The ‘gender gap’ is nothing new. Nor is the fact that women’s most intimate spaces are frequently the sites at which that gap is most starkly reinforced – on their bodies and in their homes. So we at SALC have been particularly excited, in recent months, to play a part in initiatives that go some way to dismantling the gap.
Last month, the Botswana High Court ruled, in a landmark judgment, that inheritance laws discriminating against women are unconstitutional, so saving four elderly sisters from certain eviction and innumerable other women like them. The Botswana case followed close on the heels of the Namibian High Court ruling that three HIV-positive women had been coercively sterilised in public hospitals and were accordingly owed compensation.
As Priti Patel, SALC’s deputy director, wrote in City Press
, “the decisions in Botswana and Namibia reflect the changing role of women in society. And equally as promising, courts in the region outside of South Africa, are stepping up to the challenge.”
SALC currently awaits judgment from the Lesotho Constitutional Court in a case brought by a young woman, Senate Masupha. Masupha has challenged the Chieftaincy Act, arguing that as the first-born child of the deceased chief she should inherit, regardless of her gender. SALC appeared as amicus in the matter, emphasising that the rights to gender equality and the elimination of discrimination are an essential part of any effective response to the HIV/AIDS pandemic.
SALC’s most recently published research, Tackling Cervical Cancer: Improving Access to Cervical Cancer Services for Women in Southern Africa
, highlights how minimal government intervention from southern African governments in the provision of prevention, early detection and treatment services could save thousands of women every year from cervical cancer-related deaths. Currently it is the most common cause of cancer death in women in southern Africa.
It is also, as The Lancet noted in its editorial
of 10 November 2012 on the report, “a prime example of global inequality in health.” It goes on to note that the medical profession in southern Africa has a vital role to play in assisting their governments in developing appropriate plans and policies and that “they must also work with legal groups to promote one of the most neglected rights – the right to the highest level of health – for cervical cancer and other diseases.”
All of us at SALC will be taking time off in the last weeks of December. To those of you celebrating the holidays, we wish you joy and hope they offer peace and relaxation.
We wish you and your families, a happy, healthy and smaller “gender-gapped” 2013.
ON THE DOCKET
CoRMSA v President of the Republic of South Africa and Others
On 29 and 30 October, the North Gauteng High Court heard oral argument in the case brought by the Consortium for Refugees and Migrants in South Africa (CoRMSA) and supported by the Southern Africa Litigation Centre (SALC) challenging the decision of the South African authorities to grant Rwandan general and suspected war criminal, Faustin Kayumba Nyamwasa, refugee status. SALC believes the case is of strategic value in preserving the integrity of the refugee system and ensuring accountability of those suspected of international crimes.
Read the Court Diary here
African Human Rights Court Asked to Rule on Legality of SADC Tribunal's Suspension
On 23 November 2012, SALC and the Pan African Lawyers Union filed a request for an advisory opinion at the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights. The request asks the Court to use its advisory powers to determine whether the suspension of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Tribunal by the region’s leaders was legal or not.
Read the request here
OFF THE DOCKET
Mmusi and Others v Ramantele and Another
On 12 October 2012, the High Court in Botswana issued a judgment in Mmusi and Others v Ramantele and Another,
a case challenging a customary law rule which provides only for male inheritance. The Court found that the customary law rule violated the women’s right to equality under the Botswana Constitution. In reaching its decision, the Court rejected the Attorney General’s argument that Botswana society was not ready for equality.
Read the judgment here
TRAINING, ADVOCACY AND OTHER PROJECTS
SALC Launches New Website
SALC launched its new website in November 2012. The new website highlights more clearly SALC’s work, including our cases and publications. We hope it will assist lawyers, civil society activists, funders and journalists in better accessing SALC’s work and staff.
Visit our website here
AfricanLII Hosts Conference on Access to Supranational and Regional Law
On 5 and 6 November 2012, AfricanLII hosted a conference on access to African supranational and regional law, in Johannesburg, South Africa. The conference brought together delegates from African treaty bodies and African regional organisations. It discussed the difficulties faced in accessing African regional law and possible solutions to this problem.
Read AfricanLII’s report on the conference here
SALC Annual Report 2011
SALC published its Annual Report for 2011 which details the significant cases, advocacy initiatives, trainings and other activities of SALC over the period March 2011 to February 2012.
Download the report here
SALC Releases Report on Tackling Cervical Cancer in Southern Africa
On 31 October 2012, SALC released Tackling Cervical Cancer: Improving Access to Cervical Cancer Services for Women in Southern Africa
, a report which seeks to address the barriers to accessing cervical cancer services through providing information on the nature of cervical cancer and identifying the current availability of services for cervical cancer in southern Africa. The report also highlights the human rights obligations of southern African governments to effectively address cervical cancer in order to save women from unnecessary suffering, disability and death.
The report has received widespread approval and was the subject of a supportive editorial
in the world’s leading medical journal, The Lancet
Download the report here
Litigation Manual for Cases of Mandatory HIV Testing and Unauthorized Disclosure of Status
SALC released a litigation manual in September. The manual, the second in the series, entitled Protecting Rights: Litigating Cases of HIV Testing and Confidentiality
, focuses on litigating cases of mandatory HIV testing and unauthorised disclosure of status in domestic courts in southern Africa. It seeks to be a resource for private and public lawyers in southern Africa who are litigating such cases in domestic courts. It may also be useful to civil society organisations seeking to use litigation as part of an advocacy strategy to promote and protect the rights of people living with and affected by HIV.
Download the report here