For Immediate Release: 03 March 2017
Today in the Durban High Court, the LRC argued on behalf of 26 women living at Thokoza Women’s Hostel that the policy that minor children are not allowed to live in the hostel with their mothers /primary caregivers is unconstitutional.
This is the second part of a two-part court case.
The Hostel is owned and managed by the eThekwini Municipality. The LRC was approached by the women after the Municipality gave them until Sunday 15 March 2015 to remove their children from the Hostel.
In the interim, officials of the Municipality had, at times, prevented minor children from entering the Hostel. The children would return home from schools in the surrounding areas only to find that they would be prevented access to the Hostel. Their mothers’ pleas were ignored.
In the effort to prevent further occurrences of this nature, and especially in light of the 15 March deadline imposed by the Municipality, the LRC intervened urgently to secure protection for the minor children.
On 11 March 2015, the Durban High Court granted an order which allowed the 24 minor children (including one unborn child) to continue living at the Hostel until the second part of the case is finalised.
Today, the second part of the case was argued in the same court. On behalf of the women, the LRC challenged the legality of the City’s rule is going to be argued tomorrow.
We argued that the Municipality’s policy that children are not permitted to reside with their mothers and/or primary caregivers at Thokoza Hostel is inconsistent with the Constitution and should therefore be declared invalid and set aside.
The issues that we have asked the court to decide upon are the following:
- Whether the Municipality’s policy regarding children and pregnant women violate the women’s right to dignity, freedom, security of the person, privacy and access to adequate housing, as enshrined in our Constitution.
- Whether the blanket ban on children residing with their mothers and caregivers limit children’s rights to family or parental care, basic nutrition, shelter, protection and is not in the best interests of the children.
- Whether the limitation on the rights of the mothers and children are justifiable under the Constitution.
We argued that the effect of the policy separates children from their families and forces women to give up secure accommodation due to their status as mothers and primary caregivers. The women that the policy affects are poor and vulnerable. They do not have resources to secure private accommodation. The conditions under which they live with their children at the Hostel may not be ideal, but they are adequate in the circumstances. Furthermore, the Hostel is home to a number of families and should the Municipality’s policy be upheld or enforced, a number of women and children will be left homeless.