The Southern Africa Development Community Parliamentary Forum (SADC-PF) held an advocacy dialogue on the elimination of gender-based violence (GBV) in the Eastern and Southern African regions.

The dialogue’s moderator, Ms Mishy Singano, a development expert and African gender rights activist, said the objective of the virtual engagement was to identify key messages and to have a concrete action plan to support the Eastern and Southern African countries to achieve Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) 3 and 5, and also reflect on existing platforms to address gender-based violence.

SDGs are a global commitment, spearheaded by the United Nations to achieve a better and sustainable future for the world’s population. SDG 3 aims to promote healthy lives and promote the well-being of people of all ages, while SDG 5 is a commitment to ensure gender equality and empower women and girls.

Addressing the dialogue on the role of the SADC-PF and member parliaments in addressing gender-based violence, as well as on advancing gender-responsive legislation through SADC model laws, Ms Boemo Sekgoma, the Secretary-General of the forum, said parliaments of member countries in the region have enacted legislation relating to gender equality, such as the Protection from Domestic Violence Act, Equal Opportunities Act, or laws compelling parents to send all children to school without discrimination.

SADC parliaments also pass appropriation legislation to provide for national budgets related to gender ministries and departments, public schools and hospitals and the enforcement of measures to protect children and women, among other things.

“The SADC-PF acts as the enabler for change through targeted model laws, which are formulated following a consultative process with democratically elected SADC Members of Parliament (MPs), therefore made by the people and for the people.

“Mode laws are based on best norms and practices which are contained in generally accepted international instruments. For instance, the legal age for consent to marriage is 18 and is contained in the Convention on the Rights of the Child and is also reflected in the SADC Model Law on Child Marriage,” said Ms Sekgoma.

She added that model laws act as catalysts for domestication of treaties and covenants as they contain similar norms and are further adapted to the Southern African context.

Ms Sekgoma reported that the SADC Model Law on Gender-Based Violence GBV has been prepared by the forum and validated by Members of Parliament. It contains best practices relating to the prevention of gender-based iolence across all SADC member states.

“Under this model law, gender-based violence is defined broadly to encompass economic and psychological violence as well as stalking and harassment. It will thus change the landscape of GBV legislation across all SADC member states by providing for a user-friendly single piece of legislation that can be readily domesticated by the executive,” said the SADC PF Secretary-General.

She also believes the SADC Model Law on GBV can be a game changer in spearheading modern, gender-responsive and anti-discriminatory legislation, and that together, the Model Law on Child Marriage and the SADC Model Law on HIV will uphold the sexual and reproductive health and rights of women and young girls in the SADC region.

By Sakhile Mokoena

10 June 2021