa are outraged about a bill before parliament that falls a step short of granting full marriage to same sex couples. The proposed Civil Union Bill aims to establish a separate legal institution for same-sex couples.

Read the full story



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