Women's Legal Centre – April Newsletter
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The Recognition of Muslim Marriages

On Monday 20 March 2017, the day before Human Rights Day, a new date was agreed by the parties in the recognition of Muslim marriages class action to heard by the High Court. The 28th August has been agreed.

A directions hearing was convened by the High Court after the Judge President ordered the consolidation of a further matter pending before the High Court which similarly highlights the plight of Muslim women. 

There are several matters that are pending at several courts across the country.   This is testament to the fact that Muslim women are struggling to assert their rights because their Muslim marriages and the consequences arising therefrom are not legally recognised.  They have no option but to plead their cases with the courts and the judiciary.

Given the importance of the matter three judges have now been appointed to hear the matter.  Namely; Judges S Desai, G Salie-Hlophe and NP Boqwana.

The day also saw women come to the steps of the High Court from all over Cape Town to show solidarity and support for this matter.  The lived reality of these women is that legal protection has been denied to them some 16 years after the Constitution came into force. This results in widespread oppression and gender discrimination in areas such as divorce, the duties of support, parental rights and responsibilities and inheritance.

The Prescription of Sexual Offences

WLC has been admitted as a friend of the court in the Levenstein matter.  The matter is an ambitious Constitutional Court case which could potentially change the law around indecent and sexual assault, opening the floodgates for victims of child abuse to pursue criminal charges against their violators decades after the abuse.

Ian Levitt Attorneys filed an application calling on the apex court to change the law around prescription for sexual and indecent assault cases. The application centres on the allegations that well-known philanthropist and stock broker Sidney Frankel abused at least eight men and a woman more than two decades ago when they were children.

In South African law, such crimes committed more than 20 years ago, may not be prosecuted, unlike the charge of rape, which never prescribes.

However, Levitt’s team argues that this is not in line with the constitution and if the crimes had been committed after the Criminal Law Amendment Act of 2007, they would have been classified as rape and therefore never prescribed.

The application’s founding affidavit, written from the perspective of Diamond and the seven other complainants, explains: “It would be unjust and unfair to deprive the victims of such abuse from being able to ensure their perpetrators stand trial, and if convicted, are appropriately punished.”
The matter is scheduled to be heard 22 May 2017.

Our Sex Workers Project team celebrated International Sex Workers Day

The day originated in 2001, when over 25,000 sex workers gathered in India for a sex worker festival, despite efforts from prohibitionist groups who tried to prevent it taking place by pressuring the government to revoke their permit. The event was organised by Durbar Mahila Samanwaya Committee, a Calcutta based group that has over 50,000 sex worker members, and members of their communities. Sex worker groups across the world have subsequently celebrated 3rd March as an annual, international event: International Sex Worker Rights Day.

The WLC team had gazibo at Ghandi Square with Sisonke where members of the public could come and ask us questions about sex work and we would have an opportunity to tell them about the decriminalization of sex work and the reasons we advocate for it. This is done to help remove public stigma and the connotations about sex work.

Forced sterilisation in Africa remains a major challenge

Forced sterilisation is a practice that continues in Africa, although under-reported. However, it is an intrusion upon one’s bodily auto as it deprives a woman of any rights including the right to bodily autonomy. It is a clear violation of human rights and medical ethics and it has been declared a violation of a range of rights which includes interlia the right to privacy, dignity, health, freedom and security of a person.

Our Director, Seehaam Samaai, the last week of January in Mombasa, Kenya attending a Legal Strategy Consultation on the matter and how NGO's can play a meaningful role in eliminating the practice.


The Recognition of Muslim Marriages

Listen to our interview on Cape Talk about the protest on the steps of Cape High Court to highlight the urgency in recognising Muslim marraiges.

Also, watch an on An Nur the Light about the recognition of Muslim marriages.

Intentional exposure to HIV

A thought provoking and concerning interview with Redi Tlhabi on 702. A listener Nomthandazo Ndlovu has been seeking legal assistance.

She believes she was intentionally exposed to HIV by a man she had sex with and suspects that she may not be his first victim.

Our attorney Jody Fredericks says that, in order for criminal charges to stick, there needs to be proof that a person knew about their HIV status before the transmission of the virus.

Currently, there's no single piece of legislation that criminalises the intentional infection of HIV.

What are your thoughts, is this a matter WLC should pursue to ensure there is legal recourse in these matters?…/no-law-to-prove-deliberate-hiv-…


Does calling MP’s “straatmeid” constitute sexual harassment

In response to a female MP being called a “straatmeid" an Afrikaans term for slut or whore. Mosima Kekana, an attorney at WLC, spoke to the Daily Maverick about why this constitutes sexual harassment and is in violation of the Parliamentary rules.

But more importantly in the Presidents SONA speech he specifically indicated that Government would take up the role championing women in the workplace, specifically within Government. Thus, the use by male MP’s, in particular those from the ruling party, is in direct contradiction to the President’s commitment to champion women.…/2017-02-17-parliamentar…/…

Insight on Al Jazeera from a former sex worker

Shaun Bibi, a paralegal and former sex worker who works in our Johannesburg office, talks to Tlaleng on the Stroll about her constitutional rights with Caelainn Hogan from Al Jazeera…/south-africa-plan-tackle-hiv-sex…

The consequences of reinstating the US 'global gag rule' on abortion

Advocate Bronwyn Pithey gave an insightful and relevant interview on Cape Talk.  Commenting that there will be serious ramifications for women in developing countries following the decision by US President Donald Trump to reinstate the so-called 'global gag rule' on abortion.

The policy prevents the channelling of any funding from the US government to any international NGO which promotes or performs abortions.  Pithey explains that services for women are already compromised in developing countries, as they tend to have less control over their reproductive rights. And that the move treads into the territory of moral judgment.

“To have a moral position take over and have consequences like this has been referred to as inhumane.”
Concerns have been raised over the potential rise in unwanted pregnancies, unsafe abortions and the deaths of pregnant women.  The Vice-President of Marie Stopes International has called the decision catastrophic saying that women in developing countries will be most affected.…/global-gag-rule-on-abortion-to-hurt-women…


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