GENDER POLITICS, POLITICS

Violent Politicians are #NotOurLeaders

LHRDOI

 

24 November 2017 – FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

#NotOurLeaders Campaign launched by Women and Democracy Initiative, Lawyers for Human Rights and gender violence specialist during 16 Days of Activism to end violence against women

Tomorrow, 25 November, marks the start of the annual 16 Days of Activism to End Violence Against Women. Activities led by government emphasise the importance of taking action to end gender-based violence but do political parties walk the talk?

Mduduzi Manana has resigned from his position as the Deputy Minister of Higher Education and Training and been convicted and sentenced for committing assault with intent to cause grievous bodily harm. But he is neither the first nor the only political representative to behave violently towards women. During this year’s 16 Days of Activism, the Women and Democracy Initiative (WDI) of the Dullah Omar Institute at the University of the Western Cape, Lawyers for Human Rights, and gender violence specialist Lisa Vetten turn the spotlight on political representatives and the protectors and keepers who enable their sexual misconduct and abuse. Each day the group will release the name and facts of a different case of a leader embroiled in sexual abuse charges. The aim is to reflect both on the incidents themselves, as well as the responses of the political parties to which these men belong, their actions proving a litmus test of their true commitment to addressing sexual violence.

South Africa’s political representatives are the guardians of the Constitution and rights it contains, including the right to gender equality and the right to be free from all forms of violence, whether from public or private sources. It is their responsibility to develop laws that advance these rights, hold government departments to account for their (in)action in this regard, and approve budgets that make these rights realities. But political representatives’ ability to improve women and men’s lives is compromised when they appoint abusive men to positions of power.

“Political parties that appoint these men, then fail to act against them, or protect them, are hypocritical. Over the next 16 days, we will hear a lot of public condemnation of violence against women and children from various leaders, but this campaign turns the focus on what politicians and parties actually do, not what they say,” said Sanja Bornman of the Lawyers for Human Rights’ Gender Equality programme. Parties undermine efforts to address gendered forms of violence when they fail to develop systems and procedures addressing sexual violence, or fail to put their policies and procedures into effect. They also hamper South Africa’s efforts to meet Goal 5 of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. Target 5.5 of this goal is to “ensure women’s full and effective participation and equal opportunities for leadership at all levels of decision-making in political, economic and public life.” Yet women’s political participation and representation is undermined in environments where sexual violence and abuse go unchecked.

Says Lisa Vetten: “These problems are not new and if they are allowed to persist there is a risk they will become permanent features of our political landscape. As the country currently debates the quality of its political representatives this dimension of their conduct should not be overlooked.”

The individuals we will be focusing on are #NotOurLeaders and we demand that political structures act decisively and urgently to tackle the problems we will be highlighting during the 16 Days.

For queries:

  • Lisa Vetten, gender violence specialist, 082 822 6725
  • Vivienne Mentor-Lalu, Women and Democracy Initiative, Dullah Omar Institute, 082 494 0788
  • Sanja Bornman, Lawyers for Human Rights, 083 522 2933
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GENDER POLITICS, POLITICS

Why does Parliament continue to protect women abusers?

By Jen Thorpe

On September 14th 2017, Mduduzi Manana, former Deputy Minister of Higher Education and Training, pleaded and was found guilty of three charges of assault. While he resigned from his post as Deputy Minister of Higher Education, he remains a Member of Parliament.

Manana still an MP, despite being a women abuser.

Prior to his guilty plea, On 24th August 2017, the Women’s Legal Centre (WLC) submitted a complaint to the Acting Registrar of Members Interests in Parliament, and to the members of the Joint Committee on Ethics and Members’ Interests.

The Women’s Legal Centre submitted the complaint in terms of clause 10.2.2.2 of the Code of Ethical Conduct and Disclosure of Members’ Interests, which applies to all Members of Parliament. The Code outlines the minimum ethical standards of behaviour that can be expected from public representatives. It holds Members of Parliament to the values of selflessness, integrity, objectivity, openness, honesty, and leadership by example.

In terms of the Code, this complaint must be investigated by the Registrar and the Joint Committee on Ethics and Members’ Interests. The WLC argued that by perpetrating an acts of violence against women Mr Manana has breached the Constitution, his oath of office, and the Code of Ethical Conduct. As Mr Manana is bound by the above obligations, so are the Members of the Joint Committee on Ethical Conduct and Disclosure of Members’ Interests, and all the Members of the National Assembly.

In terms of the Code the National Assembly has the authority/power to decide on the appropriate sanction to be imposed on a Member of Parliament who has breached the Code. In these circumstances, the WLC were of the view that the appropriate sanction is the dismissal of Mr Manana as a Member of Parliament. The Committee will meet tomorrow, 1 November, to discuss this complaint.

Usually meetings of the Joint Committee on Ethics and Members’ Interests are closed, however this is not a requirement of the current rules of Parliament. In fact, it is up to the discretion of the committee. The WLC has thus asked that as this meeting is a matter of public interest, the meeting be held open. This request has been supported by Sonke Gender Justice.

Whether the meeting will be open or closed has not yet been announced.

Parliament a repeat offender in not addressing women abuse 

Yet, this is not the first time that a Member of Parliament has been accused of violence against women. Thus far, Parliament has not issued a clear message against having violent abusers as Members of Parliament.

In 2015, the Sowetan reported that the Chairperson of the Select Committee tasked with dealing with women’s issues in the NCOP, Jihad Mohapi Mohapi, was responsible for beating an ex-girlfriend. Also in 2015, the DA confirmed that a charge of sexual harassment had been laid against a DA Deputy Shadow Minister, unnamed in the article, in Parliament for forcing a woman to touch his crotch during a protest. In 2013, charges were laid against then EFF spokesperson, now member of the Gauteng Provincial Legislature Patrick Sindane, for participating in the gang rape of a sex worker.

There has not been a statement on these abuses, and at least two of these men continue to occupy their positions.

Parliament’s resolutions on gender-based violence a mystery for South Africans

For many years, Parliament has held a women’s parliament, or a version thereof, each August. Each one of these events involves the making of resolutions about addressing gender-based violence.

Each year, a report is produced, but this report is not publicly available online, making tracking Parliament’s resolutions around gender-based violence impossible to do. To date, it’s not clear that any comment on violent Members of Parliament has ever been included in these reports.

What next?

The inner workings of Parliament are of course only known to those who work there. But from the outside, it’s not clear that Parliament is committed to holding Members accountable.

It’s not clear what decision Parliament will take tomorrow on Manana, but what is clear is that Parliament needs to do more to address a culture of silence surrounding violent MPs, and to make a clear statement on holding violent men accountable. Without this clear statement their annual 16 Days of Activism events will seem even hollower than usual.

 

Uncategorized

Three things we need now to improve the implementation of the Sexual Offences Act

By Jen Thorpe

This year marks ten years since the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences and Related Matters) Amendment Act 32 of 2007 (The Sexual Offences Act) was passed. This legislation came about as a result of significant work from the Department of Justice and critical inputs from civil society. This partnership helped to shape the Act into something that was responsive to the needs of survivors, and had the potential to assist government in holding the perpetrators of sexual offences accountable. The Act requires that the police, the prosecutors and courts, and the health department work together to achieve this.

This is not a time for pats on the back

The most recent crime statistics would have us believe that certain sexual offences are decreasing, and that the conviction rate for sexual offences is high.

However, the reality is that many survivors of sexual offences never report to the police, and that the number of sexual offences cases that are prosecuted each year is decreasing. The current performance indicators for police on ‘decreasing the number of sexual offences’ create a perverse incentive for police to turn away sexual offences complainants when they report at a police station.

In addition, the specialised police units such as the Family Violence, Child Protection, and Sexual Offences Units, are not always provided with the financial or human resources they need to do their jobs well. The result is that there is a high attrition rate for cases at the investigation stage, and where cases are not investigated by specialist detectives the quality of investigation remains poor, preventing prosecutors from having much to work with if/ when the case reaches court.

Essentially, what the state’s figures tell us is that fewer survivors of sexual offences have faith in the police, and that fewer cases are investigated to a good enough quality that prosecutors are able to take them up and win a conviction.

This is not a time for pats on the back. This is a matter of serious concern, and misleading statistics that suggest that sexual offences in South Africa are being ‘dealt with’ or addressed in some way by the state are not helpful. In fact, the statistics that are reported change from one year to the next, making tracking the extent of the problems with the criminal justice system difficult to do.

Specialist interventions have been introduced

However, it is not as though no state action has taken place. The Thuthuzela Care Centres  (TCCs) (a one stop model including the police, health, and national prosecuting authority) and the Sexual Offences Courts (courts dedicated to hearing sexual offences cases, with specialist infrastructure, and specialist staff) are two important efforts that have been made by the state to address the problem of sexual offences. These are important interventions, because they increase the likelihood that survivors will get access to the support they need to help them stay in the criminal justice system until a prosecution occurs.

Yet, few of the TCCs or Sexual Offences Courts are operating at the minimum standards set by the state themselves. Section 55A of the Judicial Matters Amendment Bill has not been implemented.

Although the NPA and the DOJ provide glowing reports to Parliament, reports from civil society suggest that many of these facilities are operating at a skeleton stage, without meeting the requirements of specialist police, specialist prosecutors, forensic doctors, or the required infrastructure.

International funds run dry

The TCCS themselves are only partially funded by the state. At the moment they also receive international donor funding. At the same time, the NGO sector which provides critical psychosocial services to many survivors is facing dire funding cuts. International donors are shifting their focus to other matters, with the effect that NGOs are striving to assist survivors on a limited budget, with limited staff capacity. It is urgent that the state functions better for the survivors of sexual offences.

Renewed state action

We are facing a sexual offences crisis that is currently not being addressed effectively by the legislation we have available. Positively it seems, this has not been ignored by the Department of Justice, and steps are in place to address this.

Today and tomorrow, the Department of Justice  is hosting a National Forum on the Implementation of the Sexual Offences Actin partnership with civil society. The forum will focus on three areas:

  • Reporting / investigation,
  • Medico-legal / services to the victim, and
  • Court processes / prosecution and the adjudication of sexual offences.

I am part of the Shukumisa Coalition, a coalition of organisations and individuals that hopes to see particular challenges addressed through resolutions at the Forum today and tomorrow. We hope to see:

  1. A resolution on the operationalisation of Section 55A of the Judicial Matters Amendment Act (around designating sexual offences courts) and the involvement of civil society in drafting the minimum standards and regulations around these courts.
  2. A resolution on the need for the public sharing of clear, consistent, and disaggregated statistics on sexual offences is essential.
  3. A resolution on revising perverse performance standards that reduce the likelihood that sexual offences are reported.

At the moment this forum seems like a positive opportunity for honest reflection. Hopefully it also delivers results.

 

GENDER POLITICS, HEALTH, POLITICS

Parliament to meet on gender issues – 2 November

The Multi-Party Women’s Caucus will convene in Parliament next week to discuss some extremely important issues. These include:

  • Gender quotas for political representation (IEC)
  • Gender-responsive budgeting (Treasury)
  • Spending on gender-based violence
  • Vat exemption on sanitary pads

The meeting will take place on Thursday 2 November, between 10am and 1pm, and is scheduled to take place in the Old Assembly Chamber.