Call for the Establishment of a Special Fund to End Violence Against Women and Commission of Inquiry on Sexual Violence

Dear all,

Thanks to all of you who spoke to Bafana, Cherith, Aadielah, Mbuyiselo, Dean and myself during the course of yesterday. The overwhelmingly positive feedback is a clear indication that many of us are thinking along the same lines - the emotional outcry is important but it needs to be channelled in ways that move the agenda forward and lead to increased financial resources for the sector as a whole.   We are also including a few organisations and people we didn't manage to reach but whose support is critical.
 
Below you will find attached a description of the terms of reference for the national commission of inquiry, and the special fund.  We would like your formal endorsement and/or suggestions about how to strengthen the language so that it reflects our demands.  It is important that we move on this quickly because we want to capitalise on the State of the Nation Address on Thursday.  Specifically, we want President Jacob Zuma to announce the Commission and the Fund in his speech.
 
As such we are preparing a letter to go to the Presidency as well as to the Minister of Finance, urging them to set aside R10 billion to support women's organisations, and to institute the commission (again, see the details below).
 
Time is of the essence. Can you please respond via an email directly to me indicating whether you are comfortable with your organisation joining the campaign and specifically being listed in the press release as well as in the joint civil society letter that we will be sending to President Zuma and Minister Gordhan. If you have specific additional ideas to strengthen the request, please call me on my cell (listed below) so that we can discuss as we want to avoid a lengthy editorial process.
 
The content of the press release and the letter to Zuma will reflect the ideas contained below, as well as those that emerge from feedback to this email.

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Civil Society organisations call for a Commission of Inquiry and a Special Fund to end sexual violence

Summary:

  • The Commission on Sexual Violence will be appointed by the President of South Africa and will be chaired by a senior jurist with the stature, experience and  influence necessary to get buy-in from the public, have the confidence of politicians and effect systemic change;
  • The Commission will examine and provide recommendations to address the continuum of violence with a heavy focus on two key issues a) the causes of violence at community and family levels; and b) key obstacles in the implementation of South Africa’s laws, policies across the various state departments that are responsible for ensuring that women and girls can enjoy their constitutional rights to security of the person, dignity and equality;
  • A Special Fund to Prevent Sexual Violence will be set up in recognition of the fact that many women's groups providing critical prevention and support services to women and girls have closed in the last decade.  The Fund - which shall allocate R10 billion - will provide support to the many community based organisations that have a demonstrated track record of success in combating sexual violence. There are many solutions - there has simply been too little support for the social infrastructure needed to end violence. 

The Commission

Purpose:
 
The overall goal of the Commission will be to put in place a coherent long-term strategy to ensure that South Africa dramatically reduces the incidence of sexual violence in the country.
 
Objectives:
 
The Commission will develop a list of essential actions and recommendations to guide government action in the coming decade, which will dramatically decrease the number of acts of sexual violence against women and girls and protect women’s rights in the event that sexual abuse does occur. The Commission will convene national hearings with state agencies, research institutions and civil society organisations and conduct community consultations so that the voices of ordinary women and community members are fore grounded.  In doing this the commission will explore three issues:

  • What explains the high levels of men’s violence against women;
  • Why it is that the many laws and institutions established to address GBV are not operating optimally;
  • What must be done - at a scaled up and replicable level - to stop the violence and to respond to it where it continues to occur.

Timeframes:
 
The Commission will be required to meet within 8 weeks of its establishment and will be required to submit a final report within 12 months. It will convene a series of national consultations and 2-3 hearings per province and will have the resources to facilitate public participation.

Recommendations made by the commission must be reviewed by the President and be tabled in Parliament within 4 weeks of its submission. Resources must be made available in line with the recommendations. Furthermore, the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on the Status and Quality of Women's Lives will conduct a review of action against recommendations at six months and again at 12 months and then every year thereafter for the next five years.
 
Priority issues for investigation:
 
The Commission will investigate and make recommendations on the following matters (here listed as illustrative only):

  1. The mandate, funding and focus of key government institutions tasked with addressing GBV;
  2. The causes and solutions to widespread delays and frequent postponements in rape trials;
  3. The uneven implementation by government departments of the provisions of the 2007 Sexual Offences Act;
  4. The collapse of the non-governmental sectors best placed to support prevention activities (i.e. women's organizations, child rights groups and youth associations).

Composition of the Commission: 
The President shall appoint a senior and well regarded judge as Chair of the Commission.  Additional commissioners shall be appointed representing the civil society sector. The structure of the hearings (prevention, institutional challenges in implementing existing legislation and policy, and care and support services for victims of sexual violence) shall mirror the structure of the commission, which will have the subpoena powers.

Recommendations of the Commission:

The commission shall table its final report to Parliament and the President by July 2013 and shall lead to the creation and operationalisation of a Special Fund to Prevent Sexual Violence.

The Fund

Purpose: 
 
To provide critical support to proven initiatives that work to prevent and respond to sexual violence. The Fund will prioritise efforts by the private sector, civil society and state actors working in partnership.
 
Who will administer the Fund? 
 
The Fund will be independently administered by a Coordinating Mechanism and managed by a leading banking institution that has branches across the country.

Who will govern the Fund?
 
The Fund will not have significant operating costs (a skeleton staff) as it will leverage existing facilities, and it will circumvent bureaucracy and complex decision-making by being located in a private sector entity. However it will be governed by a board of representatives from a range of sectors including churches, community groups, NGOs, and women's organisations.

Best,

Sisonke

Sisonke Msimang
Tel: +27 81 039 3267
E-mail: sisonke@me.com
Skype: sisonke.msimang1
http://about.me/sisonkemsimang

Regards,
SANAC Women's Sector Secretariat

For more about the SANAC Women’s Sector, refer to www.sanacws.org.za.

To view other NGO press releases, refer to www.ngopulse.org/group/home-page/pressreleases.

Date published: 
Tuesday, 12 February, 2013
Organisation: 
SANAC Women’s Sector

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