Gender based violence - Joy van der Heyde

My name is Joy van der Heyde, I am a practising attorney in Cape Town specialising in Children’s rights and family law. I hail from the Cape Flats in Strandfontein, a suburb within Mitchell’s Plain, and matriculated from Plumstead High School in 1995.

 

I graduated from the University of the Western Cape in 2001 with a LL.B degree and completed my articles with Ettienne Barnard Attorneys in Somerset West in 2003. After completing my articles, I worked at the Law Society of the Cape of Good Hope and thereafter joined the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development (DOJCD).

 

I worked with Adv Hishaam Mohamed at the Western Cape Regional Office for the DOJCD for a period of 10 years under his direct supervision while he was the Regional Head of the Department. He was not only my former supervisor at DOJCD, but he was also my mentor, a dear friend, a comrade and a brother to me.

 

During my tenure at the DOJCD, I managed approximately 23 projects relating to the implementation of various pieces of legislation in the Courts, such as the Domestic Violence Act, Maintenance Act, Children’s Act, Child Justice Act, etc. As part of managing the various pieces of legislation for which the DOJCD was responsible for, I made inputs into the amendments to and drafting of the various pieces of legislation. I was also responsible for ensuring that the community at large was informed of their constitutional rights and on how to enforce their rights at the courts. One of the flagship projects, which Adv Mohamed was most proud of, was Operation Isondlo. Operation Isondlo was initiated by Adv Mohamed in the Western Cape. It entailed the arrest of maintenance defaulters to secure their attendance at court and the tracing of maintenance beneficiaries. It was thanks to this initiative that imparted a culture of respect and compliance within our community when it came to maintenance court orders. People thought twice before defaulting on paying a maintenance order and this change impacted positively on the lives of many maintenance beneficiaries.

 

After leaving the DOJCD, I returned to private practice and worked as an associate with a law firm. I have now begun a new venture thanks to the consistent support and encouragement from Adv Mohamed and am in the process of establishing my own legal practice. He expressed to me how proud he was that I had undertaken this venture and encouraged me to become an attorney for the people.

 

I also worked closely with him on many of his community engagements, as an advisor in the Southern Suburbs Legal Advice Centre and as his secretary for the Legal Monitoring Task Team in the Western Cape ANC. I was fortunate enough to assist him on Women’s Day, 10 August 2020, in the Redhill Community outside of Scarborough in the Western Cape educating the women on their rights.

 

Adv Mohamed felt things very deeply and was easy to forgive. He was extremely passionate about the rights of vulnerable groups, including that of the LGBTI community. It is thus, sadly, fitting that he passed in a month where he is known in the Western Cape, throughout the years, to actively campaign for these issues. Adv Hishaam Mohamed was indeed a unique individual and in the words of William Shakespeare “He was a man, take him for all in all, I shall not look upon his like again” (Hamlet).

 

Adv Mohamed was requested to make inputs at the upcoming Virtual Men’s National Dialogue to End Gender-Based Violence and Femicide (GBVF). A topic that he was most passionate about. I am honoured to present the below inputs which I was assisting him in finalising that he would have made at the upcoming Virtual Men’s National Dialogue, as I herewith do:

 

 

MEN AS PARTNERS TO ACHIEVE GENERATION EQUALITY

 

A MEN & BOYS DIALOGUE TO END GENDER BASED VIOLENCE & FEMICIDE-

 

 

Good day all, I am Adv HISHAAM MOHAMED I am currently a Member of Parliament serving on the Justice & Correctional Services portfolio committee and I am also the chairperson of SSLAC, a registered Trust, providing free legal advice to Women who cannot afford legal fees and we also provide training to NGO’s on the fundamental rights as enshrined in the Bill of Rights of the Constitution.

 

Being part of the legal-NGO fraternity, we derive our mandate not from “clients” but from the needs of the poorest of the poor, in particular women in distress and of the indigent in need of legal assistance, Access to Justice and Responding to the daily struggles of women as Farm workers, their legitimate resistance from being Evicted, Land claims, Child-Maintenance, Domestic-Violence, Sexual-offences and Estates.

 

Thank you hosting this dialogue to help achieve GENERATION EQUALITY in particular the role of men in creating an Enabling environment.

 

GENERATION EQUALITY


In the current environment where the focus is on the groups of the rights of those marginalised, we must not lose focus of the purpose of Women's Month. Women in our country under the previous dispensation were regarded as minors. This meant they could not own property, could not vote and were for all intents and purposes the property of their father and/or husband and thus, beholden to them. It was a slow transition over the last four decades that women's rights have developed to what we know it as today.

 

Celebrating 25 years of championing women's rights The Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action is the most visionary agenda for the empowerment of women and girls, everywhere.

 

The 12 critical areas of concern: poverty, education and training, health, violence, armed conflict, economy, power and decision-making, institutional mechanisms, human rights, media, environment and the girl‑child are the issues that must maintain our focus.


It is 25 years since the Beijing Platform for Action set out how to remove the systemic barriers that hold women back from equal participation in all areas of life, whether in public or in private.


Today, not a single country can claim to have achieved gender equality. As a result, women remain undervalued, they continue to work more, earn less, have fewer choices and experience multiple forms of violence at home and in public spaces.


The Generation Equality campaign demands equal pay, equal sharing of unpaid care and domestic work, an end to sexual harassment and all forms of violence against women and girls, health-care services that respond to their needs and their equal participation in political life and decision-making in all areas of life.

 

Achieving Generation Equality remains one of the key priorities also for the legal profession and as NGO’s in the legal space.

The perception that women and girls are inferior to their male counterparts is a serious violation of section 9 of the Constitution which succinctly gives women and girls the right not to be unfairly discriminated against.

Despite this constitutional protection, gender equality and equity are still met with resistance due to cultural practices that perpetuate beliefs which expose women to unequal treatment in the legal profession. This must stop.

We therefore have to break down all forms of oppression against women, which includes racial, class and gender oppression, and it must be replaced with the advancement of the economic empowerment of women in legal profession, the entrenchment of the rights of women, the provision of legal instruments to protect such rights. 

 

Through this dialogue we want to encourage men in the legal profession to change their toxic attitudes and beliefs that lead to unequal treatment of women and LGBTI persons when it comes to Briefing Patterns, Articles and Equal Fees for Equal work performed.

 

The government should strengthen the briefing of black lawyers & transform the legal profession. One way to bring about meaningful transformation in the legal profession is by briefing Black and previously disadvantaged Female legal practitioners.  

 

In support of your call Mr President for us ALL to play an active role to end Gender Based Violence, many in the legal fraternity have responded to your call via their organisations as a collective in tackling GBVF, some have relooked at their Code of Conduct whilst others have drafted and adopted harsher penalties for misconduct involving acts of gender based violence.

 

The organisation I am involved in led by mainly women on its board, SSLAC for example, decided to adapt to the conditions of COVID19 and came up with a theme:

                              WOMEN’S RIGHTS ARE HUMAN RIGHTS.

 

And to give practical application to this theme, we decided to explore how best to use the law as a tool against GBVF.

 

It involves a 3‑part video recorded series for those who cannot afford to switch on webinars because of cost of data:

Our VIDEO's cover the topics:

  • Introduction to GBVF & Government response to date;
  • Legislative Amendments to existing laws to combat GBVF; and
  • How to obtain a Protection Order & Protection from Harassment order free of any charge at our courts.

It empowers participants to protect themselves from the scourge of GBVF and simultaneously educate the public about the legal and policy framework.

 

There is still a long way to go in ensuring that women can truly experience equality and freedom in a society and culture that has always valued patriarchy. Part of this growth includes the dissemination of knowledge as knowledge gives true power to those who have been marginalised. With this power, they will know how to enforce their rights, how to protect themselves and their families, and break them free from manipulation.

Last year Mr President you hosted a Presidential Summit against Gender-based Violence and on 18 September 2019 you announced a 5‑point Emergency Response Plan to urgently curb the upsurge of GBVF.


The Plan included improvements to the current laws by Amending 3 key laws that will make it easier for perpetrators of gender‑based violence to be Apprehended:


  1. The Criminal Law Amendment Bill: will regulate the inclusion and removal of particulars of persons on the National Register for Sex Offenders;

    2. The Criminal Matters Bill: seeks to amend the Criminal Procedure Act, 1977, and further regulate the granting of Bail and placement of persons on parole and and regulate Sentences in respect of offences that have been committed against vulnerable persons;

 

  1. The Domestic Violence Amendment Bill:  that will enable us to make On‑Line Applications for Protection orders and also seek to tighten the non‑withdrawal OF PROTECTION ORDERS and after hours Court Services when most needed. This will also include call back services, a call centre and safe haven in case of emergencies and general services. This new amendment will make it an Offence for Not Reporting Domestic Violence incidents.

We understand that these Bills are expected to reach Parliament before the end of August 2020 and we will certainly mobilise and assist society to participate in these debates

 

Mr President you also said during the Joint Sitting of Parliament on GBVF that, “It is a problem of men’. We therefore will not look away!

 

The start must be with progressive men like us. We have an obligation to change. Let us take responsibility.

 

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