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: firstname.lastname@example.org
Portfolio Committee on Police
Care of: Mr Francois Beukman, Chairperson
Via email: email@example.com
Portfolio Committee on Social Development
Care of: Ms Rosemary Nokuzola Capa, Chairperson
Via email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Portfolio Committee on Women
Care of: Ms Thandi Cecilia Memela, Chairperson
Via email: email@example.com
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