Gender Rights

Women in South Africa are vulnerable to various forms of gender-based violence, ranging from domestic violence, to sexual harassment in public spaces, to serious sexual assault such as rape. The number of rape cases increased from an already alarmingly high 55,097 to 56,272 between 2010 and 2011, a number that is in all likelihood much higher due to the amount of unreported cases.

The public/private divide is problematic in these communities because women tend to be more silent about domestic violence than violence that occurs in the public space. Various forms of gender-based violence are often not recognised as human rights violations. In addition, domestic violence often goes unreported and the broad scale on which this crime is committed is often not visible in reports or statistics.

Violence against women in these communities has been normalised to a certain extent and women are exposed to it on a continuous basis.

Immigrant and refugee women are disproportionally exposed to the dangers of a patriarchal and xenophobic society because they often lack the local support structures and family protection. Immigrant women are often responsible for their whole families. Being a daughter, mother and/or wife comes with a string of responsibilities that cause financial but also emotional stress especially in a foreign country. Women often work in the informal sector where there is little or no access to state services, especially when women are undocumented.

It is difficult for migrant and refugee women to seek assistance if they experience gender-based violence. Research shows that two thirds of South African organizations that provide gender-based violence services stated that they did not provide gender-based violence services to migrants. Such discrimination excludes a significant proportion of migrant women, both documented and undocumented. Health services are available but information about these various services are often not easily accessible. The communities often lack a structural support structure to deal with gender-based violence.

More so, some of the migrant women did not work in their home countries and now they are experiencing economic independence for the first time. This situation can be problematic for their relationship with their husbands. Most husbands feel inadequate and insecure by their wives financial independence, and this feeling of inadequacy and insecurity causes an increase in the levels of domestic violence.

While some of these issues might be particular to migrant and refugee women, South African women are equally exposed to these complicated issues. More often than not, these women face the same challenges. Too few organisations focus on integration as a means to promote women’s rights and reduce levels of gender-based violence. Gender-based violence occurs across different groups and is evidently not limited to one group in the community. Therefore, PASSOP takes an inclusive approach with a strong focus on integration to promote and enhance women’s rights in the community.

Although this project is unfunded, PASSOP includes gender rights as a specific focus in all of our work. At present, we are actively building up a women’s support group network and women’s rights help desk in Masiphumelele. PASSOP has built a relationship with the migrant community that is quite unique and strong. Promoting and advocating women’s rights and gender equality, and raising awareness about gender-based violence can only be successful in communities if there is a strong focus on integration. PASSOP is committed to enhance the women’s rights of all women living in these communities. We hope to expand this project to other communities in the near future.

For more information, please contact us at 021 762 0322.

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