Cancellation of South Africa visit of UN Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women

12 May 2015
RE: The cancellation of South Africa visit of South Africa visit of UN special rapporteur on violence against women


We are writing to you as the members of parliamentary committees that have oversight in relation to the relevant executive departments forming part of the Social and Justice, Crime Prevention and Security Cluster (“the clusters”).

On 11 May 2015 it was announced that the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women, its Causes and Consequences, Ms Rashida Manjoo, has cancelled her visit to South Africa which was planned for this month. The reason provided by the Special Rapporteur is that she has been unable to obtain confirmation of the dates for her visit from the South African government.

Read the News24 article here.

As Special Rapporteurs may only visit nation states by invitation of government, in failing to confirm a date for the visit, the South African government has effectively forced the cancellation of Ms Manjoo’s visit to our country.

The signatories to this letter would like to express our grave concern at this development, and the message it sends about the authenticity government’s commitment to addressing the endemic levels of gender based violence in South Africa.

We recently heard from the Commission for Gender Equality that gender based violence is preventing women in South Africa from participating in gender equality gains, and that we are regressing on the Organisation for Economic and Cooperation and Development social institutions and gender index. Last week it was reported that the Minister for Police advised Parliament that 200 charges of rape had been laid against police officers, resulting in less than 5 convictions. At the time of writing, the media informed us of 349 arrests in one province over one month for suspected sexual assault offences, resulting in only 51 convictions. This is just some of the news facing South African women in the month of May alone.

The South African response to the recommendations made by the Committee for the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) on the South African 2011 country report has been outstanding since 2013. Additionally, the 5th periodic country report that was due to CEDAW in February this year has not been submitted. The report on the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa is also outstanding.

The visit of the Special Rapporteur can be of great assistance in critically evaluating country efforts to date. Ms Manjoo’s mandate includes:

(a) Seeking and receiving information on violence against women, its causes and consequences from governments, treaty bodies, specialized agencies, other special rapporteurs responsible for various human rights questions and intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations, including women’s organizations, and to respond effectively to such information; and

(b) Recommending measures, ways and means at the local, national, regional and international levels to eliminate all forms of violence against women and its causes, and to remedy its consequences.

Under the circumstances, South Africa stands to benefit from Ms Manjoo’s visit as an opportunity to reflect on and evaluate laws, policies and programmes, and progress. We will likewise benefit from any resulting recommendations and the support of the Special Rapporteur, and potentially the international community, in our ongoing efforts to address violence against women.

The endemic levels of violence against women in South Africa cannot be the sole responsibility of one government department. It is universally acknowledged that an integrated, coordinated, multi-departmental approach is required.

Under the circumstances, we appeal to you collectively to urge the relevant executive departments in the social and JCPS clusters to urgently facilitate the visit of the Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women. We look to you for your collective, decisive and accountable leadership in this regard, and we respectfully request that you communicate with us on steps that you will take in response to our appeal.

Civil society stands ready to partner with yourselves and the executive branches of government to identify real solutions and participate in action.


Ms Liz Giles
Advocacy & Communications Manager
Tshwaranang Legal Advocacy Centre to end violence against women
Tel: 011 403 4267

Ms Sanja Bornman
Women’s Legal Centre
Tel: 021 424 5660

Portfolio Committee on Justice and Correctional Services
Care of: Dr Mathole Serofo Motshekga, Chairperson
Via email:

Portfolio Committee on Police
Care of: Mr Francois Beukman, Chairperson
Via email:

Portfolio Committee on Social Development
Care of: Ms Rosemary Nokuzola Capa, Chairperson
Via email:

Portfolio Committee on Women
Care of: Ms Thandi Cecilia Memela, Chairperson
Via email:

1. Amnesty International, International Secretariat, Southern Africa Regional Office
2. Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation (CSVR)
3. Consortium for Refugees and Migrants in South Africa (CoRMSA)
4. Dr Kelley Moult, gender-based violence expert at Law Faculty, University of Cape Town
5. GenderCC Southern Africa – Women for Climate Justice
6. Ikhwezi Women Support Centre
7. Limpopo Legal Advice Centre
9. Ms Lisa Vetten, gender-based violence expert at WISER, WITS University
10. People Opposing Women Abuse (POWA)
11. Rape Crisis Cape Town Trust
12. Sex Worker Education and Advocacy Task Team (SWEAT)
13. Sexual Assault Clinic
14. Sonke Gender Justice
15. South African Association of Women Graduates (SAAWG)
16. Teddy Bear Clinic For Abused Children
17. Thohoyandou Victim Empowerment Programme
18. Women And Men Against Child Abuse
19. Women on Farms Project

Celebrating our mothers – just for one day

Today, families all over South Africa are celebrating Mother’s Day. One day a year for mommies to be cossetted and spoiled by loved ones. One special day when mothers can reflect on the joys and sorrows, the sacrifices and rewards, the pains and the pleasures of raising babies, toddlers, teenagers, grown-up children, grandchildren and of course to celebrate our own mothers.

It took a few false starts to get even this single day going in the West.  Thousands of years BC, the Greeks and Romans celebrated two fictional maternal Goddesses named Cybele and Rhea but stopped short of actually cherishing the living ones. In the early 1600’s Britain introduced Mothering Sunday on the 4th Sunday of Lent to celebrate the Virgin Mary. At the time it was customary for children of all classes to bring small gifts or flowers to church to pay tribute to their own mothers. But by the 19th century this tradition had fallen away.


In 1872 after the American Civil War, an activist and poet called Julia Howe tried to introduce an annual Mother’s Day dedicated to world peace. But her venture was short lived. However, forty-two years later, another American lady called Anna Jarvis succeeded where all before her had failed. Surprisingly, Anna Jarvis was never a wife or mother herself but she wanted to honour her own mother’s wish to have a day set aside every year to celebrate motherhood. Her efforts paid off and in 1914, President Woodrow Wilson legislated that Mother’s Day be held annually on the second Sunday of May in America. It soon spread to other parts of the world.

A few mom stats:

  • Moms change approximately 4 300 nappies by their baby’s second birthday, taking on average two minutes and five seconds to do each nappy. This makes a total of just under 9 000 hours devoted to nappy changing time.
  • A pre-schooler requires their mom’s attention approximately once every four minutes
  • Moms do about 88 percent of the family’s laundry and shopping
  • More telephone calls are made on Mother’s Day than any other day of the year

Mother’s Day is a wonderful invention. It is a day to spoil moms rotten. And not necessarily with expensive gifts – most mothers would be happy with just a day of no work: no cooking, no cleaning, no food shopping – no chores at all for one whole day.

But for thousands of mom’s living in South Africa celebration on this day is just a fantasy.  South Africa has one of the highest rates of violence against women in the world, the end of the violence is nowhere in sight and every day of every year women in South Africa live in fear for their safety and their lives.  Mother’s Day for them is no exception.

We have laws to punish offenders but flaws in the criminal justice system and the difficulties inherent in prosecuting rape cases mean that most offenders are not held accountable.

In addition, there is no genuine political will from leaders to institute measures to end the high levels of abuse and rape.  Tribal traditions, religious customs and social norms that maintain patriarchal attitudes are left unchallenged. Without a huge shift in prevailing attitudes across all of South African society, we will never solve abuse of women. Men will continue to believe that they own their women and society will forever be looking to help women pick up the pieces after the fact.

Patriarchal attitudes have to change so that mothers don’t have to spend every day finding ways to protect themselves and their children from harm.

Rape Crisis services are available 24/7 via our helpline on (021) 447-9762 for advice on how to report rape or counselling for recovery.

Lizzy Cowan





Focusing on sexual harassment in the workplace this Worker’s Day

Worker’s Day, celebrated on 1 May in South Africa, commemorates the historical struggles of workers for fair employment and working standards. More importantly it represents the struggle to establish a culture of human and worker rights and to ensure that these are upheld in local and international law.

Safe Space, an initiative of the Rape Crisis Cape Town Trust, has chosen this day to heighten awareness of sexual harassment in the workplace; something that is commonplace yet often overlooked despite the negative impact that sexual harassment has on the health and morale of workers, and their work performance and productivity.

Sexual harassment is defined by South Africa’s Labour Relations Act as any unwanted attention of a sexual nature that takes place in the workplace, and includes physical, verbal and non-verbal actions.  Sexual harassment violates a person’s inherent constitutional right to dignity, and the right to have that dignity respected and protected. It is also forbidden by the Employment Equity, Labour Relations and Promotion of Equality Acts, and the Code of Good Practice.

Sexual_Harassment_4062A United Nations Report revealed that between 40 and 50% of women in European Union countries experience unwanted sexual advancements, physical contact or other forms of sexual harassment in their workplace. In a survey conducted by Safe Space, 51% of respondents said that they had experienced sexual harassment at work or at work functions on more than one occasion and 50% of those did not report it to anyone. The main reason given was that they were afraid that it would affect their position at work negatively.

Most people are reluctant to report being harassed at work because they fear consequences such as demotion or loss of future opportunity, are afraid that it will not be handled in a confidential manner, or fear having to see the perpetrator every day after reporting the incident.  Furthermore, many managers are reluctant to acknowledge sexual harassment in the workplace for fear of being held liable and many incidents are either dismissed or handled internally. In many cases mangers are not equipped to deal with sexual harassment complaints.

The costs of violence against women are extremely high. They include the direct costs of services to treat and support abused women and to bring perpetrators to justice. The indirect costs include lost employment and productivity, and the costs in human pain and suffering.

Employers in South Africa need to take cognisance of the business risks pertaining to sexual harassment in their businesses and especially the financial risks attached to the unsuccessful managing of harassment. One way for businesses to prevent and correctly manage sexual harassment is to enlist the expertise of Safe Space Training & Consultation.

Safe Space provides training and consultation around the following:

  • Revising or constructing sexual harassment policy
  • Assisting to create a process for resolving sexual harassment matters
  • Educating employees about sexual harassment and the steps to follow through workshops
  • Providing training to those who are at the forefront of sexual violence disclosures
  • Wellness days
  • Exhibitions and conferences

Take action today. Contact Safe Space for a quotation for a service fully customised to your needs.

Michelle Bergh
Safe Space Coordinator
062 300 2010

Rape Crisis Business Cards - Pantone


In the pursuit of happiness? Try feminism

In returning after my rest, I have been surprised daily by happiness. Not the light, fluffy, sparkly kind but a more profound and abiding mood rather than feeling: a wellspring that seeps into me and make my whole world richer. I have read the stats and done the various happiness tests that sprinkle the internet while trying to understand what this happiness is all about. The theories suggest that a sense of meaning, optimism and the desire to and acknowledgement of having an impact that improves the world in some small way are all factors that lead to a more lasting and deeper sense of happiness, and perhaps that’s true.

What I know is that as a feminist activist and trauma counsellor my life is once again submersed not only in the harms of the world, but also in its transformation. As an activist and counsellor, I get to hear the hope in someone’s voice when they tell me that they have slept through the night for the first time in years, that they have just experience a week without fear, that they feel good or normal again, that they have hope that they will teach others in need what they have learnt…and how can you not experience joy or happiness in these things?

I received a photograph (from a genocide survivor who had once thought happiness frivolous, pointless and stupid) where she was running toward happiness with her arms as wide open as her smile: her world connected again with love and life and the possibilities that in truth surround us all. Although the photograph for me is iconic and unutterably beautiful, it is also tapping into that wellspring that may connect us all.

This happiness is not simple, it does not prevent hurt, disappointment, irritation or anger but it keeps its flavour in the face of these things. It works with you through your mistakes and those moments when you seem to get everything right. It peaks in the shade of a tree as much as it does when you witness someone feeling again like they are a person: human and in and with the world.

Some of you may remember that I had to rest my constantly breaking heart, and that was good. And I am back and refreshed. My heart in its pieces and its wholeness overflows with a happiness, which allows me to connect again with the world, with the horrors that happen to those around us and to the wonder of how we, despite our best efforts, can connect and be part of everything around us.

We can and do change the world by the way we live in it, and what better way than to pursue empathy and connection with others and the whole world around us. Feminism does this in a very basic sense: disrupting our world, plunging us into imagining difference. I think of feminism as a kind of gateway drug to happiness. It allows you to view being human in a new way and from there you can act in ways that connect you to the world you want all around you. Your route may not be feminism; it may be through environmental activism, economic, political, social activism, buying a Rape Crisis heart or even through a commitment to smile daily at strangers. But whatever it is, to pursue happiness all you need to do is reach out and act on it.


Morgan Mitchell

Morgan Mitchell lives in Cape Town where she works with survivors of trauma in private practice as a trauma and EMDR counsellor. She has been a volunteer at Rape Crisis since 2001 and is a feminist civil rights activist. For over 15 years, she has also developed materials for a variety of ages and cultures.