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Experts of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women commend South Africa for its strong political will to support women’s rights and ask about gender-based violence

5 November 2021

The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women today concluded its consideration of the fifth periodic report of South Africa, with Committee Experts commending South Africa’s strong political will to support women’s rights and asking about efforts to mitigate gender-based violence in the country.

A Committee Expert welcomed South Africa’s strong political will to support women’s rights, adding that the country’s vibrant civil society also benefited women’s rights.  Another Expert congratulated South Africa on the high level of female representation in Parliament.  One Expert, while noting that South Africa had made progress toward achieving gender equality, said that women experienced high levels of violence and asked the delegation to provide information about services for survivors of gender-based violence?  Could the delegation provide information about violence, including sexual violence, against women with disabilities, an Expert asked?

The delegation of South Africa said that the National Strategic Plan on Gender-Based Violence and Femicide had been adopted and legislation was being developed.  The National Prosecuting Authority had developed a specific training model in regard to gender-based violence.  A dashboard had been created to gain an overview of data on the problem of femicide.  It would provide data completeness in matters relating to femicide and related criminal matters of gender-based violence.  In addition to COVID-19, gender-based violence had been described as “the second pandemic” in the country, the delegation noted.  In terms of what was being done as regards women with disabilities, legislation relating to gender-based violence and femicide had provisions speaking specifically to persons with disabilities. 

Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, Minister in the Presidency for Women, Youth and Persons with Disabilities of South Africa and head of the delegation, presenting the report, said the COVID-19 pandemic had reversed some of the gains made in advancing gender equality, and as a result had exposed women and girls to human rights violations.  In addition, a “shadow pandemic” of gender-based violence and femicide also existed.  There was a collective commitment in South Africa to implement a comprehensive and effective prevention and response programme to end gender-based violence and femicide in the country.  To adequately respond to the extremely high prevalence of gender-based violence and femicide, a National Strategic Plan on Gender-Based Violence and Femicide had been adopted. 

The delegation of South Africa was made up of representatives of the Department of International Relations and Cooperation; the Department of the Police; the Department of Social Development; the Department of Justice and Correctional Services; the Department of Health; the Department of Small Business Development; a Member of the Executive Council of Gauteng; a Member of the Executive Council of KwaZulu-Natal; a Member of the Executive Council of Eastern Cape; a Member of the Executive Council of Western Cape; the National Prosecuting Authority; the Department of Women, Youth and Persons with Disability; and the Permanent Mission of South Africa to the United Nations Office at Geneva.

The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women’s eightieth session is being held from 18 October to 12 November.  All the documents relating to the Committee’s work, including reports submitted by States parties, can be found on the session’s webpage.  The meeting summary releases prepared on the public meetings of the Committee can be found here.  The webcast of the Committee’s public meetings can be accessed at  http://webtv.un.org/.

The Committee will next meet at 4 p.m. on Friday, 12 November to formally close its eightieth session. 

Report

The Committee has before it the fifth periodic report of South Africa (CEDAW/C/ZAF/5).

Introduction of the Report

MAITE NKOANA-MASHABANE, Minister in the Presidency for Women, Youth and Persons with Disabilities of South Africa and head of the delegation, said South Africa was committed to the elimination of all forms of discrimination against women.  The Constitution assured that the State could not discriminate against anyone on any grounds, including gender.  South Africa had made significant progress to protect, promote and fulfil the rights of women guaranteed in the various provisions of the Convention.  The COVID-19 pandemic had reversed some of the gains made in advancing gender equality, and as a result had exposed women and girls to human rights violations, including limiting their access to basic sexual and reproductive health services.  In addition, a “shadow pandemic” of gender-based violence and femicide also existed.  Lockdowns had made women more vulnerable to poverty, and alarmingly high numbers of teenage pregnancy were recorded between April 2020 and March 2021. 

Children remained vulnerable to various forms of violence in South Africa’s communities and homes, and the country’s periodic report therefore highlighted key law reforms, policies and administrative measures put in place to address the provisions of the Convention. 

Under the administration of President Cyril Ramaphosa, South Africa had witnessed key moments in defining and advancing the mandate of gender equality, Ms. Nkoana-Mashabane said, noting that a summit meeting on gender-based violence and femicide had led to the adoption of the Gender-Based Violence and Femicide Declaration.  That Declaration represented a collective commitment to implement a comprehensive and effective prevention and response programme to end gender-based violence and femicide in South Africa.  To adequately respond to the extremely high prevalence of gender-based violence and femicide, a National Strategic Plan on Gender-Based Violence and Femicide had been adopted.  A report was released in 2021, highlighting some of the strides made in the implementation of the National Strategic Plan.  To ensure the full implementation of the plan, resource mobilisation strategies must be strengthened, such as through private sector funding. 

South Africa continued to commit to legal reform to ensure that women’s rights were protected and promoted through the country’s legal framework.  Recent progressive reforms included the Criminal and Related Matters Amendment Bill, the Domestic Violence Amendment Bill and Criminal Law (Sexual Offences and Related Matters), and the Amendment Act Bill.  Those three bills sought to strengthen the criminal justice system to respond effectively to gender-based violence.  Gaps remained within the existing legislation that needed to be addressed to ensure that the rights of women and girls were promoted as enshrined in South Africa’s Constitution.  One such instance was an explicit law outlawing the practice of early, forced or child marriages.  Anyone participating in forced marriage rituals could face criminal prosecution.  A Marriage Policy under development aimed to harmonise different marriage acts in the country, and would explicitly outlaw early, forced and child marriage by setting the age of marriage to 18 years.  A review process of the Women Empowerment and Gender Equality Bill was also ongoing. 

Quoting South Africa’s former President Nelson Mandela, Ms. Nkoana-Mashabane said that freedom could not be achieved unless women were emancipated from all forms of oppression.  In its mandate for advancing gender equality, South Africa would continue to be intentional about addressing the challenges facing the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex and asexual community.  The Department of Justice and Constitutional Development was reinstating the Hate Crimes Bill into Parliament for enactment.  South Africa’s Government remained committed to working with the Committee to achieve the collective objective of eliminating all forms of discrimination against women.  South Africa supported the work of the Committee and the work of other partners such as civil society organizations toward the realisation of the Committee’s mandate. 

Questions from a Committee Expert

NÁELA GABR, Committee Member and Rapporteur for South Africa, welcomed the delegation and South Africa’s strong political will to support women’s rights.  The vibrant civil society in South Africa also benefited women’s rights in the country.  South Africa’s constitution had a mixed approach to the incorporation of international law with the country’s domestic law, taking a dualist approach to treaties.  That meant international law was not directly applicable domestically, but must be translated into domestic legislation before it could be applied in courts.  Had the Convention been directly invoked in court proceedings?  As for access to justice, she noted that positive steps had been taken.  How many judicial officers had benefited from training?  Legal Aid was an independent statutory body, and women made up the majority of clients.  Could the delegation inform about the budget allocated to Legal Aid?  As for traditional courts, what did South Africa intend to do to have a related bill adopted?  Could women appeal to ordinary courts against any decision taken by a traditional court?

Responses from the Delegation

The delegation, responding to the question on training of prosecutors on gender-based violence and acts in place, said the National Prosecuting Authority had developed a specific training model in that regard.  Training sessions had been delivered on sexual offenses to just under 900 prosecutors.  Training sessions had also been delivered to prosecutors on other issues, including domestic violence, the feminisation of poverty, trafficking in persons, and other issues. 

After training had been provided, a stabilisation had been seen in the numbers of cases of sexual offenses. 

Follow-Up Questions from a Committee Expert

NÁELA GABR, Committee Member, asked for further information on traditional codes, and the funding of Legal Aid.  The National Action Plan was a political document, but a law would have an impact for years, and was the basis for the respect for rights. 

Follow-up Responses from the Delegation

The delegation explained that the Traditional Courts Bill had been considered by the National Council of Provinces, which had given their inputs which touched on issues of constitutionality.  The matter was then referred, and a legal opinion was sought on the issues of constitutionality which had been raised.  The next step was to engage with the legal opinion during the next sitting of Parliament.  The matter was receiving the priority focus of Parliament.  As for rural women’s access to justice, the Department of Justice was establishing courts in rural communities, bringing justice to where it was supposed to be.  Also, South Africa was developing a national police framework on restorative justice to create a referral system between the traditional courts, and the district courts such as magistrates’ courts.  Women who would take their matters to traditional courts could then request to have the matter referred to the district court, bridging the gap between those courts, and bringing justice to women in rural communities.  

As for Legal Aid, it was in its programme to ensure that its budget was used in a cost-effective way. 

Questions from a Committee Expert

GENOVEVA TISHEVA, Committee Member, focused her questions on the national machinery for the advancement of women, as well as on temporary special measures.  What human, financial and technical resources were put in place in order to strengthen the monitoring and evaluation-related capacities of the reconfigured Department of Women?  Was there a National Policy Framework for Women’s Empowerment and Gender Equality currently in force?   The South African Human Rights Commission was a very authoritative and respected human rights institution which had been accredited “A” by the Global Alliance of National Human Rights Institutions, she noted.  What steps, including increased financial resources, had been taken to strengthen that Commission to be able to effectively and independently discharge its mandate in full compliance with the Paris Principles?  Could the delegation clarify the relationship between the Commission and the Commission for Gender Equality?  How many women’s violations were identified in the last two years, and what were the injustices remedied by those mechanisms?

Given that climate change particularly affected rural women and women in situations of poverty, how and in what format were they involved in the national development programmes following the plan and guarantees set forth in South Africa’s Nationally Determined Contribution under the Paris Agreement?

Turning to temporary special measures, Ms. Tisheva commended South Africa on the affirmative action taken in the field of political representation of women, as they made up over 46 per cent of the members of the country’s Parliament.  Could the delegation provide examples of how policy had been implemented to ensure women’s meaningful participation and retention in public and political life?  Did they produce tangible results in terms of substantive equality and transformative decisions for women’s rights?

The delegation was also asked to inform the Committee about the extent to which temporary special measures to achieve substantive gender equality had been included in other national policies and programmes of the Government.  What steps had been taken to develop and implement temporary measures in areas under the Convention in which women were disadvantaged and underrepresented, including in leadership roles at the Chief Justice level and in the private sector, as well as in the National Council of Provinces?

Responses from the Delegation

The delegation answered that on the issue of gender focal persons, they were present in all government departments, though their levels might differ.  Some State-owned enterprises had gender focal points, and some private enterprises as well.  The Commission on Gender Equality was commissioned to focus on gender issues, since if women’s rights were considered under human rights in general, they might face competition with other priorities.  

In terms of temporary measures in employment, affirmative action had worked, although with uneven results between various sectors and levels of management.  To ensure the empowerment of vulnerable groups such as domestic workers, a national minimum wage act ensured that no worker was paid less than the prescribed minimum. 

Questions from the Committee Experts

TAMADER AL-RAMMAH, Committee Member, focused her questions on measures to modify social and cultural patterns of conduct of men and women, and on violence against women.  She noted that while South Africa had made progress toward achieving gender equality, women experienced high levels of violence.  There were also high incidents of adolescent pregnancy.  The risk of HIV was higher for women, and there was higher female unemployment as well.  Forced virginity testing still occurred, despite prohibitions against the practice.  Was the Government committed to recognising virginity testing as a form of violence, and would it harmonise laws against it?  What efforts were being taken to strengthen measures against female genital mutilation?  Could the delegation provide information about services for survivors of gender-based violence? 

DALIA LEINARTE, Committee Member, asked about trafficking in persons and about issues around prostitution.  There seemed to be a decrease in the numbers of victims of trafficking.  Could the delegation provide updates on the first national study on the scale and nature of trafficking in South Africa?  Noting information that public debate on prostitution was taking place, she asked for further information about the current state of the issue. 

Responses from the Delegation

The delegation explained that in South Africa, the National Prosecuting Authority had developed a protocol to standardise all management matters in relation to femicide cases and their prosecution.  In relation to access to justice for women, there were government-supported centres providing services to victims.  Some geographic areas had been identified as peak areas where gender-based violence and sexual violence occurred, and the assistance centres targeted those areas.  There had been an increase in conviction rates for rape. 

As for trafficking in persons, there had been a reduction in cases before the courts due to the COVID-19 pandemic.  Some provinces were particularly prone to issues of trafficking in persons. 

In response to questions about the domestic violence bill, the delegation said that it had been approved by Parliament and was being considered by the President.  Returning to the issue of femicide, the delegation said a dashboard had been created to gain an overview of data on the problem.  This would provide data completeness in matters relating to femicide and related criminal matters of gender-based violence.  The Office of the Chief Justice would also be included.  All departments would gain easy access to data.  The dashboard was currently sharing information about reported matters of femicide. 

In terms of what was being done as regards women with disabilities, legislation relating to gender-based violence and femicide had provisions speaking specifically to persons with disabilities.  Services were provided to women with disabilities, such as interpretation services. 

Turning to questions asked about prostitution, the delegation said South Africa was working on law projects to examine constitutionality elements, as well as international obligations, including the Convention.  A report was in the works on addressing backlogs in DNA analysis.  All detectives were trained in the relevant sexual offenses act, so in case they came across such cases, they could deal with them even if they were not assigned to sections specifically tasked with that topic. 

It was not correct that women in South Africa did not influence policy.  Women’s actions had led to the adoption of the National Strategic Plan on Gender-Based Violence and Femicide and legislation was now being developed.  Women in South Africa did influence legislation.  The Constitutional Court required everyone to be consulted when policy was developed. 

A programme on behavioural change was responding to the fact that South Africa was coming out of what was termed a brutalised society.  As for the issue of shelters, the Department of Social Development in cooperation with other departments had to work collaboratively on that issue.  The most important thing was not the number of shelters, but the creation of a conducive environment for women, so they did not have to run to shelters with their children. 

Follow-up Questions from a Committee Expert

NÁELA GABR, Committee Member, asked about more information about the South African Human Rights Commission.  Could the delegation provide information about its budget?

Follow-up Responses from the Delegation

The delegation explained that the budget for the Commission on Gender Equality came through the relevant department.  Information on the Commission’s budget would be provided in writing. 

Questions from the Committee Experts

NICOLE AMELINE, Committee Member, commended South Africa as an example to countries in the region, also congratulating it on the high level of female representation in Parliament.  What lessons had been learned following elections at the municipal level?  What measures were envisioned to provide parity in traditional structures?  Could the delegation speak about the current implementation status of United Nations Security Council resolution 1325 on women, peace and security?

NATASHA STOTT DESPOJA, Committee Member, asked for information about measures taken to prevent statelessness?  What measures were being taken to ensure women in rural areas had access to adequate and timely birth registration?  Many stateless children were denied educational opportunities; what was being done to ensure access despite a lack of citizenship?  What interim services were provided to women and girls who might be kept waiting for citizenship due to the COVID-19 pandemic?

Responses from the Delegation

The delegation explained that concerning registration of children whose mothers were undocumented, assistance was provided.  As for access to birth registration in far-flung areas, there were challenges in that area, but a number of interventions had been introduced.  Departments were working to ensure births were registered within 30 days, and preferably before mothers left the hospital.  Mobile trucks were also deployed to communities.  As for ending statelessness, South Africa was engaging with regional partners to address the issue.  Further details would be provided in writing. 

Turning to questions about access to education, the delegation said its approach to undocumented learners was that no child was turned away.  When children arrived in schools, they shared the same access to learning and teaching materials.  Every child had the books they needed to learn and was protected from hunger through school nutrition programmes.  Where funds did not stretch far enough, businesses and civil society organizations in communities participated in providing assistance. 

The Department of Social Development had been responsible for COVID-19 relief measures, and asylum seekers had been included in that.  Asylum seekers were encouraged to live in communities and work.  The numbers of those who had received social relief for distress would be provided. 

Questions from a Committee Expert

HILARY GBEDEMAH, Committee Member, asked about issues related to education.  Could the delegation provide information about how the COVID-19 pandemic had affected girls’ participation in school and education in a larger sense?  Were systems in place such as counsellors and teachers to aid learners who had returned to school following the pandemic?  Pregnancy termination rates were high among the age group concerned, she noted.  About a third of girls did not return to school after pregnancy.  A policy to enable pregnant girls to return to school was commendable, but how would it function?  Were schools teaching comprehensive sexuality education in line with the Committee’s recommendations? 

As for horizontal and vertical segregation, she noted that girls were underrepresented in science, technological, engineering and mathematical studies.  Would temporary special measures be considered to remedy the situation?

Responses from the Delegation

The delegation said that it was alarming that the COVID-19 pandemic had interrupted the curriculum.  Schools had responded in a variety of ways, including through weekly meetings to adapt the curriculum, and to provide for children coming into schools on a rotational basis.  Television had provided lessons, and teachers had set up different social media communication groups to communicate with their students.  There was still a digital divide, however, especially for children in rural areas.  It was important that the impact of losing a year of schooling was acknowledged.  The impact of the pandemic would be carried throughout the years to come.  Children had experienced anxiety during the lockdown, including about nutritional support.  Schools provided meals to children in need, and lockdowns had interrupted that service, although alternatives had been found.  It had been found that when alcohol sales were restricted, the numbers of cases of gender-based violence had dropped.  The reported sexual abuse of girl children during that period was alarming, especially girls between 10 and 14 years.  The age of consent for sexual activity was 16 years. 

Gender-based violence had been described as “the second pandemic” in the country, the delegation noted, adding that policies aiming to address that included programmes on school safety.   

Follow-Up Questions from the Committee Experts

HILARY GBEDEMAH, Committee Member, asked about the national school safety programme, where parents were given a role.  Could the delegation provide more information?

NICOLE AMELINE, Committee Member, asked for more information about traditional chieftaincies, as well as further information on the involvement of women in peace negotiations, as per United Nations Security Council resolution 1325?

Answers from the Delegation

The delegation explained that advocacy of the protocol for the management and reporting of sexual abuse and harassment was educating parents, showing them their obligation to report incidents to the police.  Prosecutors were outspoken, and it was an area of ongoing advocacy. 

Questions from a Committee Expert

CORINNE DETTMEIJER-VERMEULEN, Committee Member, asked about labour issues.  What data was available about salaries for women and men?  Could the delegation provide information about cases of sexual harassment?  As for the situation of domestic workers, was there data available about their working hours and wages?  On the situation of sex workers, how and to which degree were their rights ensured?  Could the delegation inform about the situation of farm workers?

Answers from the Delegation

The delegation explained that the income differential employment form had collected meaningful data in 2020.  An outcome report analysing the data was still awaited, and the delegation would submit further information about it in written form to the Committee.  As for sexual harassment cases, employees faced with such incidents could refer such cases to an authority which would issue fines to those responsible, and compensation to victims. 

As for the enforcement of the national minimum wage, through the relevant Act, no domestic worker was paid below that limit.  South Africa hoped by next year to raise the hourly rate of domestic workers to match other workers. 

Sex workers were also included in the Employment Equity Act and could not be discriminated against.  As for farm workers, in case of allegations of discrimination, they were entitled to make complaints in the same way as other workers. 

In response to a question about traditional leadership, the delegation explained that democracy in South Africa addressed patriarchy in addition to questions of race.  The Constitution guaranteed women’s rights beyond what was provided for by international instruments.  As for questions about peace and security, South Africa trained women from all over the continent on mediation, sending them to other countries to carry out their work. 

Follow-up Question from a Committee Expert

CORINNE DETTMEIJER-VERMEULEN, Committee Member, asked for more information about labour inspections in rural farms and households?

Follow-up Responses from the Delegation

The delegation said it was key for domestic workers to understand their rights.  Labour inspection programmes were both proactive and reactive.  The former was based on annual plans, and reactive inspections were carried out when complaints were received from farm workers who alleged that they were not paid adequately, or were not granted sick leave, or had other complaints. 

Questions from a Committee Expert

LOUIZA CHALAL, Committee Member, welcomed the delegation, noting that since the presentation of the previous report, new legislation had improved the accessibility of healthcare services for women and girls.  However, barriers remained, such as the majority of services being provided in urban areas.  What measures would be put in place to lift barriers, and ensure access to healthcare services for all women and girls?  The number of maternal complications was worrying, as was the rate of teenage pregnancies; what measures would be taken to lower the maternal mortality rate?  Could the delegation provide information about the provision of abortion services?  As there was a low availability of contraceptives, how were adolescents assured access?  Women and girls were disproportionately affected by HIV and AIDS, how was the strategy against that condition working?  Could the delegation provide more information about the impact of the closure of sexual and reproductive health services during the COVID-19 pandemic?

Responses from the Delegation

The delegation explained that mobile units provided healthcare services to rural areas.  As for teenage pregnancy, efforts between different sectors had yielded initiatives for forums where young people could have their sexual and reproductive issues addressed.  As for access to contraception, the policy had been revised, and the educational sector was involved in providing services and in promoting long-acting reversible contraception.  Efforts to destigmatise HIV in the country had included labelling centres providing treatment as sexual and reproductive health centres, which provided access to abortion and contraceptive services as well. 

Questions from the Committee Experts

MARION BETHEL, Committee Member, asked about the economic empowerment of women and girls.  In what ways had the green industry initiative impacted the economic empowerment of women?  How had the economic empowerment of rural women and other marginalised women been advanced as a result of the policies and programmes?  Could the delegation specify and elaborate on the gender-responsive component of the National Green Fund?

Regarding the transition to a climate-resilient and low carbon/carbon neutral economy, what was the specific plan of action to reduce and eliminate the use of coal-based energy by women, especially in the rural areas, and to replace it with affordable and sustainable alternative energy?  What mechanisms were in place to monitor and evaluate the progress of this green industry sector and women’s economic empowerment?

Turning to access to credit, financial support and procurement, she noted that women-owned businesses were still underrepresented in public procurement, asking what measures were envisaged to increase women’s access to public procurement spending?   What measures were in place to assist women, particularly in rural areas, to access and own property, to gain recognition of their existing property, as well as to provide them with the means to formalise property rights and access to land?

NÁELA GABR, Committee Member, asked about rural women and the impact of climate change on their rights.  How had the land reform process advanced?  As for climate change, could the delegation provide information about the implementation of mitigating measures?

ANA PELAEZ NARVAEZ, Committee Vice-Chairperson, asked about the situation of disadvantaged groups of women.  In relation to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex women, how was South Africa ensuring that its advanced policy, which was a global model, worked and was implemented in practice?  Could the delegation inform about how it provided special protection for women refugees and asylum seekers?  Could the delegation provide information about violence, including sexual violence, against women with disabilities?  What would be done to withdraw guidelines licensing institutions for persons with disabilities, which ran contrary to human rights?  As for albinism, what policies would be taken to protect women with albinism who suffered from discrimination, violence, abuse and exploitation?

Responses from the Delegation

The delegation said that the National Disaster Management Act provided for a register that would survey damages to individuals and infrastructure, among other things.  In terms of climate change, a national adaptation strategy acknowledged the need for decision-making to consider the needs of people who were particularly vulnerable to its effects.  A dedicated monitoring and evaluation system checked how the country was transitioning to a lower carbon and climate-resilient society. 

In response to questions about public procurement, all departments were supposed to set aside 40 per cent of their public procurement spending for women entrepreneurs.  That was also monitored by the Treasury.  With regard to information and communication technology support for women, incubation hubs assisted women in informal sectors to improve their capability in terms of making business by using digital platforms.  A special fund provided access to funding for women with disabilities. 

South Africa had taken measures to fast-track women’s access to land.  Of all land that was available through the land redistribution programme, half had to be allocated to women.  On the land tenure reform programme, consultations with traditional leaders were ongoing about issues of insecurity of tenure and women’s access. 

During the COVID-19 pandemic, women entrepreneurs were mostly impacted, as most of them were operating businesses in sectors which were highly vulnerable.  A debt relief facility assisted company owners to sustain their rentals and pay salaries and municipal bills.  The majority of the funds went to women, and a significant segment went to young people’s businesses. 

Follow-up Question from a Committee Expert

MARION BETHEL, Committee Member, asked for more information about the green economy, and measures taken to empower women under the green economy. 

Follow-up Responses from the Delegation

The delegation explained that further information would be provided in writing, adding that a presidential commission on climate change had been formed to deal with issues ranging from how to deal with coal, to how to transition to net zero emissions. 

Questions from a Committee Expert

ARUNA DEVI NARAIN, Committee Rapporteur, acknowledged the rich and authoritative jurisprudence of the Constitutional Court of South Africa on human rights issues, which was cited with approval by courts in the Commonwealth and beyond.  She also paid tribute to Professor Christof Heyns, former member of the Human Rights Committee, whose work continued to inspire members of human rights treaty bodies, particularly those from the African region. 

She asked what the timeline was for an absolute prohibition of all child marriages for boys and girls?  On customary law, when would the harmonised single marriage bill be introduced in Parliament?  Were women and girls consulted in the preparation of the bill?  Would Muslim and Hindu marriages be fully recognised under the new act?

Responses from the Delegation

In response to questions on child marriage, the delegation explained that the current minimum age for entering into marriage was 18 years, but there were conditions allowing people to marry at younger ages.  One way that South Africa was looking at to address that challenge was through a proposal for removing all special exceptions to the minimum age. 

Equality was not just between men and women, but also among women nationally, the delegation said.  The single marriage act would look at all marriages, because polygamy did not just exist in customary law. 

Concluding Remarks

MAITE NKOANA-MASHABANE, Minister in the Presidency for Women, Youth and Persons with Disabilities of South Africa and head of the delegation, said the constructive dialogue had been critical in ensuring that South Africa collectively reflected on the progress it had made, and challenges it faced, in fulfilling the articles of the Convention.  The COVID-19 pandemic had caused some regression, but it had also provided opportunities to critically reflect on existing interventions and explore new opportunities for advancing women and girls. 

The processing of the Women Empowerment and Gender Equality Bill would be key in strengthening the legal framework.  The bill would ensure that proposed interventions fostered gender equality and the empowerment of women of South Africa.  The bill also reaffirmed the country’s commitment to ensuring the full implementation of gender-responsive budgeting.  South Africa had promoted the inclusion of women into the post-COVID-19 pandemic recovery plan.  An effective response to addressing gender-based violence and femicide required strong institutions. 

ARUNA DEVI NARAIN, Committee Rapporteur and acting Chair, thanked the delegation for the constructive dialogue, and commended the State party for its efforts.

Link: https://www.ungeneva.org/en/news-media/meeting-summary/2021/11/experts-committee-elimination-discrimination-against-women

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For use of the information media; not an official record.