HUMAN RIGHTS INSTITUTE OF SOUTH AFRICA (HURISA) SALUTES THE HEROINE FOR DENOUNCING SUPPRESSION OF WOMEN ON 9 AUGUST 1960

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Immediate Media Statement

Date: 09 August 2013

This day remains a historical testament of political emancipation of women in the South African. The events of this day epitomize the women’s resistance to abuse, exclusion and defilement of their human dignity. It would be a mistake to perceive the significant of this day as power struggle between males and females. But the event affirmed women’s capacity to participate in political life of their country as well as making decisions in economic, social, religious and cultural matters that concern them. These fearless sacrifices will be shattered if more emphasis is given on acclamation.  But they should be accompanied by adoption and appropriate implementation of measures to eliminate abuse of women. South Africa has made progress in adoption of laws and policies to prevent and eliminate discrimination and violence against women. In addition, these laws are harmonized by regional and international human right instruments which accord women with their innate liberties. South Africa is committed to empowering women with their inalienable and indivisible rights. This is demonstrated in accession of regional and international treatise which underscore full participation and development of women. The Convention on Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women and the Protocol on the Rights of Women in Africa (Maputo Protocol) are key instruments to strengthen progress in development of women in the country.

However, these commitments require effective practical implementation, particularly at local level, where majority of women live under cruel and degrading scourge of violence, rape and environmental squalor.  The safety and security of women is a constitutional right and state obligation to respect, fulfill, promote and protect. Adding to this is the solemn declaration undertaken by the government to take concrete steps to give greater attention to the plights faced by women in the country. However women experience violence as a daily phenomenon in South Africa. Women live in fear of falling into prey in exercise of daily basic life and search of livelihood for example, working, taking a walk, or partaking in official or casual places. Their risk is judged by the way they dress, where they are, who they associate with, time of the day or night they are found is also a serious concern. Rape affects many women, it is a silent killer to others while destroys souls of other women, including their physical and mental integrity, human dignity, self esteem and self worth. How can the perpetrators continue to persecute women when their fundamental role is appreciated for contributing positively to the demise of apartheid.  Door is open for all sorts of the perpetrators ranging from police; educators, family members; associates; employers and public members to torment women with this scourge. This is a national problem and a critical need for educational and sensitisation intervention be embarked nation-wide to inculcate a culture of respect of women, children, bodies, including hearing their voices as informal or formal intellectuals. Clearly, this situation typify the lack of understanding and meaning of violence endured by women, including obligations undertaken by the country to implement regional and international human rights standards at national level.  This national intervention also refers to honouring of state obligations through submission of periodic reports to the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights as well as United Nations. The state duty to make availability of resources cannot be overemphasized to ensure protection of women, especially as provided in the Maputo Protocol and CEDAW. Priority should be given to women to play important role in both report writing and shadow reporting on all instruments ratified by South Africa. Late submission and under resourced processes diminish the goals to protect and develop women.

The African Charter on Human and People’s Rights recognise African practices consonant with international norms. On the other hand the Maputo Protocol accords women the right to live in a positive cultural environment and participate in formulation of cultural policies. This means all women have a say to any policy that seek to determine their cultural or religious lives. Virginity testing and practice of Ukuthwala (forced marriages practiced in KZN and Eastern Cape Provinces) contradicts the positive African values aspired by the African Charter and Maputo Protocol.  The Protocol recognises women from all sectors including Disability, Elderly, Widows, Refugees, Indigenous and LGBT.  This is also given effect by Article two of the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights which guarantee rights of every individual regardless of any kind of discrimination. Let this occasion of honouring our heroines be practical and provide the opportunity to assess progress in implementation of policy advancing women, especially in marginalised and disadvantaged communities

 

Issued by HURISA, tell 011 333 1730