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Cablegate: Status of Women in the Sadc Region: South

R 221355Z JUL 96
FM AMEMBASSY PRETORIA
TO SECSTATE WASHDC 0086
INFO AMCONSUL CAPE TOWN
AMEMBASSY HARARE
AMEMBASSY GABORONE
AMCONSUL JOHANNESBURG
AMCONSUL DURBAN
USMISSION USUN NEW YORK
AMEMBASSY WINDHOEK
AMEMBASSY PARIS
AMEMBASSY MASERU
AMEMBASSY MBABANE
AMEMBASSY MAPUTO
AMEMBASSY LONDON

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 PRETORIA 006905


LONDON FOR YOUNG; PARIS FOR MORAN

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: KWMN PHUM SADC SF
SUBJECT: STATUS OF WOMEN IN THE SADC REGION: SOUTH
AFRICA

REF: A) STATE 112270 B) STATE 36753
C) CAPE TOWN 00363 D) STATE 39368

1. ALTHOUGH PREVIOUS CABLES HAVE ALREADY ADDRESSED SOME
OF THESE ISSUES, FOLLOWING ARE GENERAL RESPONSES TO
QUESTIONS POSED REF A. SEPTELS ON SPECIFIC ISSUES (LAND,
HOUSING, TRADITIONAL/CUSTOMARY LAW) AS WELL AS SEPTEL
ADDRESSING POST'S ACTIONS TO PROMOTE GENDER EQUALITY WILL
FOLLOW.

2. SUMMARY: SINCE THE 1994 ELECTIONS, THE SAG HAS BEEN
QUITE COMMITTED TO THE RECOGNITION AND AMELIORATION OF
THE PLIGHT OF SOUTH AFRICAN WOMEN. IT HAS RECENTLY
SUCCEEDED IN CARRYING OUT SEVERAL OF ITS SPECIFIC POST-
BEIJING PLANS (SEE REF. B) INCLUDING RATIFICATION OF THE
UN CEDAW IN JANUARY 1996, PROVISION OF FREE HEALTH CARE
FOR PREGNANT WOMEN, AND THE PASSAGE OF THE COMMISSION ON
GENDER EQUALITY ACT 39 OF 1996. NEVERTHELESS, IN MANY
AREAS, THE SAG, THOUGH PUBLICLY COMMITTED TO REFORM, IS
SLOW TO IMPLEMENT CHANGES. END SUMMARY.

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CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHTS/LAW
-------------------------
3. THE NEW CONSTITUTION, ADOPTED IN MAY OF THIS YEAR,
GUARANTEES EQUALITY, FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION, FREEDOM AND
SECURITY OF PERSON, AND HOUSING, HEALTH CARE, FOOD, WATER
AND SOCIAL SECURITY. EQUALITY CLAUSE 9.3 IN THE BILL OF
RIGHTS IS QUITE EXTENSIVE, PROHIBITING DISCRIMINATION ON
THE GROUNDS OF GENDER, SEX, PREGNANCY, MARITAL STATUS,
AND SEXUAL ORIENTATION, AMONG OTHER THINGS. INEVITABLY
HOWEVER, DISCREPANCIES STILL EXIST BETWEEN LAW AND
PRACTICE. ALTHOUGH CONSTITUTIONAL LAW OVERRIDES ANY
POTENTIALLY DISCRIMINATORY CUSTOMARY LAWS, IT IS
QUESTIONABLE HOW COGNIZANT WOMEN IN TRADITIONAL SOCIETIES
ARE OF THEIR RIGHTS.

--------------------------------------------- ----
DOCUMENTS WHICH PROVIDE GENDER EQUALITY FRAMEWORK
--------------------------------------------- ----
4. IN GENERAL, SEVERAL DOCUMENTS PROVIDE A FRAMEWORK
FROM WHICH THE SAG, NGO'S, GROUPS AND INDIVIDUALS CAN
IMPLEMENT PROMOTION OF GENDER EQUALITY. THE
COMMONWEALTH'S "INTER-PARLIAMENTARY COUNCIL'S PLAN OF
ACTION TO CORRECT PRESENT IMBALANCES IN THE PARTICIPATION
OF MEN AND WOMEN IN POLITICAL LIFE," ADOPTED IN MARCH OF
1994, IS USED WITHIN PARLIAMENT. DOCUMENTS INFLUENCING
EXTERNAL LEGISLATION INCLUDE THE "CHARTER FOR EFFECTIVE
EQUALITY," PRODUCED BY THE WOMEN'S NATIONAL COALITION AND
PRESENTED IN AUGUST OF 1994; THE BEIJING PLATFORM FOR
ACTION; THE UNCEDAW; AND THE DRAFT POLICY FOR WOMEN'S
EMPOWERMENT, FORMULATED BY THE NOW DEFUNCT RECONSTRUCTION
AND DEVELOPMENT PROGRAM (RDP).

-------------------------
PARLIAMENT AS INSTITUTION
-------------------------
5. THE MARCH 1996 "REPORT ON WHAT THE S. AFRICAN
PARLIAMENT HAS DONE TO IMPROVE THE QUALITY OF LIFE AND
STATUS OF WOMEN IN S.A." COVERS BOTH EXTERNAL LEGISLATION
AND CHANGES WITHIN PARLIAMENT ITSELF TO PROMOTE GENDER
EQUALITY SINCE THE 1994 ELECTIONS. S. AFRICA RANKS 7TH
IN THE WORLD IN TERMS OF REPRESENTATION OF WOMEN IN
PARLIAMENT, WITH 101 WOMEN OUT OF 400 NATIONAL ASSEMBLY
MEMBERS, AND 16 OUT OF 90 SENATORS. 15 OUT OF 60 CHAIRS
OF COMMITTEES ARE WOMEN, AND A WOMEN'S CAUCUS EXISTS.
GENERALLY, WOMEN REPRESENT ABOUT 26OF PARLIAMENT (THE
ANC CALLED FOR 33REPRESENTATION). HOWEVER, THE REPORT
NOTES THAT IN SPITE OF THESE SIGNIFICANT NUMBERS, WOMEN
ARE STILL NOT SPEAKING OUT TO THEIR FULL POTENTIAL, AND
PARLIAMENT REMAINS A MALE-DOMINATED INSTITUTION. TO
RECTIFY THIS, THE WORKING HOURS OF PARLIAMENT ARE BEING
RE-EXAMINED IN ORDER TO ACCOMMODATE "MANY WOMEN MP'S WHO
HAVE DOMESTIC AND CHILD-CARE RESPONSIBILITIES." THE
TERMS AND CONDITIONS OF SERVICE FOR THE SUPPORT STAFF ARE
ALSO BEING RE-EXAMINED, AS WOMEN IN THE PAST HAVE BEEN
DISPROPORTIONATELY GIVEN SHORT TERM CONTRACTS WITH NO
BENEFITS. FINALLY, A CRECHE/NURSERY HAS RECENTLY BEEN
CREATED IN PARLIAMENT.

--------------------
LEGISLATIVE ADVANCES
--------------------
6. THE UN CONVENTION ON THE ELIMINATION OF
DISCRIMINATION AGAINST WOMEN (CEDAW) WAS RATIFIED IN
JANUARY 1996, MAKING SOUTH AFRICA THE 131ST NATION TO
SIGN THE INTERNATIONAL COVENANT. THEN IN MARCH 1996, AN
OFFICE ON THE STATUS OF WOMEN WAS ESTABLISHED IN THE
PRESIDENT'S OFFICE. THESE FOLLOWED PREVIOUS MEASURES TO
EMPOWER WOMEN INCLUDING THE 1994 ESTABLISHMENT OF AUGUST
9 AS NATIONAL WOMEN'S DAY, AND THE 1995 INCOME TAX ACT
NO. 21, WHICH REPEALS THE DISCRIMINATORY TAX BURDEN ON
MARRIED WOMEN BY APPLYING A SINGLE INCOME TAX RATE TO ALL
INIVIDUALS, IRRESPECTIVE OF GENDER OR MARITAL STATUS.

7. TO ADDRESS SHORTCOMINGS IN RECENT HOUSING AND LAND
ACTS WHICH FAIL TO CONSIDER THE PROBLEMS THAT WOMEN
SPECIFICALLY MAY ENCOUNTER IN ACCESSING LAND OR HOUSING,
THE INTERIM PROTECTION OF INFORMAL LAND RIGHTS ACT (1996)
PROTECTS PEOPLE, MANY OF WHOM ARE WOMEN, WHO HAVE
INSECURE AND INFORMAL RIGHTS AND INTERESTS IN LAND.
SIMILARLY, THE COMMUNAL PROPERTY ASSOCIATIONS BILL, IF
PASSED, WOULD PROVIDE DISADVANTAGED COMMUNITIES WITH THE
COLLECTIVE ABILITY TO ACQUIRE, HOLD AND MANAGE PROPERTY.

8. THE WATER RATIONALISATION AND AMENDMENT ACT (1994)
CALLS FOR WOMEN TO COMPRISE ONE-THIRD OF LOCAL WATER
SUPPLY AND SANITATION COMMITTEES, THUS ENABLING THEM TO
PARTICIPATE DIRECTLY IN THE PLANNING, DESIGN, AND CONTROL
OF WATER SCHEMES. THE SOCIAL ASSISTANCE ACT AND
AMENDMENT ACTS (1992/94) PROVIDE FOR, AMONG OTHER THINGS,
MAINTENANCE GRANTS TO PARENTS FOR THE CARE OF THEIR
CHILDREN. HOWEVER, THE AGED PERSONS AMENDMENT ACT (1994)
GENERALLY HURTS WOMEN BY DOING JUST THE OPPOSITE,
REPEALING AN ATTENDANT'S ALLOWANCE FOR HOME-CARE.

9. LABOR ACTS: THE NATIONAL ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT AND
LABOUR COUNCIL ACT 35 BROADENED THE DEFINITION OF FARM
WORKER TO INCLUDE DOMESTIC WORKERS ON FARMS; THIS
BENEFITTED SOME WOMEN, BUT IT EXCLUDED SEASONAL AND
CASUAL FARM LABOURERS, OFTEN WOMEN AS WELL. SIMILARLY,
THE LABOUR RELATIONS ACT OFFERS JOB SECURITY FOR DOMESTIC
WORKERS AND PROHIBITS SEXUALLY DISCRIMINATORY CLAUSES IN
A UNION'S CONSTITUTION, BUT VIOLATIONS STILL OCCUR,
ACCORDING TO THE JUNE 17 JOHNNESBURG DAILY "SOWETAN." IN
TERMS OF BUSINESS, A RECENTLY PASSED SMALL BUSINESS BILL
BENEFITS WOMEN BY CREATING AN INSTITUTIONAL AND
REGULATORY FRAMEWORK FOR THE PROMOTION OF SMALL, MEDIUM
AND MICRO-ENTERPRISES.

10. BUDGET: THE JOINT COMMITTEE ON FINANCE IN
CONJUNCTION WITH THE INSTITUTE FOR A DEMOCRATIC
ALTERNATIVE IN SOUTH AFRICA (IDASA) SPONSORED A WOMEN'S
BUDGET INITIATIVE IN MARCH 1996 TO IDENTIFY THE BUDGETARY
CHANGES NECESSARY TO IMPACT ON SPECIFIC WOMEN'S LIVES.
DURING THE 1996 PARLIAMENTARY DELIBERATIONS ON THE BUDGET
A NUMBER OF OFFICIALS DID PROVIDE INFORMATION ASSESSING
GENDER-SPECIFIC IMPLICATIONS OF THEIR BUDGETS, AS WELL AS
THEIR DEPARTMENTS' EFFORTS TO PROMOTE WOMEN.

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HEALTH
------
11. ABORTION BILL: ON JULY 3 1996, THE CABINET APPROVED
A BILL WHICH WOULD LIBERALIZE CURRENT ABORTION LAWS AND
PROVIDE MORE EQUAL ACCESS TO HELP. (SEE SEPTEL)

12. FREE HEALTH CARE: A PRESIDENTIAL LEAD PROJECT
SPEARHEADED UNDER THE FORMER RECONSTRUCTION AND
DEVELOPMENT PROGRAM (RDP) IS PROVIDING FREE HEALTH CARE
FOR PREGNANT WOMEN AND CHILDREN UNDER SIX.

----------------------
VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN
----------------------
13. NEWSPAPERS REPORT THAT EVERY SIX DAYS, A WOMAN IS
KILLED IN S. AFRICA BY HER HUSBAND OR BOYFRIEND. THE
PREVENTION OF FAMILY VIOLENCE ACT OF 1993 MAKES IT EASIER
FOR WOMEN TO OBTAIN INTERDICTS AGAINST THIER ABUSIVE
HUSBANDS AND PARTNERS. THIS LAW ALSO DEFINES MARITAL
RAPE AS A CRIMINAL OFFENSE. CHERYL CAROLUS, ACTING ANC
SECRETARY-GENERAL, TOLD EMBASSY OFFICIALS THAT ALTHOUGH
THIS LAW IS ARGUABLY ONE OF THE MOST PROGRESSIVE IN THE
WORLD, TO DATE FEWER THAN TEN WOMEN HAVE TAKEN ADVANTAGE
OF IT. GIVEN THE HIGH INCIDENCE AND PREVALENCE OF
DOMESTIC VIOLENCE AND VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN IN S.
AFRICA, THE SAG HAD COMMITTED SPECIFICALLY TO
ESTABLISHING MORE CENTERS FOR BATTERED WOMEN, YET TO WHAT
EXTENT THIS IS BEING IMPLEMENTED IS UNCLEAR.

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WATCHDOG INSTITUTIONS
---------------------

14. A HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION WHICH INVESTIGATES
VIOLATIONS OF HUMAN RIGHTS AND MAKES RECOMMENDATIONS TO
THE GOVERNMENT ON MEASURES NEEDED TO PROMOTE HUMAN RIGHTS
IS UP AND RUNNING. FOLLOWING IN ITS FOOTSTEPS, THE
COMMISSION ON GENDER EQUALITY ACT OF MID-1996, WILL
ESTABLISH A COMMISSION TO PROMOTE GENDER EQUALITY AND TO
ADVISE/MAKE RECOMMENDATIONS TO PARLIAMENT OR ANY OTHER
LEGISLATURE AFFECTING WOMEN.

15. CONFERENCES: MANY FOLLOW-UP CONFERENCES TO BEIJING
HAVE TAKEN PLACE BOTH IN GOVERNMENT AND THROUGH NGO'S
WHICH ILLUSTRATE S. AFRICA'S COMMITMENT TO REFORM
BENEFITTING WOMEN. WE WILL CONTINUE TO MONITOR AND
SUPPORT THE SAG'S INITIATIVES.

CLAPP

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