24 June 2019

South Africa: Commission for Gender Equality On Systemic Investigation Report of Shelters That Accommodate Victims of Violence

press release

Briefing of Systemic Investigation Report of Shelters that accommodate victims of violence

The purpose of this briefing is to convey the outcomes of a systemic investigation that the Commission undertook to assess the state of shelters for victims of violence, but in particular, victims of gender-based violence (GBV) and members of the Lesbian, Gays Bisexual, Transgendered and Intersex (LGBTI) Communities.

This form of investigation did not happen in a vacuum but was necessitated by the mandate of the Commission and international instruments. One of these instruments is the Convention of Elimination of All forms of Discrimination Against Women, or commonly known as CEDAW. Section 24 (b) of CEDAW compels the Commission to ensure that legislation intended to curb family violence and abuse, gender-based violence (GBV), rape and sexual assault gives adequate protection to women. This particular state obligation has now become important in light of the current state of GBV in South Africa. In other words, it has become essential to assess the conditions of shelters amidst the high levels of GBV. In line with the CGE Act (Section 11) which states that such an assessment may happen through an investigation, the outcomes thereof ought to be in the public interest.

Apart from CEDAW and the accompanying policy and legislation on the protection of gender equality, it is also important to understand the policy intent of the State in providing adequate measures to meet our obligations in relation to Section 24 of CEDAW.

It is in this instance that I draw your attention to a salient policy directive which came from the State of the Nation Address (of 2018), regarding the protection of victims of GBV. In the SONA of 2018, the President of the Republic, Mr. Cyril Ramaphosa stated that, and I quote "Political and community leadership must support and champion the cause of eradicating gender-based violence and femicide" and he went on to further state that there should be "Adequate resourcing of Thuthuzela Care Centres, sexual offences courts and shelters that respond to the needs of all people including people with disabilities and LGBTQIA+".

The interest of the Commission in relation to the protection of victims of GBV through the provision of adequate shelters spans as far back as 2013 when the Commission submitted a proposal for law reform on the same subject matter in order to improve the conditions and access to shelters. The key position of the Commission still stands in that we still believe that the increased access and improvement of the conditions of Thuthuzela Care Centers will further reduce the impact of GBV on survivors, from an economic and social perspective. It is in this instance that we also believe that shelters serve as a mechanism for survivors to escape the cycle of abuse and avoid further harm.

As we stated our position in 2013, we also raised an issue pertaining to the funding of these shelters. This we raised with the view that costs of managing shelters should be factored into various departments of government and this should be done as a part of institutionalized gender-responsive budgeting initiatives.

Having given this background; it is also important for me to state that the Commission received numerous complaints from victims of GBV who were provided protection by shelters. Complainants in this regard complained about lack of counselling at the shelters, secondary victimization and abuse as well as the general conditions of the facilities. This further compelled the Commission to look into the state of shelters with reference to issues of human interest - in other words, with the view that some residents of these shelters remain unsatisfied with the state of affairs.

With all of the above factors I have mentioned thus far, the Commission conducted an investigation in all nine provinces from 2018 to 2019 financial year. The following information was analysed for the purposes of this investigation:

The Shelter information, status and staffing;

Shelter capacity and accommodation criteria;

Period of stay and survivor readiness to exit the shelter;

Shelter funding and resources;

Shelter service package offer / shelter service basket;

Record keeping and ethics confidentiality;

Shelter management, staffing and supervision;

Nature of relationship with SAPS;

Safety and Security measures;

Substance abuse and rehabilitation;

And general Challenges experienced.

Apart from what I have stated, we also requested the Department of Social Development (DSD) to provide us with the following information for as part of the investigation:

Budget allocation to shelters;

Measures and programmes to support shelters;

Efforts to rectify the lacuna in the Domestic Violence Act;

Outline and evidence of DSD's developmental quality assurance;

Information on the complaints mechanism for residents of shelters;

Mechanisms to prevent shelters unfairly discriminating against the LGBTIQA+ community.

The findings of this investigation unveiled the following:

Lack of adequate funding for shelters;

Late payment of tranches and a lack of cooperation;

In some shelters building and facility infrastructure and security poses a problem;

Lack of transitional Housing / second stage housing;

Lack of standardised salaries amongst the same occupation categories including bettering of prerequisites for certain roles within shelters;

Lack of compliance to policies and standardised practices, policies, skills development and complaints mechanisms, with specific reference to:

Therapeutic methods;

Skills development;

Early child development programmes;

Minimum and maximum periods of stay;

Mechanisms used when a survivor requests a longer stay, including assessment and process to evaluate the request;

Complaint mechanisms at a shelter level.

Failure and/or neglect by DSD to ensure proper policies and implementation thereof, including inconsistent funding methods.

Survivors struggle to adapt to normal living conditions.

Lack of mainstreaming of international instruments with gender equality provisions into existing and proposed legislation relating to service rendered by shelters.

Inadequate DSD budgeting methods in the allocation of resources to shelters.

No standardised approach to accommodate and assist survivors of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex, queer, asexual and other diverse sexual orientations and gender identities (LGBTIQA+) community.

Based on the outcomes of our investigation it is evident that there are deep-rooted systemic challenges which need adequate attention of state institutions who bear the responsibility to make provisions for the protection of survivors of GBV. to be addressed at the highest level of institutions that are expected to offer services to survivors of violence.

In light of the above outcomes of our systemic investigation it is highly plausible that we may be in breach of the provisions of Sections 24 of CEDAW, but more importantly, the findings have a bearing on the following domestic legislation and policy:

Under the Constitution of the Republic of South Arica 108 of 1996

Right to Equality (Sec 9)

Right to Dignity (sec 10)

Right to freedom and security of the person (sec 12)

Right to Privacy (sec 13)

Right to adequate housing (sec 26)

Limitation of rights (sec 36)

Other forms of legislation that may be breached are as follows:

Promotion of Equality and Prevention of Unfair Discrimination 4 of 2000 (PEPUDA)

Domestic Violence Act 116 of 1998

Children's Act 38 of 2005

Prevention and Combating of Trafficking in Persons Act 7 of 2013

Accordingly, the CGE recommends as follows:

The CGE to call a Public Investigative Hearing within the 2019/2020 period wherein:

All Head of Departments of the nine provincial DSD's

The Director-General (DG) of the National DSD

The DG of the National Department of Human Settlements are called to fully account before the CGE and respond to questions regarding how shelters are allocated resources and any other aspects regarding the functioning and co-ordination of shelters including the need for transitional housing.

It is anticipated that the public investigative hearings will lead to further supplementary recommendation report which will look into matters concerning policy and practice in the sheltering of survivors of violence.

The late payment of tranches severely undermines the functioning of shelters. In turn, the CGE recommends that urgent action on the part of DSD is taken to instil safeguards within its contract management system wherein it provides clear pre-warning of required payments and in turn accountability of those officials responsible for effecting the payments whom do so late. The DSD is afforded the ambit to devise its own safeguard. Albeit, it must be effective and able to be rolled out throughout the nine provinces. The safeguard including time frames for roll out to the nine provinces must be provided to the CGE within three months of release of this report.

The DSD to finalise its policy regarding GBV Prevention Programme for LGBTIQA+ Persons within six months from the date of release of this report, including clear directives to shelters to comply and not unfairly disseminate against LGBTIQA+ persons, including a clearly communicated complaints process for survivors to report any discriminatory action on the part of a shelter.

DSD after consulting key stakeholders to provide the CGE with:

A standardised policy detailing the manner and criteria to fulfil when survivors wish to apply for extension at a shelter. This should also include a costing analysis wherein the costs of extensions are forecast and budgeted for and a clear complaints mechanism for survivors to appeal any negative decision.

A standardised policy detailing the monitoring of survivors after existing the shelter including clear indicators to determine if the survivor is adjusting favourably.

The two policies as per recommendations 4.1 and 4.2 must be provided to the CGE within six months after release of the investigative report.

DSD in consultation with key stakeholders:

To standardise salaries and/or stipends of persons employed by shelters, including detailing criteria. Such standardisation must be taken into account during the budget allocation provided to shelters.

Detail and set the educational requirements and core skills needed for the requisite job roles in shelters.

Issued by: Commission for Gender Equality

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