The Chairperson of the Select Committee on Health and Social Services, Ms Maurencia Gillion, believes the amended Southern African Development Community (SADC) Protocol on Gender and Development will have a significant impact in the fight against gender-based violence (GBV) and femicide in South Africa.

Today, the committee was briefed by the Department of Women, Youth and Persons with Disabilities on the Agreement amending the protocol which seeks, among other things, to encourage countries in the SADC region to adopt laws, policies and programmes that ensure the development and protection of children.

According to the protocol “state parties (countries) shall develop concrete measures to prevent and eliminate violence, harmful practices, child marriages, forced marriages, teenage pregnancies, genital mutilation and child labour as well as mitigate their impacts on girls’ and boys’ health, wellbeing, education, future opportunities and earnings”.

It also encourages member countries to ensure equal and effective representation of women in decision-making positions in the political, public and private sectors, and adopt and implement gender sensitive educational curricula, policies and programmes addressing the gender stereotypes in education and gender-based violence.

The SADC Protocol on Gender and Development further states that parties must enact and adopt specific legislative provisions to prevent human trafficking and provide holistic services to the victims, with the aim of re-integrating them into society. SADC countries must also put in place mechanisms by which the relevant law enforcement authorities and institutions should eradicate national, regional and international human trafficking syndicates.

It further says that countries must put in place harmonised data-collection mechanisms to improve research and reporting on the types and modes of trafficking to ensure effective programming and monitoring; establish bilateral and multilateral agreements to run joint actions against human trafficking among origin, transit and destination countries; and ensure capacity-building, awareness-raising and sensitisation campaigns on human trafficking are put in place for law enforcement officials.

The department told the committee that South Africa and one other member state have not signed the Agreement to amend the Protocol. The SADC Secretariat has indicated that it needs to urgently publish the document in October and will do so with or without the last two member states signatures.

“We thank the department for bringing the amendments on the protocol. We believe it will have a tremendous impact in our ongoing fight against GBV and femicide,” said the committee Chairperson.

The committee accepted the protocol and noted that the interventions were not in contravention of the Constitution and other laws. International protocols and agreements have to be approved by Parliament before signing.

Sakhile Mokoena

21 September 2021