The new economic partnership agreement between the EU and the Southern African Development Community has raised concerns among civil society. The deal itself may be finalized, but opportunities remain for grass-roots input and participation with regards to implementation, both in Africa and the EU.
The first regional economic partnership agreement (EPA) in Africa came into effect in February 2018, between the European Union and the Southern African Development Community (SADC), after years of negotiations and in the face of anti-EPA campaigning by SADC civil society since the 2000s.
But the opportunity remains for civil society organizations (CSOs) to ensure implementation is development-orientated, and facilitates sustainable development, poverty reduction and regional integration.
The SADC-EU EPA gives free access to the EU market for 100 per cent of products from Botswana, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia, and Swaziland, and 98.7 per cent of imports from South Africa (it does not cover the rest of the 16-country bloc). In turn, the EU will get preferential access to those countries for agricultural products including wheat, barley, cheese and pork, as well as trademark protection.
How should SADC civil society engage with this agreement, if at all? What should be the form and content of that engagement?
Though the agreement has been finalized, mechanisms for its implementation are still being developed. This will entail alignment with domestic priorities, regional trade frameworks and processes. In this, CSOs have a role.
The consensus, it seems, is that in spite of the misgivings, CSOs should engage, firstly to demand for a formal mechanism for engagement with CSOs and secondly to influence the implementation. While the EU has a mechanism for government-civil society engagement on the agreement, SADC countries do not, nor have they demonstrated a willingness to set up one. This is unfortunate, as it goes against the now widely accepted principles of civic participation in global governance. And this is in spite of the fact that both the SADC and AU have otherwise come a long way in providing for engagement with civil society in their processes.
It is useful to point out that though the agreement has been finalized, mechanisms for its implementation are still being developed. This will entail alignment with domestic priorities, regional trade frameworks and processes. In this, CSOs have a role.
There are therefore a number of areas for CSOs to watch out for as the agreement enters into implementation phase.
The SADC-EU EPA represents asymmetrical liberalization in favour of Southern African countries. However, the historical and persistent unevenness of economic power relations may negate this aspiration.
BREXIT presents a dynamic that CSOs must grapple with. Notably, both the UK and the remaining 27 EU states are said to prefer continuing with the EPA post-Brexit, albeit separately. However, it remains uncertain what the impact on SADC exports to the EU would be if Britain leaves the EU with little or no replacement deal in place with the bloc, a scenario known as ‘no-deal BREXIT’ or ‘hard BREXIT’. Also, the two sides of the BREXIT divide may find themselves competing in the search for new markets, especially for agro-business exports, and therefore start negotiating more aggressively. The implementation and interpretation of the agreement could become a new arena for these struggles.
On paper, the SADC-EU EPA represents asymmetrical liberalization in favour of Southern African countries. However, the historical and persistent unevenness of economic power relations may negate this aspiration. SADC countries, with the exception of South Africa, continue to export primarily raw materials and import manufactured products in return.
SADC members and other African nations need to assist local businesses in improving their capacity and competitiveness. […] This must take into account the historical and racial nature of uneven development in the region.
Moreover, supply-side constraints can counter the deal’s elements that are intended to be of mutual benefit. SADC members and other African nations need to assist local businesses in improving their capacity and competitiveness. They must engage the EU more in securing funding that promotes local farmers and other businesses, as well as business training to help with capacity building. This must take into account the historical and racial nature of uneven development in the region.
Another constraint is non-tariff barriers. Firstly, stringent EU standards and food and health regulations can hinder local SADC producers from accessing EU markets as compliance can be difficult. Secondly, reforms reducing the prices of certain food imports into EU under the EU Free Trade Agreement (FTA) may reduce margins of tariff preferences enjoyed by SADC agro-food exporters.
Within the SADC, the new EPA with the EU is only with certain members, increasing the division of the region into blocs rather than building on SADC efforts to increase integration. The rest of the SADC countries are currently negotiating a different agreement. This presents obstacles for harmonization and coordination in a context where building common African positions on some important aspects of EPAs is already a challenge.
There is therefore a need to bring civil society back to the table. In particular links between national and regional CSOs must be strengthened as well as with grassroots movements. The development question must be at the centre of that engagement. In order to strengthen advocacy, CSOs need to bridge the information deficit among themselves by investing in evidence gathering and knowledge sharing.
Civil society, with support from EU partners, must raise their concerns in the public domain particularly within the EU. These concerns will highlight the possible negative consequences of the SADC-EPA and how they affect local markets in Africa. EU civil society groups and EU parliamentary members have an important role and must be engaged to promote mutually beneficial trading agreements.
At SADC level, CSOs must insist on a formal mechanism for engagement. In the meantime, existing platforms like the multi-stakeholder national monitoring frameworks of the African Union’s Agenda 2063 can also be leveraged for engagement with civil society in an EPA context. ###
Showers Mawowa is the Deputy Director of the Southern African Liaison Office (SALO). For more information on the work by FES and SALO and the role of civil society in the EAP context contact FES South Africa.
The passing away of a Mother
15 September 2018 | https://bit.ly/2OpOmwx
The human rights and Palestine solidarity organization BDS South Africa mourns the passing away of mama Wafieh, the 76 year-old mother of senior Palestinian BDS leader, Comrade Omar Barghouti.
In a moving, personal and powerful message, titled “on loss and faith,” Comrade Omar writes:
Before Israel imposed a travel ban on him, Comrade Omar had previously travelled to South Africa, where he met with several Government Ministers, MPs and other officials. Last year, at its 14th National Congress, the SACP conferred a special recognition award to Barghouti. We and fellow South African activists know comrade Omar personally, and as a stalwart in the struggle for justice for all Palestinians. We now learn (through his letter, found below) that he comes from a family of resistance against oppression and determination to secure their liberation.
In addition to our sadness at this deep personal loss, is our anger that the Israeli Apartheid regime prevented Comrade Omar the simple decency to visit his mother during her last days (in her fight against cancer, click here). Futhermore, stooping to a level of utter cruetly, Israel is now also denying Cde Omar permission to attend his mother’s funeral in Amman. He writes: “They are trying to punish me for my role as a human rights defender in the BDS movement for Palestinian rights. They think they will break me or deter me. Little do they know that this branch comes from that tree, and that tree has its strong roots deep in the fertile ground of Palestinian identity, Palestinian quest for justice and freedom, Palestinian resistance and Palestinian insistence on life that is worth living.”
There seems no limit to the indecency of the Israeli regime. Time and time again, Israel pushes the boundaries of the cruelty that they are capable of inflicting on the Palestinian people – a people who desire nothing but freedom and justice.
– Letter by Omar Barghouti on the passing away of his mother, Wafieh (14 September 2018)
Today, I experienced a personal Nakba. I am rarely broken, but today I am.
By Showers Mawowa and Erin McCandless
Download pdf here: Social Contract Report
Eswatini: Forced evictions expose flawed land laws as hundreds face homelessness
The Eswatini government must halt forced evictions which have left hundreds of people homeless and pushed them deeper into poverty, Amnesty International said in a new report today.
These forced evictions expose the harsh reality of land tenure for ordinary Swazi people
They don’t see us as people: security of tenure and forced evictions in Eswatini details forced evictions in two areas of the country that resulted in more than 200 people, most of them subsistence farmers, being made homeless and without access to land where they could continue farming.
Although the evictions involved a long legal process, they were carried out in the absence of adequate notice, genuine consultation and without adequate compensation, in violation of international law. Amnesty International is also aware of at least 300 more people facing imminent eviction from land they depend on for farming, food and their livelihoods.
The report also reveals the devastating impact of the country’s land governance system. Since most of the land is held by the King in “trust” for the Swazi nation, and others living on title-deed land without formal recognition, Swazi people do not enjoy any degree of security of tenure – making them vulnerable to forced evictions.
Eswatini’s land governance system is deeply flawed as it denies ordinary Swazis the most basic commodity and dignity
“These forced evictions expose the harsh reality of land tenure for ordinary Swazi people. The country’s land governance system is deeply flawed as it denies ordinary Swazis the most basic commodity and dignity,” said Deprose Muchena, Amnesty International’s Regional Director for Southern Africa.
“The country’s laws are meant to offer people protection but, in truth, they are creating increasing misery for ordinary Swazis. Forced evictions are driving people into more poverty. Those living under constant threat of imminent eviction experience anxiety and fear. The kingdom’s land laws have failed the people.”
As part of its research, Amnesty International interviewed a diverse range of people, including politicians, human rights activists, lawyers and 80 people affected by forced evictions or under threat of eviction.
Land governance system
Most of the country’s land is Swazi Nation Land, held in “trust” by the king who has the power to allocate it to individuals or families through his chiefs. The remainder of the land is Title-Deed Land, owned by private entities or the government.
Recipients of Swazi Nation Land must pay allegiance to their chief, usually in the form of labour, in exchange for their land. However, there is no formal legal security of tenure and no uniform official written records of these allocations. Chiefs have the power to dispossess people of the land allocated to them.
A Member of Parliament admitted to Amnesty International that laws governing land in Eswatini are failing the people. He said: “There’s never a year without evictions… The law on land is weak against the victim, they are at the mercy of the land owner.”
Forced evictions have disastrous consequences for families in predominantly rural Eswatini who have, for generations, depended on the land to grow crops to feed their children or raise some extra income to pay for healthcare, school fees and other basics.
Eswatini has a long history of forced evictions which have rendered many homeless over the years. In one of the two latest incidents which the organization documents, 61 people, including more than 30 children, were left homeless after their homes were demolished by armed police and bulldozers in the farming area of Embetseni in Malkerns town on 9 April 2018.
People have also been evicted from Swazi Nation Land in Nokwane, some 15km east of Manzini.
Once known for its pineapple plantations, Nokwane is today home to the recently inaugurated Royal Science and Technology Park, a project led by the Ministry of Information, Communication and Technology (MICT) and spanning 159 hectares.
Between September and October 2014, residents from at least 20 homesteads consisting of over 100 people were forcibly evicted to make way for the Taiwanese-funded MICT project, which is part of King Mswati’s economic growth strategy Vision 2022.
Both cases documented by Amnesty International involve disputes about the tenure status of those evicted. However, according to international human rights standards, everyone has a right to be protected from forced evictions regardless of whether they own or occupy the land or house. The government of Eswatini is also required to ensure that no one is rendered homeless as a result of an eviction.
The government and elites cannot continue to keep thousands of hectares of land while the vast majority of Swazi people remain in limbo with no guaranteed security of tenure in their own motherland
“The government and elites cannot continue to keep thousands of hectares of land while the vast majority of Swazi people remain in limbo with no guaranteed security of tenure in their own motherland,” said Deprose Muchena.
Amnesty International is now calling for the Swazi government to declare a nationwide moratorium on mass evictions until adequate legal and procedural safeguards are in place to ensure that all evictions comply with international and regional human rights standards.
The report is based on forced evictions that have been carried out in Nokwane and Malkerns in the Manzini region. Amnesty International visited the country three times, starting in March 2017, during its investigation, with the last mission in April 2018.
A forced eviction is the removal of people against their will from their homes or land they occupy without legal protections and other safeguards. Forced evictions have direct implications on people’s human rights, including the right to housing, water, sanitation and food, as well as their access to livelihoods and necessities of daily life.
Under international human rights law, evictions may only be carried out as a last resort, once all other feasible alternatives to eviction have been explored and appropriate procedural protections, including consultations with the affected people, are in place.
The important lesson for Zimbabwe’s opposition from what happened in Burundi in 2010 is that participation is key. Despite what may look like injustice, it is good for the Zimbabwean opposition to stay within decision-making institutions such as the national assembly in order to counter any move that would otherwise lead to devastating consequences such as an untimely change of the constitution.
The optimism raised by the relatively peaceful elections held in Zimbabwe on the 30 July 2018 was quickly dashed by the sudden eruption of post-electoral violence.
Following the announcement of the victory of Zanu-PF in parliamentary elections, supporters of the MDC Alliance took to the streets in Harare protesting what they viewed as a rigged vote. They blamed the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) for delaying results of the presidential vote – a move that was perceived as a tactic for electoral fraud. The delay by the ZEC stirred anxiety among voters who seemed to have lost trust in the possibility of a fair election – one of the reasons behind the street demonstrations. To restore order, armed forces were sent in and around the capital Harare. Their subsequent deployment on the streets to counter the demonstrations have been criticised for using excessive force in a crackdown that left six people dead.
Amid the rising contesting voices, President Emmerson Mnangagwa is faced with difficult choices to ensure that the country remains stable while proving that the real objective of the elections was not only to legitimise his regime but to effectively start a new era for Zimbabwe. The establishment of a genuine Government of National Unity is one of approaches that could facilitate the emergence of an important platform upon which to rebuild the social trust across the country in the post-Mugabe era. However, this approach cannot succeed without the effective involvement of the opposition, especially the MDC Alliance and its leadership. Therefore, the attitude and decisions made by Nelson Chamisa and other leaders of the opposition will equally determine how stable will Zimbabwe be. Based on electoral results, it is obvious that the MDC Alliance remains a force to reckon with. But this position entails certain responsibilities.
The contested results show that the MDC Alliance opposition leader, Mr. Nelson Chamisa, managed to obtain a significant number of the votes despite the claims on rigging. Chamisa polled 44.3% against the 50.8% for President Mnangagwa from the ruling Zanu-PF. These electoral results espouse the voting intentions observed during the pre-election survey conducted by the Afrobarometer in collaboration with the Institute for Justice and Reconciliation and the Zimbabwe based Mass Public Opinion Institute. According to this report, as of early July 2018 the voting intentions in the presidential election showed that President Mnangagwa was assigned 40% while Chamisa was in second position with 37% of the votes. The report also showed that that there were around 20% of potential voters who were not yet sure, whether they were going to vote for one of the main candidates of the other or not to vote at all. The voting intentions in the parliament elections showed a similar trend with the Zanu-PF getting 41% and the MDC Alliance gathering 36% of the total votes. These voting intentions and the actual electoral results indicate that the Zimbabwean electorate may well be divided. This is a delicate situation in which the decisions of the political leadership generally play a crucial role in preserving peace or in triggering violence.
Chamisa’s decision to declare himself winner ahead of the electoral commission announcement is a strategy used by many opposition leaders in Africa but in many cases, it is counter-productive, and it can be a serious catalyst of violence and heated tensions.
So far, the attitude of the MDC Alliance leadership has reflected the trending reaction from many opposition leaders in Africa. A similar scenario was observed in Kenya in 2017’s elections with Raila Odinga declaring himself a people’s president, in Gabon with Jean Ping saying he won, as well as the opposition leadership stance in Burundi, especially in the 2010 elections and the subsequent boycott.
The example of what happened in the 2010 elections in Burundi stands as a warning against mistakes that are so often committed by the opposition leadership who encourage the boycott of electoral processes or who refuse to participate in governing institutions.
After the announcement of the results of Burundian communal elections (the district level) on 24 May 2010, 12 opposition parties contested the large victory of the ruling party, the Council for the Defence of Democracy-Forces for the Defence of Democracy (CNDD-FDD) and decided to boycott the presidential, parliamentary and local elections which were still to come. The boycott was followed by requests for talks or negotiations on the need to hold fresh elections. The ruling party refused categorically to adhere to this idea.
The 12 opposition parties were encouraged to use the legal means, specifically the Constitutional Court, to solve their grievances, which they refused to pursue. They were asked to show evidence of rigging which they also could not substantiate. Subsequently, the boycotting parties decided to create a new coalition group which they called the Alliance for the Democratic Change (ADC-Ikibiri). The mission of this new coalition was to ensure that the international community does not recognise the legitimacy of the May 2010 elections. Unfortunately, the report released by the Observer Mission of the European Union (UE-MOE) – which was then the major sponsor of the electoral process by the way – recognised that, despite some flaws, the election had been fair and democratic although tainted by some sporadic violence. Despite this clear position, the ADC coalition insisted on a continued boycott.
It is important to note that the main opposition party had garnered 15% of the national vote while the total votes of all opposition parties taken together was around 35%. Such a score was enough to give the opposition a stake in the government, in the parliament and senate and in the local administration. At the end of the election, the coalition refused to be part of the government and opted to stay out of the institutions.
The consequences of this decision were dramatic. Once the electoral process was validated by the Constitutional Court, the ADC-Ikibiri members found themselves outside of all of the formal institutions and without any leverage to influence any political process. Slowly, they gradually diminished in popularity and disappeared from the political scene. The absence of a counter-weight to the ruling party allowed the voting of some controversial law such as the law on media or civil society organisations.
More importantly, the non-participation in the governing bodies allowed the ruling party to consolidate and reinforce its grip on power even in parts which used to be strongholds of the opposition. The national assembly was in effect controlled almost entirely by one party. The absence of contradictory debates at the national assembly was one serious blow to the young democracy in Burundi. The domination of one party and the progressive entrenchment of an autocratic power led to the erosion of democratic foundations. This is not what the ruling party was necessarily looking for, but the absence of a counter-force and the new political context created a legislative imbalance in which there was no room for a counter-point to government agendas.
In the end, some civil society organisations gradually begun to occupy the vacuum left by the opposition parties. The coming of these unusual actors into the political realm complicated the matter as the civil society and political parties in general do not use the same methods when mobilising for civic action. In 2015, when the following elections took place the opposition leadership was extremely weakened that it had no real initiative on the ground. The street demonstrations that characterised the 2015 elections were led, not by political parties, but by civil society organisations. The opposition leadership had lost its influence on the electorate.
The important lesson to Zimbabwe’s opposition from what happened in Burundi, is that participation is key. Despite what may look like injustice, it is good for the Zimbabwean opposition to stay within decision-making institutions such as the national assembly in order to counter any move that would otherwise lead to devastating consequences such as an untimely change of the constitution. If there is a chance for Chamisa and the MDC Alliance to remain integrated into the governance processes within the country’s institutions, this would be an important opportunity to demonstrate the willingness to pursue dialogue and legal processes in order to introduce a different political culture within Zimbabwe.
The presence of the Zimbabwean opposition in the institutions of governance especially at the local government would surely play a determining role in preparing for the next elections and in convincing the electorate that the MDC Alliance can also govern effectively. Chamisa and his fellow opposition leaders should continue to pursue judicial redress and accountability through legal means and at the same time to strategise wisely for the next elections while remaining a relevant and ever-present actor in the current political dispensation. The opposition leadership can still play an important role especially as members of the national assembly by testing the proposition whether in fact Zimbabwe is on the cusp of a new dawn of democratic consolidation. DM
Patrick Hajayandi is a Senior Project Leader for the Great Lakes Region at the Institute for Justice and Reconciliation based in Cape Town, South Africa
We have a responsibility in identifying and treating the underlying causes of gender-based violence not just in South Africa but around the world. Recent figures from StatsSA show the murder rate of women increased by 117% between 2015 and 2016/17, a stark reminder of the persistent violence in this country. Then deputy president Cyril Ramaphosa spoke eloquently in 2017, showing us that he understands the core issues, but the above harrowing figures and recent #TotalShutDown march mean now, more than ever, comprehensive action is needed.
In July 2017 then Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa spoke at a Rhema Bible Church sermon devoted to ending violence against women and children. He stated how gender-based violence (GBV) is not caused by a virus but rather societal and cultural influences. The man who is now President understood that we live in a patriarchal society that is perpetuated by gender norms and an unwillingness to speak out against negative or toxic masculine behaviour. He said: “Each one of us, regardless of our upbringing or social circumstances, has been given the power of free will. We can make a decision, each of us, not to engage in violence, not to perpetrate abuse. We are responsible for our actions.”
We have a responsibility in identifying and treating the underlying causes of gender-based violence not just in South Africa but around the world. Recent figures from StatsSA show the murder rate of women increased by 117% between 2015 and 2016/17, a stark reminder of the persistent violence in this country. President Ramaphosa spoke eloquently in 2017, showing us that he understands the core issues, but the above harrowing figures and recent #TotalShutDown march mean now, more than ever, comprehensive action is needed.
The incidence of rape and sexual violence is staggeringly high in South Africa with a 2016 Rape Adjudication and Prosecution Study (RAPSSA) report found that between 2008 and 2015, 432,834 sexual offences were reported across the country. This figure is seen to vastly underestimate the true population-level incidence of sexual violence and rape due to under-reporting by survivors.
Population-based research found that between 28-37% of adult South African men disclosed having committed rape. Over half of them did so while they were teenagers, and half the men who admitted having raped, did so more than once. Further research shows that approximately one in 10 men have been involved in gang rape where perpetrators can sometimes be children and take part to prove their masculinity to one another. 2011 census data shows that 94.1% of rape survivors were female, 46% of whom were children (under 18). Perpetrators of rape accounted to be 99% male while female perpetrators mostly did so in groups of other men. If there is disagreement on the presence of hegemonic patriarchal systems, surely these figures show that the high prevalence of sexual violence is inherently a male trait.
Chillingly, men who identify strongly with having toxic masculine characteristics or gender-inequitable beliefs are more likely to reveal or report having perpetrated some form of GBV. Certain men essentially brag about having perpetrated acts of sexual violence. This shows disturbing and contrasting attitudes which only reinforce rape stigma where some men feel entitled to talk freely about the crime while women survivors suffer debilitating fear and shame. The situation worsens where some women do not report the crime fearing that the police will not address the claim effectively or simply turn them away. Family and community pressure are also known predicators to under-reporting, a cruel outcome that merely adds to the shame and guilt of the survivor.
Organisations that focus on GBV such as rape crisis centres are sadly underfunded. Despite this, they provide critical protection and support to survivors of sexual abuse while calling out for comprehensive reform that will tackle the root cause of the violence. Short-term interventions are not working as they ignore the core drivers of the issue, something rape crisis centres consistently and painstakingly highlight.
In 2009, at least half of women murdered was done so by an intimate partner (where perpetrators had been identified as a partner) in South Africa. In Ireland between 1996 and 2017, of the 216 women killed, 56% of the killers were current or former intimate partners. In the United Kingdom, 113 women were murdered in 2016, 78 of who done so by current or former partners. Globally, approximately 38% of all murders of women are committed by current or former intimate partners. Femicide and GBV perpetrated by intimate partners is a global issue that bridges all socio-economic, racial, age, religious and ethnic divides.
While there are influential factors associated with GBV, research shows that the predominant cause of the violence points to men’s prescribed gender roles, patriarchal systems and toxic/hyper-masculinity. The latter can be defined as complete disregard or contempt for what are perceived to be “feminine” qualities and/or use of aggression and violence to adhere to pre-conceived male gender normative behaviour. Many men set themselves expectations to be successful, strong and powerful, inhibiting any emotional behaviour they perceive to be weak. A lack of emotional intelligence, combined with toxic masculine and gender normative behaviour, can have debilitating effects on men’s mental health and regularly result in emotional outbursts of aggression and violence. These acts can help men exhibit power in the hope of re-affirming their manhood.
The concept of power and its intrinsic relationship with toxic masculinity is a common output where certain men enable their sense of superiority over women and, in some cases, other men. Focusing on the effects on women, masculine power can be exhibited in many ways and are certain to solicit a response that many women experience: powerlessness. These actions regularly unfold in daily life that many of us have witnessed: unwanted advances in public, being groped at a club, cat-calling, being followed and shouted at while walking home. While not being physically violent, these actions can have negative psychological consequences for women, sparking an immediate sense of fear and unease.
We cannot deny that the above behaviours exist. Advice such as telling women to be more careful or avoid certain streets, while seen as protective, are not solutions as they ignore the fundamental drivers of GBV. Women should feel safe when they walk anywhere and not be shackled by fear. The root causes of GBV must be addressed if we are to make any satisfying progress in combatting the violence.
The values set in the South African constitution assert that no one should be discriminated against based on their gender or sex. Education reform must enshrine these values and consider adopting Unesco’s international technical guidance on sex education. It shows that comprehensive sex education (CSE) has positive effects on young people and their attitudes towards sex, gender, consent, STIs, unintended pregnancies, GBV and gender equality. It also provides a safe space for young people to talk about their feelings and attitudes which will be critical in the emotional development of a child. According to Unesco, children between the ages of five and 13 spend most of their time in a school which provides an opportunity to reach them in their formative years. Teachers and schools must be supported by providing additional resources and training, so they can feel comfortable and confident in teaching robust and accessible CSE.
New focus must be put on crime prevention over crime fighting. Simply increasing the numbers of police officers does not directly result in improved policing outcomes. Leading up to 2012, increasing the number of police officers did not seem to have had an impact on reducing serious violent crimes. With quality sacrificed over quantity, the South African government must focus on improving policing standards through community policing and outreach. Punishment for crimes committed must run parallel with rehabilitative measures to prevent recidivism. Male targeted programmes, such as One Man Can show some benefit of masculinity-focused interventions and how they affect male attitudes towards gender-norms and sexual violence. The South African government must embrace new ways of thinking and show a willingness to invest in evidence-based measures that target the source of the problem.
Furthermore, in line with the resolution adopted at the ANC’s December 2017 conference, the government should consider de-criminalising sex work so that sex workers can have more legal protections as well as be able to access essential health care. The continuing criminalisation and subsequent violent intimidation of sex-workers pushes them further underground therefore increasing the likelihood of dangerous practices. De-criminalisation, while providing structural support, has shown to decrease STI prevalence, particularly HIV, and an overall decrease in the risks faced by sex workers.
While incidents of sexual violence can occur within any socio-economic division, rape is “more common in a social context of poverty where unemployment is high”. In this context, interpersonal violence is rife, and men organise into social gangs that can lead to incidents of group rape. In high unemployment areas, chances of marginalisation increase with poorer access to services and care for survivors. In a country where income inequality is at a very high rate, more must be done to mitigate the effects of poverty. Gender-focused labour initiatives must support women by providing sustainable employment and help tackle gender unequal households where women are expected to act in a subordinate role. With the assistance of community policing and outreach, we can reduce gang related incidents of sexual violence by providing more opportunity to young men and women who feel society has left them behind. Alleviating poverty will not solve GBV or domestic violence, but it will certainly help in reducing cases.
With the rise of women’s movements, particularly in the advent of #MeToo, there is a growing perception that men are being attacked and demonised. Not only is this a fallacy, it shows a complete contempt for the abundance of evidence on sexual violence. The women who participated at the #TotalShutDown march, and men who supported it, know the evidence is clear: women disproportionately suffer sexual and domestic violence at the hands of men. It doesn’t happen because of what she wore or how drunk she was. It happens because men make a conscious choice to do so.
As men, we must acknowledge that certain male culture is at the heart of the problem. We can no longer stand by when we see toxic or violent behaviour towards women and must challenge it at every step whether it be an acquaintance, stranger or family member. Toxic masculinity has no place in South Africa or anywhere else. Men must be active participants in shaping the future of masculinity, one that is based on equality and respect. The passion and willingness for positive change will always resonate and enable those who feel they have no power, to be at the forefront. In President Ramaphosa’s own words:
“It’s time for all of us to change our ways. The campaign to end violence against women and children begins with you and me. Let us all take responsibility.” DM
Cormac Smith is a Research and Advocacy Officer at the Southern African Liaison Office (SALO)