- We observe International Women’s Day on 8 March 2014, which aptly sets the stage for the annual Commission on the Status of Women (CSW58) held at the United Nations in New York starting on 10 March 2014. This year’s CSW also coincides with the 10th annual Israeli Apartheid Week (IAW). Ironically and hypocritically, the fall of the ‘tragic hero’, Oscar Pistorius, will continue to garner undue resources and dominate international headlines, while these events and women’s everyday oppression will be merely deliberated and largely unheard.
When I ponder the significance of Women’s Day and CSW58, three issues come to my mind that render these events somewhat futile or at least a grand performance of hypocrisy.
The first issue is Israeli apartheid. The IAW campaign takes place in 250 cities worldwide annually during the months of February and March. Both CSW58 and IAW South Africa kick off on Monday, 10 March 2014. IAW is organised by Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS). Like the international boycott and divestment campaign did during the 1980’s against apartheid South Africa, the BDS movement has gained a lot of ground in past few years. Numerous investors and companies have pulled out of Israel, some Israeli companies are being blacklisted and artists are refusing to tour Israel, in support of Palestinian people’s freedom.
As CSW58 goes ahead in New York, one simply cannot ignore the United States of America’s (USA) unbridled financial and political support of Israel. During CSW57 last year, Ambassador Ron Prosor presented Israel's statement that said, "Israel is also committed to ending the cycle of violence against women beyond its borders." Curious, considering the oppression and violence perpetrated against Palestinian people within their borders, as well as African residents and asylum seekers in Israel and the occupied territories. More than half of these people are women.
The second contention is widespread state sponsored homophobia. The recent and most renowned being Russia, Nigeria, Uganda, Gambia, India and Zimbabwe criminalising Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer (LGBTQ) people, banning homosexuality and or any pro-LGBTQ activism and organisations. Many of these leaders have openly encouraged violence and hate crimes against LGBTQ people.
The USA has condemned Uganda’s recent signing of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill, the World Bank, Sweden, Norway and Denmark followed suit also suspending aid to the country. None condemned Uganda’s introduction of the Anti-Pornography Act, which among many problematic clauses, bans women from wearing miniskirts.
While countries of the West admonish anti-gay laws in Africa, they seem to forget that they were complicit in the creation and dissemination of this prejudice by introducing ‘Sodomy Laws’ when they colonised this continent.
While the West and the World Bank cut aid, they neither condemn nor sanction the American right-wing Christian evangelicals who preach hate and homophobia in Uganda. Furthermore, with the West assuming this hypocritical moral high ground, they tout themselves as ‘progressive’ and can continue to employ the colonial language that paints the global south as backward, barbaric and in great need of civilisation. Through this, they press on with their neoliberal agenda.
While cutting aid allows them to pull their neo-colonial strings more tightly, the LGBTQ in Uganda are left more vulnerable to discrimination and hate crimes. They will be the scapegoats for aid taps turning off. This will further entrench the flawed banal idea that homosexuality is un-African and only create more division. Ultimately, this approach will negatively affect all Ugandan citizens, but more so those who already face prejudice and poverty.
Finally, due to the homophobia prevalent in most parts of the world, many country delegates attending CSW are homophobic and the commission’s conclusions merely paper over the reality of many LBGTQ across the globe.
The third issue that comes to mind is the fact that for the 58th time, politicians, non-governmental organisations and technocrats will gather in New York to deliberate women’s status in the world. The call to end violence against women has been a recurring theme and fundamental objective since the birth of CSW in 1946.
While the international media continues with its sensationalist reality TV show-esque coverage of Pistorius’s trial, the media ignores, trivialises and normalises the pandemic proportions of femicide and domestic violence experienced by women across the world, most of whom will never see justice.
According to a Violence Against Women Baseline Study conducted in six Southern African Development Community (SADC) member-states, intimate partner violence is the most predominant form of gender-based violence (GBV) experienced by women and perpetrated by men. Rates range from 90 percent Zambia to 23 percent in Mauritius.
Lifetime prevalence rates of GBV sit at 89 percent in Zambia, 86 percent in Lesotho, 68 percent in Zimbabwe, 67 percent in Botswana, 50 percent in South Africa and 24 percent in Mauritius. One in three women across the world experience some form of gender violence in their lifetime.
Women continue to represent a disproportionate share of the poor and have little access to productive resources, income and education. Women still either lack access to or do not have sexual reproductive health rights at all. They continue to bear the brunt of HIV and will endure the worst of climate change.
At this year’s CSW, Gender Links and the Southern Africa Gender Alliance is calling for 5050 before 2015 and demanding a strong post-2015 agenda, to ensure voice, choice, control and equality for all.
South Africa may seem closer to this demand with its legislation that protects the rights of LGBTQ people, laws giving women the right to abortion and now its passing of the Women Empowerment and Gender Equality (WEGE) Bill on Tuesday, 11 March 2014. The WEGE bill, among other objectives, aims to ensure 50 percent representation of women in all decision-making structures in government and private entities.
However, the South African government’s commitment to gender equality remains questionable. South Africa’s incumbent government exercised its typical quiet diplomacy and failed to condemn the state-sponsored homophobia in neighbouring countries. The National Assembly passed the WEGE bill despite widespread criticism from many organisations and institutions. It seems that government’s sudden approval is an attempt to garner more votes ahead of the elections in May, and is being used as a smear tactic against the Democratic Alliance opposition party, for their ‘disgraceful rejection of the bill’.
Until South Africa, SADC and all member states attending CSW58 show real and incorruptible commitment to equality and freedom for all, the post-2015 developmental agenda will be as ineffective as those that came before. Until then, CSW will exist to its centenary, women will never have their day and we will not live to see gender equality.
- Katherine Robinson is the editor and communications manager at Gender Links. This article is part of the Gender Links News Service, offering fresh views on every day news. Follow Gender Links on Twitter and Facebook. Look out for our daily e-newsletter and coverage of CSW58 next week. #SadcProtocol
Human Rights Watch urges the government of Malawi to increase efforts to end widespread child and forced marriage, or risk worsening poverty, illiteracy, and preventable maternal deaths in the country.
According to government statistics, half of the girls in Malawi will be married by their 18th birthday, with some as young as nine or 10 being forced to marry.
Human Rights Watch further states that Malawi's first woman president, Joyce Banda, should publicly support prompt enactment of the Marriage, Divorce, and Family Relations Bill (Marriage Bill), which includes vital protections against child marriage.
To read the article titled, “End widespread child marriage - pass marriage law, adopt comprehensive approach,” click here.Source:All Africa
North West Premier, Thandi Modise, says equal rights and opportunities for women are crucial to building healthy economies and societies.
Modise’s comments come as the country joined the world in celebrating International Women's Day on Saturday, 8 March 2014.
In a press statement, Modise explains that, "Women's full and equal participation in the political and economic arena is crucial to democracy and justice, because equal rights and opportunity underpin healthy economies and societies.”
To read the article titled, “Equal rights key to thriving societies - Premier Modise,” click here.Source:All Africa
Women activists believe the rights of women and girls continue to be violated in Zimbabwe even though the country has the best laws designed to address gender-based violence and inequality.
The activists state that, there is little action to match the laws available to protect women who were constantly abused in homes, schools and in the workplace.
Women's Coalition of Zimbabwe’s director, Virginia Muwanigwa - speaking at the launch of the Southern African Development Community Gender Protocol Barometer for 2013 - asserts that the problem emanated from the country’s failure to implement legislation.
To read the article titled, “Laws Fail to Protect Women, Girl Child,” click hereSource:All Africa
- The Traditional Courts Bill (TCB) is dead. This follows years of opposition from civil society and is a massive victory for the thousands of people in rural parts of the country who spoke out against the bill during provincial public hearings.
It is a wonderful instance of the provinces, including African National Congress (ANC) ruled provinces such as Eastern Cape, Limpopo and Gauteng, heeding the voices of ordinary people and voting against the government-sponsored draft law in parliament’s National Council of Provinces (NCOP). Even KwaZulu-Natal refused to vote in favour of the TCB, despite political pressure.
It is unprecedented for ANC provinces to break ranks in this way. One reason they did is because of the numerous examples of abuse in the name of custom raised by ordinary people in public hearings. Women have been at the forefront of opposition to the TCB, arguing that it would legalise and entrench current discrimination.
In effect the bill created a separate legal system for the 17 million people living in the former Bantustans, enabling chiefs to order forced labour within those boundaries, and making it a criminal offence for people to opt out of traditional courts. Provinces such as Gauteng and Mpumalanga challenged the re-introduction of such unequal citizenship. They argued that customary law applies to all South Africans, not just those living in the former homelands.
The final nail in the coffin of the TCB was hammered in at the NCOP select committee on security and constitutional development’s meeting on 19 February 2014. At that meeting the parliamentary law advisor found that many of the provinces’ concerns about the bill were valid and highlighted that various provisions were unconstitutional. After that input, John Gunda, Northern Cape MP, stated, “We must not deliberate on this bill which South Africa has rejected.” Quoting Minister of Women, Children and People with Disabilities, Lulu Xingwana, he continued, “’This bill cannot even be panel-beaten.’ We must go back and start again with a new bill and consult people who will live under this bill, not just traditional leaders like before.”
The meeting was adjourned on the basis that the bill would be referred back to the provincial legislatures for further mandates yet again. But it was very clear that even those provinces that had previously voted in favour (such as the Northern Cape) would return ‘no’ mandates this time. To avoid that embarrassment, the TCB was quietly removed from the parliamentary schedule on Wednesday evening after the meeting. The explanation is the sudden realisation that it had, in any event, lapsed in terms of parliament’s Rule 238.
The justice department, which has promoted the bill since 2008, has taken this cowardly way to avoid public defeat by elected representatives in parliament. Rural people are claiming and celebrating their victory. Andries Sihlangu, a Mpumalanga-based member of the Alliance for Rural Democracy, says: “We are happy that government has listened to rural people. It gives us hope that the people shall indeed govern one day.”
Sizani Ngubane of the Rural Women’s Movement in KwaZulu-Natal states: “The TCB was never about custom. It was about bolstering the power of chiefs. Government can no longer deny the abuses that many chiefs are getting away with, because we explained these abuses over and over again in the public hearings. What we need now is a law that protects real custom and protects women, especially, against the kinds of autocratic power that chiefs got used to under apartheid.”
Nomboniso Gasa of the Alliance for Rural Democracy and the Centre for Law and Society, University of Cape Town, regards the whole attempt since 2008 to ram this unconstitutional law through Parliament as a massive waste of taxpayers’ money. “Stopping the TCB means that rural people have really organised about it and the broader question of who makes customary law. They are on the alert and will easily recognise it if the government tries to sell the same package in another form after the elections.”
For more information on the TCB and related laws, refer to www.customcontested.co.za.
The Alliance for Rural Democracy (ARD) is a cross-section of civil society organisations sharing a common concern about the detrimental effects that the Traditional Courts Bill will have on the rural constituencies they serve and support. The ARD includes the following organisations: Association for Rural Advancement (AFRA); Centre for Human Rights, University of Pretoria; Community Law Centre, University of the Western Cape (CLC);Corruption Watch; Co-operative Policy Alternative Centre (COPAC); Council for the Advancement of the South African Constitution (CASAC);Democratic Governance and Rights Unit, University of Cape Town (DGRU); Embrace Dignity Campaign; Empilisweni AIDS Education and Training Centre; Greater Rape Intervention Programme (GRIP);Institute for Justice and Reconciliation (IJR); Justice and Women (JAW); Land Access Movement of South Africa (LAMOSA); Centre for Law and Society, University of Cape Town; Lesbian and Gay Equality Project; Masimanyane Women’s Support Centre; Open Democracy Advice Centre (ODAC); Rural People’s Movement; Rural Women’s Movement; Rural Health Advocacy Project; Section 27; Sonke Gender Justice; South African Constitutional Literacy and Service Initiative (CLASI); Students for Law and Social Justice (SLSJ); Thohoyandou Victim Empowerment Project (TVEP);Treatment Action Campaign (TAC);Triangle Project; Tshwaranang Legal Advocacy Centre (TLAC); Unemployed People’s Movement; Women’s Health Research Unit in the School of Public Health and Family Medicine, University of Cape Town; Women’s Legal Centre Trust. The Legal Resources Centre (LRC) acts as legal advisor to the ARD.
Ugandan President, Yoweri Museveni, is expected to sign a controversial anti-homosexuality bill, which Western countries have criticised and tried to stop from being signed into law.
Ugandan government spokesperson, Ofwono Opondo, points out that, "He [Museveni] wants to sign it with the full witness of the international media to demonstrate Uganda's independence in the face of Western pressure and provocation."
Museveni's decision to sign the bill comes less than a week since he announced plans to put the bill on hold to give scientists a chance to prove that homosexuality could be triggered by genes and is not a ‘lifestyle choice’.
To read the article titled, “Uganda's Museveni to sign anti-gay bill,” click here.Source:Mail and Guardian
Ugandan gay rights activist, Paul Semugoma, was almost deported to Uganda through Zimbabwe, but friends exerted pressure on the South African government to grant him a work permit.
South African immigration officials at OR Tambo International Airport detained Semugoma on his return trip from a conference in Zimbabwe, where they charged him with travelling without proper documentation.
Life partner, Brian Kanyemba, was allowed through, and immediately contacted the South African National AIDS Council (SANAC) to tell them what had happened.
To read the article titled, “Naledi Pandor saves gay activist from deportation,” click here.Source:Mail and Guardian
The Human Rights Watch's (HRW) has found that very little is going right for the vast majority of the Angola’s population, including the government’s failure to use the oil windfall to fund socio-economic development.
The organisation’s annual World Report 2013 states that the Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola-led government has intensified repressive measures to restrict freedom of expression, association, and assembly in 2013.
The report further states that, "The government has pursued numerous criminal defamation lawsuits against outspoken journalists and activists, while continuing to use police abuse, arbitrary arrests, and intimidation to prevent peaceful anti-government protests, strikes, and other gatherings from taking place.”
To read the article titled, “Nation's dire human rights situation,” click here.Source:All Africa
RA1SE - ONE for Good Causes will this year - along with a number of volunteers - will be raising funds for its project in Zambia, in partnership with Lusaka’s Youth Organisation for Orphans.
The project entails the construction and finishing of three houses and an administration block, a water reservoir and a farm and also intends to make the home as self-sustainable as possible, while providing opportunities for the orphans to learn new skills.
Once the works are completed, 40 orphans, aged between seven and 18 years will be able to reside in the home on a permanent basis.
To read the article titled, “Zambian orphans to be given shelter through NGO project,” click here.Source:Malta Independent
The South African National Editors Forum (SANEF) has expressed shock at the detention of a journalist, Sandiso Phaliso, by police in the Western Cape.
In a press statement, SANEF media freedom committee chairperson, Adriaan Basson, points out that, "This behaviour by officers of the South African Police Service is completely unacceptable."
Basson is of the view that Phaliso’s freedom of expression has been infringed by this incident, when he tried to expose officers neglecting their very basic duty of protecting communities.
To read the article titled, “Western Cape journalist's arrest unacceptable, says SANEF,” click here.Source:Times Live