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Press Release: SA government urged to be more inclusive and adopt an intersectional approach to vulnerability when implementing economic, social and cultural rights

Press Release: SA government urged to be more inclusive and adopt an intersectional approach to vulnerability when implementing economic, social and cultural rights

Published by Legal Resources Centre  01 October 2018

For Immediate Release: 01 October 2018

 

Pursuant to the review of South Africa by the Committee of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, due to begin on 2 October, civil society organisations made oral statements on the South African government’s performance in relation to its socio-economic rights commitments.

The Legal Resources Centre (on behalf of partners who jointly wrote the reports to the Committee) made presentations that focused on the unique and specific experiences of different classes of persons in South Africa. The LRC emphasised the need to enhance inclusion and diversity in the design and implementation of economic, social and cultural rights. This approach underscores substantive equality as the way to focus on the subordination, stereotyping, structural and intersecting disadvantage that vulnerable persons face on a daily basis.

This is the first year that South Africa is participating at this committee, which oversees the implementation of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. Although former President Nelson Mandela signed the International Covenant in 1994, it only became legally binding in SA when it was ratified in 2015.

As the LRC, we believe that inputs from civil society organisations are crucial to providing lived experiences of individuals and groups of persons in order to ensure that the review directly reflects these experiences in order to effectively hold the SA government accountable for its obligations under the Covenant.

The LRC’s Mandi Mudarikwa made her statement today, on behalf the LRC and other CSOs, urging the South African government to focus on reaching the fundamental goal of substantive equality in accessing economic, social and cultural rights. The LRC urged the committee and the government of South Africa to integrate this intersectional dimension of discrimination to ensure that the specific needs of different classes of persons are included and catered to. Further, given the disproportionate burden faced by women in many aspects of economic, social and cultural rights, the LRC urged the government of South Africa to adopt a gender lens in addressing various rights; including land, property, housing, poverty, education; among others. There is also a dire need to ensure that services that are specific to women are also implemented effectively.

In relation to those made in the written reports, the LRC’s statement emphasised the following recommendations to the South African government.

  1. Firstly, to take steps to develop and implement national internal directives to ensure the effective, consistent and timely implementation of Act 49, which is the Act that allows a person to change their legal gender if they meet certain requirements. This Act has been poorly implemented and there are no directives or regulations that guide the uniform implementation of this Act.
  2. Secondly, ensure that government’s healthcare policies and their implementation, specifically, National Health Insurance, do not continue to discriminate against transgender and gender diverse persons.
  3. Thirdly, guarantee the bodily integrity, autonomy and self-determination of all intersex children through working with intersex persons to draft and enact legislative and policy measures that prohibit practices of intersex genital mutilation (IGM).
  4. Fourthly, it is recommended that the government take active steps to develop and implement land, property and housing policies with a gender lens, so that women’s vulnerability, and the specific needs and rights of women, are considered.
  5. Fifthly, the government must enhance access to safe and legal abortion as a way to promote women’s access to sexual and reproductive health rights.
  6. Lastly, the LRC recommends that the right to work and study for refugees and asylum seekers remain an automatic benefit once an application for asylum is made, as is the case currently, in order to ensure that refugees and asylum seekers become financially independent in South Africa. This is in response to sections of the Refugee Amendment Bill, which seeks to limit the rights of refugees and asylum seekers to work and study in South Africa.

In a few weeks’ time, the Committee will issue its “concluding observations” on the steps the government should take to comply with the provisions of the Covenant. These provisions require that government use all of its available resources to protect and fulfil the rights of people in the country, especially those affected by discrimination.

The LRC hopes that the Committee will integrate our recommendations in order to enhance substantive equality in South Africa.

ENDS

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