Latest Sonke Gender Justice advocacy news

Parental Leave

Sonke’s MenCare campaign advocates for men’s involvement in unpaid care work and promotes gender equitable and non-violent fatherhood.

On 22 September 2016 Sonke, together with Mosaic submitted to parliament on the Labour Laws Amendment Bill. The Bill proposes that fathers receive 10 days of paternity leave at the birth of their child and suggests provisions on leave for adoptive parents.

While we endorse the general intent of the bill, we submitted improvements based on international evidence of best practices in paid leave policy. The four improvements we suggest are:

  1. Same-sex parents do not have specific legislation that provides for paid leave for two fathers or two mothers. Therefore, same-sex marriage is provided for in South African legislation, but same-sex parenting is not. Sonke and Mosaic suggest a non-gender-specific allocation of paid leave to “parents” and “caregivers” as opposed to “mothers” or “fathers.”
  2. Maternity leave is currently available up to four months. Sonke and Mosaic suggest that the minimum amount of leave made available for primary caregivers be increased to six months, to allow for the World Health Organization’s recommended minimum period of exclusive breastfeeding.
  3. Adoptive parents do not have access to paid parental leave. Sonke and Mosaic suggest adoptive parents should be able to access paid parental leave from the time of placement of the child.
  4. Mothers who deliver currently do not have provisions that allow for their partner to support them during delivery and recovery. The minimum period for recovery from a C-section is 10 days. Sonke and Mosaic suggest a minimum of 10 days perinatal leave for all new parents. This would enable mothers to deliver and recover and their partners to share the care work.
Sonke’s Wessel van den Berg presents on the bill.
Yolanda and Thulani Velebayi discuss the personal benefits of paternity leave.
Sonke’s Patrick Godana presents to the committee.

Learn more:

Read the Labour Laws Amendment Bill

Read Sonke and Mosaic’s Submission to the Portfolio Committee of Labour on the Labour Laws Amendment Bill

Read the Mencare Parental Leave Platform

Stop Gender Violence Campaign

South Africans experience unacceptably high levels of gender-based violence (GBV). According to the most recent crime statistics, 51 895 sexual offences were reported to the police between 1 April 2015 and 31 March 2016. Research indicates that due to under-reporting of incidents, the true number could be up to 9 times higher. Over the last 20 years, South Africa has adopted a range of progressive policies and laws designed to address GBV but implementation has been weak and the brutal assault and killing of women remains pervasive.

Sonke is a founding committee member of the Stop Gender Violence Campaign (formerly the National Strategic Plan on Gender Based Violence Campaign). One of the key outcomes of the campaign is for the South African government to develop a fully-costed, multi-sectoral, comprehensive national strategic plan on GBV. The hope is that this will lead to improved psycho-social service provision to victims of GBV, as well as the reduction of GBV. This can be achieved by amending and implementing existing legislation, addressing the key structural drivers of GBV (such as alcohol abuse, unemployment, and gender norms), and ensuring that adequate government funding is allocated to the cause.

Currently, the Campaign is conducting provincial consultations with individuals and civil society organisations in the Eastern Cape, Northern Cape, Limpopo, KZN, North West and the Free State. Through this we’re aiming to strengthen our impact in all the provinces, in order to reach more people in supporting an end to GBV.

Get involved:

Prisons Transformation

 Sonke is co-founder and co-coordinator of the Detention Justice Forum, a coalition of NGOs and activists working to advance detainee rights and well-being. In this capacity, we advocate for the transformation of detention facilities in South Africa, in an effort to ensure that prisoners’ human rights are respected.

The main aims of this project include:

  • Decreasing the number of inmates who experience sexual abuse, and contract HIV and TB – In Western and Southern Africa the general population HIV prevalence is 4.7% while the HIV prevalence in prison populations is 15.6%
  • Holding the government accountable for implementing evidence-based good practices towards preventing sexual violence and HIV in prisons (for example, decreasing overcrowding, improving ventilation, and distributing condoms) as well as providing access to treatment
  • Ensuring strong, independent oversight and accountability mechanisms for the Department of Correctional Services – this is key as prisons generally operate outside the public eye, meaning that human rights abuses may go unchecked.

Sonke is currently involved in civil society consultations for the development of the new National Strategic Plan on HIV, STIs and TB, which aims to reduce and prevent infection in South Africa. We are specifically advocating for the inclusion of prisoners as a key population for HIV, so that they will be considered a vulnerable group who should be targeted for HIV interventions. We are also in the process of advocating to establish a SANAC (South African National AIDS Council) Prisoners’ Sector. SANAC serves to foster engagement between government, civil society and other stakeholders on the issue of HIV, STIs and TB. It currently has 17 civil society sectors, which are targeted for HIV, STI and TB interventions and prevention strategies. The prisons sector is currently not represented by SANAC, which we seek to change as this will ensure that prisoners’ rights to HIV treatment and prevention efforts are taken into account.

On 21 September, Sonke made a submission to the Portfolio Committee for Justice and Correctional Services on the Judicial Inspectorate of Correctional Services (JICS). The primary issues related to: (a) JICS’ lack of financial and institutional independence – it is beholden to the Department of Correctional Services, the very department that it is mandated to oversee, for funding and accountability, which effectively negates its efficacy as an oversight body; and (b) JICS’ unclear statutory mandate and the fact that its recommendations are not binding.

We are also in the process of setting down a date to litigate against the Department of Correctional Services to ensure that the conditions at Pollsmoor Remand Centre are improved.

Watch “They Treated Us Like Animals” Sonke’s documentary on the deplorable conditions in the overcrowded Cape Town facility here.

Get involved:

  • Learn more about the Detention Justice Forum and our activities here.
  • Watch our online Digital Stories, where three prisoners have bravely stepped forward to tell their stories of sexual abuse behind bars.

Decriminalisation of sex work

Sonke, as co-founding member of the Asijiki Coalition, advocates for the decriminalisation of sex work in South Africa.

Together with Asijiki, we successfully executed several advocacy strategies at the International AIDS Conference held in Durban in July this year, where numerous comments were made by prominent South Africans in support of sex work decriminalisation:

On 19 July 2016, during his speech entitled “Protecting human rights and reducing stigma”, Justice Edwin Cameron said: “Sex work is work”. He later stated that: “Laws that criminalise sex work are a profound evil”

On 18 July 2016, during his plenary address at the official opening press conference of the AIDS Conference, Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa said: “We need to design and implement programmes that address the needs of key populations …including sex workers”

On 19 July 2016, Zak Yacoob, a former justice of the Constitutional Court, stated the following in his opening statement at a symposium entitled “Courage in Leadership: World Leaders with the Political Will to Remove Punitive Laws: “The criminalisation of sex work…is utterly inconsistent with the Constitution.” He continued: “We want to create a caring society where all vulnerable people, including sex workers, have their dignity respected and protected and have not actually become criminals”.

Sonke is working closely with the Asijiki Coalition on lobbying for rapid law reform on sex work. On 17 August, Parliament held a roundtable discussion on the decriminalisation of sex work in South Africa, with submissions made by Asijiki members. This represented an important step forward in raising awareness on the issue.

Get involved:

Sex work in SA: the facts

  • Currently South Africa criminalises all aspects of sex work
  • Such a legal framework that criminalises sex work has been shown to greatly increase sex workers’ vulnerability to violence and illness (such as HIV), while reducing the likelihood that abuse will be reported
  • The decriminalisation of sex work – the removal of the criminal law and employing a rights-based approach to aspects of sex work – will not only make sex work and sex workers safer, but will also reduce levels of GBV and have a far-reaching impact on public health.