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(By Geoffrey Ogwaro)

As South Africa commemorated World Aids Day on December 1, the country pledged to renew, rejuvenate and recommit itself to the fight to end HIV. There are nascent plans and frameworks in place, such as the national strategic plan on HIV, sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and tuberculosis (TB) and the national LGBTI HIV plan.

The theme for this year is “ending the HIV/Aids epidemic: community by community”, and the United Nations Programme on HIV and Aids is emphasising the role of communities in ending the epidemic once and for all.

(By Bonolo Makgale and Lydia Chibwe)

The month of August marked women's month in South Africa, it is important to check the progress that the country has made in terms of women’s representation in politics and governance.

Almost two decades into the 21st century, women are still not accorded a place of prominence in politics and governance, particularly in Africa. This article briefly reflects on women’s political representation at the regional level, within the African Union, and then looks critically at South Africa’s implementation of women’s rights, in particular examining whether there have been tangible and sustainable gains for women’s representation during the 2019 national and provincial elections.

(By Prof Daniel Bradlow )

Many central banks are rethinking their approach to the environmental and social impact of their operations. This is because their decisions can affect access to housing, healthcare, education, work, to adequate food and water and the security of their pensions.

(By Prof Daniel Bradlow)

African Union (AU) leaders will gather in Niger on 7 July for an Extraordinary Summit to discuss the African Continental Free Trade Area. They will be meeting at a critical moment for the continent. Many African countries are experiencing uneven growth and rising debt. All face an uncertain global environment and need the boost that closer and more dynamic continental trade relations could deliver.

(By Prof Frans Viljoen)

Botswana’s High Court has ruled that private consensual sex between adults of the same sex is no longer criminal. The decision gives hope to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people in African countries that still have similar laws in place. Most share a common history, with criminalisation finding its way into local law through British colonial penal codes inspired by Victorian-age morality. In total, 32 African states still criminalise same-sex acts.

Sixteen years ago, Botswana’s courts took a different view. Responding to a similar challenge, the High Court in 2003 invoked public morality to justify keeping these provisions of the Penal Code. This decision was confirmed by the Court of Appeal, which found that there was no evidence that the “approach and attitude” of the society “required a decriminalisation of those practices”. The Court did observe that the “time has not yet arrived to decriminalise homosexual practices even between consenting adult males in private”.

(By Yolanda Booyzen)

On the 28th day of the fifth month, Menstrual Hygiene (MH) Day is observed worldwide. This date echoes the menstrual cycle, which usually occurs every 28 days, while menstruation is approximately five days long. MH Day was first observed in 2014, to raise awareness of good menstrual hygiene management and how it can help girls and women reach their full potential. According to German-based NGO WASH United, which initiated the global commemoration, the silence around menstruation and the lack of access to menstruation management products directly impacts the self-esteem, health and education of girls and women, especially in developing countries.

(By Charles Ngwena)

Let us take a moment to reflect on the question of African identity. This is important for several reasons, not least in order to pay homage to the diversities that make up Africa against the backdrop of a colonial history which has sought to nativise Africans and treat them as if they are made from the same clay whether racially, culturally, sexually or otherwise.

(By Satang Nabaneh)

Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) is a widespread and pervasive human rights violation experienced by women and girls.  FGM refers to all procedures “involving partial or total removal of the external female genitalia or other injury to the female organs for non-medical reasons.”[1] It is estimated that more than 200 million women and girls have been cut in thirty countries across Africa, the Middle East, and Asia where FGM is concentrated. Another estimated 3 million girls are at risk of FGM annually.[2] The World Health Organization (WHO) has also estimated that 100 to 140 million women and girls worldwide are currently living with the consequences of FGM. It is mostly carried out on young girls at some point between infancy and the age of fifteen years old. In Africa, an estimated 92 million girls from ten years of age and above have undergone FGM.[3] 

(By Prof Frans Viljoen)

Africans concerned about human rights are closely following a meeting of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights taking place in Egypt’s Sharm El-Sheikh.

The commission – the continent’s primary continental human rights body – is meeting in the shadow of a decision it took last year that’s raised questions about its reputation. The view among activists is that it yielded to political pressure from the African Union when it took away the observer status of the Coalition of African Lesbians. It had granted the organisation the status in 2015.

(By Thiruna Naidoo)

In 1966, the United Nations General Assembly adopted Resolution 2142 (XXI), which proclaimed 21 March as the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. This day commemorates the horrific events that took place in Sharpeville, South Africa in 1960. It is also a national day commemorated annually to remind South Africans about the sacrifices that accompanied the struggle for the attainment of democracy in South Africa. On 21 March 1960, police opened fire and killed 69 people at a peaceful demonstration against the racially discriminating apartheid ‘pass laws’. This was a gross violation of human rights.

(By Satang Nabaneh)

Around the world, 8 March is celebrated as International Women’s Day. It is a global day celebrating the achievements of women with a rallying call to action for accelerating gender parity.

(By Prof Magnus Killander)

Is South Africa regularly denying children their right to access education as well as health care on the grounds either of petty bureaucracy or by a misinterpretation of the country’s laws and international obligations?

(By Prof Frans Viljoen and Dr Ashwanee Budoo)

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi has been sworn in as the African Union’s chairman until January 2020. A new chair is selected annually from among the members of the African Union Assembly of Heads of State and Government, which is the union’s “supreme organ”.

AL-Sisi’s ascent to this powerful position, even if it’s just for 12 months, should concern anyone who is committed to human rights. The legitimacy of his claim to the Egyptian presidency is tenuous: he came to power in 2013 after staging a coup d’état that overthrew President Mohamed Morsi. That’s in contravention of the AU’s own rules; in fact, Egypt was suspended from the AU after the coup.

(By Prof Magnus Killander)

“Poor and vulnerable people are made into criminals for being poor and vulnerable.” – On World Day of Social Justice, Professor Magnus Killander of UP’s Centre for Human Rights argues that some municipal by-laws are effectively criminalising poverty – and should be rethought.

(By Prof Frans Viljoen)

Angola has decriminalised consensual same-sex acts between adults in private.

An erstwhile Portuguese colony, Angola inherited an ancient colonial statute – dating back to 1886 – that criminalised “indecent acts” and persons habitually engaging in “acts against nature”. These formulations have widely been interpreted as a ban on homosexual conduct.

(By Prof Danny Bradlow)

Kofi Annan (80) was an important historical figure who played a critical role in many key events of the 1990s and 2000s. His death is therefore an opportunity to both celebrate his life and to begin honestly assessing his contributions to the world.

The Ghanaian diplomat’s legacy is complicated. He served as both head of the United Nations peacekeeping and as Secretary General of the UN. His tenure in these high offices – from 1992 to 2006 – were marked by great human tragedies as well as episodes of progress. His role in these events raises difficult questions about individual responsibility and the role of international organisations and their leaders in creating a more peaceful and just world.

(By Yolanda Booyzen)

If breastfeeding did not already exist, someone who invented it today would deserve a dual Nobel Prize in medicine and economics” – Keith Hansen, World Bank (2016).

At the beginning of every August, we celebrate World Breastfeeding Week (WBW). And every year we are reminded of the elixir-like qualities of breastfeeding and how it can address some of the world’s toughest challenges – infant mortality, malnutrition, food insecurity, poverty, obesity and environmental degradation. The 2018 WBW campaign focuses on how breastfeeding is the “foundation of life” and how there are links between breastfeeding and each of the 17 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

(By Dr Ashwanee Budoo)

The African Union has taken several initiatives to demonstrate its commitment to eliminating injustices against women in Africa. The most recent has been a meeting ahead of the African Union (AU) summit scheduled for later this year to highlight the continent’s commitment to gender equality.

Other examples include the African Women’s Decade (2010-2020), adopting the African Union Gender Policy and creating a fund for African women. In addition, the AU declared 2016 the year of human rights with a particular focus on the rights of women.

Fifteen years ago the AU adopted the Maputo Protocol under the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights to boost the protection of women. Its implementation was meant to be overseen by the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, a human rights body set up under the African Charter. And the process was meant to be monitored by the Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Women in Africa.

Despite the protocol’s adoption, the violation of women’s rights is still widespread across the continent. The list is long. But some of the more egregious acts include violence against women, child marriage, gender-based discrimination and exploitative widow rites. The reasons for these range from culture, to tradition, ignorance, lack of education and patriarchy.

The problem is that the protocol’s provisions remain mere words on paper. This is because its potential has been stifled by a weak monitoring and evaluation function.

There is a solution to the problem: the creation of an institution whose sole purpose is to protect women’s rights. But it will require political will and a commitment to make the necessary funds available.

(By Dr Ashwanee Budoo)

Mauritius has been shaken by the news of the death of a 13-year-old pregnant girl who was married. Her death was particularly shocking because the country doesn’t have a high child marriage rate. It’s extremely low compared to countries like Niger where 76% of brides are children or the Central African Republic where the figure is 68%. In fact it’s so low that no recent studies have been done to estimate the number of child marriages in the country.

(By  Prof Charles Ngwena)

What seemed unimaginable has happened. After an uninterrupted ‘reign’ of 37 years, Robert Mugabe, the de facto emperor of Zimbabwe, has ‘resigned’ from office. There has been genuine jubilation not least among those who have been at the receiving end of Mugabe’s increasingly despotic, corrupt and dysfunctional governance – the majority of Zimbabweans. Emmerson Mnangagwa has taken office as Mugabe’s successor. It is a historic moment. Since attaining independence in 1980, Zimbabweans have only known Mugabe as their political supremo – initially as prime minister and latterly as president. The fact of Mugabe’s departure from office, alone, has raised hopes that we might be at the cusp of a compassionate, fairer, humane and democratic Second Republic. At the same time, the clouds are pregnant with contradictions, counselling us not to throw caution aside even as we pine for change. Why is this? 

 (By David Ikpo)

We have not done enough for queer persons at South African universities.

Studies and surveys carried out at universities in the United States and Australia show that queer persons suffer higher rates of sexual violence and harassment than non-queer persons. These surveys were carried out in jurisdictions with progressive laws and legal systems, much like those of South Africa. They are evidence that tough laws and policies provide good structures, and that the living and social realities of queer persons in our universities need to catch up. The harassment of queer persons is an issue too pressing to be ignored if the sanctity of learning spaces is to be guaranteed. Queer persons are as much a concern as other members of the staff and student community in planning both the present and the future training of foot soldiers through awareness raising and education.

(By Yolanda Booyzen)

One of the smartest investments that a country, a community and a family can make is to promote breastfeeding.

This is the message spread  by UNICEF, the World Health Organisation (WHO) and other international organisations that are promoting the benefits of breastfeeding during World Breastfeeding Week. The multiple advantages offered by breastfeeding include the most commonly known benefits of exceptional nutritional value, economic viability and cost-effectiveness, the prevention of childhood diseases, increased brain development in babies and a decreased risk of diabetes and some cancers in mothers.

(Prof Charles Ngwena) - As we celebrate Women’s Day let us engage in more than just reciting our affirmation of the equal citizenship and dignity of women in all their shades as adults, girl-children, transgender, straight, lesbian, disabled, black, white, brown and other shades of the human rainbow. Let us also engage in remembrance so that we summon our past and draw apt lessons. Histories are an integral part of our present and futures. Especially where unfulfilled promises or continuing injustices abide, as is borne by the continuing scourge of entrenched gender-based discrimination, including sexual violence and exploitation, remembrance offers us a powerful and creative cultural resource for investing with imaginary coherence our quest to create just, inclusive societies where women count. To this end, as we honour Women’s Day in South Africa, on the African continent and across the world and as we affirm the rightness of women’s equality, among other resources, we can draw on the memory of a Saartjie Baartman (also known as Sara or Sarah). The memory of the grotesque dehumanisation she suffered during her short life can serve to strengthen our resolve.

Whatever her intentions, the recent public utterance posted on Twitter by Western Cape Premier, Helen Zille, reminding the nation of the enormous debt owed to colonialism, has generated public debate. In not so many words, in a nation still healing from a racially bruised past, Zille has been asking black Africans to be complicit in their own historical oppression and show gratitude to a system that was scrupulously built on white supremacy. This sounds incredulous, but perhaps not so once we understand where Zille is coming from – her situated reasoning and vantage point. The utterance shows all too clearly that the terms on which the world is understood, even by persons holding high public office, including in post-apartheid South Africa, are more than porous to self-serving 'regimes of truth'. Every truth has its history, but which is Zille's?

(By Dr Ashwanee Budoo)

The Maputo Protocol, adopted by the African Union in 2003, was expected to transform the landscape for women’s rights on the continent. Its aim was to set standards and create positive change across a range of areas including violence against women, child marriage, land rights and harmful practices.

But 14 years and 37 ratifications later there’s a great deal that remains undone.

As we recently observed the International Day of Persons with Disabilities, we have reason to see the glass as half-full. In the past ten years, there has been a discernible shift towards raising the profile of disability in our human rights systems. The adoption of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) by the United Nations General Assembly in 2006 was a pivotal event at the global level. Conceptually, the CRPD is paradigm-setting; it constitutes a shift not just from a charity model of disability to a rights-based social model, but also in the way we look at disability.

Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir waves to supporters during a rally against the International Criminal Court after arriving from Ethiopia, at Khartoum Airport in Sudan, July 30, 2016. /REUTERS

South Africa is withdrawing from the Rome Statute which established the International Criminal Court (ICC). The Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, signed the Instrument of Withdrawal on 19 October, following a cabinet decision.

It is a sad day for South Africa. It is a sad day for Africa. Why did it come to this?

The minister states that the reason for the withdrawal is that:

[South Africa] has found that its obligations with respect to the peaceful resolution of conflicts at times are incompatible with the interpretation given by the International Criminal Court.

Monday 17 October was the first working day for Advocate Busisiwe Mkhwebane, our new Public Protector. President Zuma formally appointed her to the position; she is set to serve her seven-year term. (This is the second Public Protector President Zuma has appointed; he also appointed Thuli Madonsela in 2009.) Parliament overwhelmingly supported her; and civil society organisations such as Corruption Watch endorsed her

If some concerned South Africans still view Busisiwe Mkhwebane’s appointment with some apprehension, it would be up to her to set suspicious minds at ease. Her actions would confound her critics. Regrettably, there indeed seems to be some cause for caution.

As the spotlight falls on the adoption of South Africa’s landmark Constitution, 20 years ago this year, one of its striking features -- the inclusion of the first-ever constitutional guarantee of non-discrimination based on sexual orientation -- is also under global scrutiny.

The scene is set at the current session of the United Nations (UN) Human Rights Council, taking place in Geneva, Switzerland, until Friday 1 July. The Human Rights Council is the UN’s primary human rights body, tasked with advancing and overseeing the protection and promotion of human rights in UN Member States. South Africa is currently represented in the 47-member Council.

Celebrating Youth Day, introduced in the post-apartheid era, always has a historical dimension, but this is even pronounced this year, which marks a landmark 40 years since those fateful events of 16 June 1976. 

We are reminded that 16 June 1976 was a turning point in at least three important ways.

Before thousands of school children took to the streets of Soweto to protest the imposition of Afrikaans as language of instruction for three subjects (geography, mathematic and history), it was still possible to sell apartheid as benevolent paternalism. After the blatant authoritarianism of imposing an extremely onerous policy without consultation or any effort at articulating reasonable grounds as justification, the benevolence-defence was no longer legitimately open to apologists of apartheid. The scales fell of the eyes of many, increasingly also white South Africans.

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(By Geoffrey Ogwaro)

As South Africa commemorated World Aids Day on December 1, the country pledged to renew, rejuvenate and recommit itself to the fight to end HIV. There are nascent plans and frameworks in place, such as the national strategic plan on HIV, sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and tuberculosis (TB) and the national LGBTI HIV plan.

The theme for this year is “ending the HIV/Aids epidemic: community by community”, and the United Nations Programme on HIV and Aids is emphasising the role of communities in ending the epidemic once and for all.

(By Bonolo Makgale and Lydia Chibwe)

The month of August marked women's month in South Africa, it is important to check the progress that the country has made in terms of women’s representation in politics and governance.

Almost two decades into the 21st century, women are still not accorded a place of prominence in politics and governance, particularly in Africa. This article briefly reflects on women’s political representation at the regional level, within the African Union, and then looks critically at South Africa’s implementation of women’s rights, in particular examining whether there have been tangible and sustainable gains for women’s representation during the 2019 national and provincial elections.

(By Prof Daniel Bradlow )

Many central banks are rethinking their approach to the environmental and social impact of their operations. This is because their decisions can affect access to housing, healthcare, education, work, to adequate food and water and the security of their pensions.

(By Prof Daniel Bradlow)

African Union (AU) leaders will gather in Niger on 7 July for an Extraordinary Summit to discuss the African Continental Free Trade Area. They will be meeting at a critical moment for the continent. Many African countries are experiencing uneven growth and rising debt. All face an uncertain global environment and need the boost that closer and more dynamic continental trade relations could deliver.

(By Prof Frans Viljoen)

Botswana’s High Court has ruled that private consensual sex between adults of the same sex is no longer criminal. The decision gives hope to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people in African countries that still have similar laws in place. Most share a common history, with criminalisation finding its way into local law through British colonial penal codes inspired by Victorian-age morality. In total, 32 African states still criminalise same-sex acts.

Sixteen years ago, Botswana’s courts took a different view. Responding to a similar challenge, the High Court in 2003 invoked public morality to justify keeping these provisions of the Penal Code. This decision was confirmed by the Court of Appeal, which found that there was no evidence that the “approach and attitude” of the society “required a decriminalisation of those practices”. The Court did observe that the “time has not yet arrived to decriminalise homosexual practices even between consenting adult males in private”.

(By Yolanda Booyzen)

On the 28th day of the fifth month, Menstrual Hygiene (MH) Day is observed worldwide. This date echoes the menstrual cycle, which usually occurs every 28 days, while menstruation is approximately five days long. MH Day was first observed in 2014, to raise awareness of good menstrual hygiene management and how it can help girls and women reach their full potential. According to German-based NGO WASH United, which initiated the global commemoration, the silence around menstruation and the lack of access to menstruation management products directly impacts the self-esteem, health and education of girls and women, especially in developing countries.

(By Charles Ngwena)

Let us take a moment to reflect on the question of African identity. This is important for several reasons, not least in order to pay homage to the diversities that make up Africa against the backdrop of a colonial history which has sought to nativise Africans and treat them as if they are made from the same clay whether racially, culturally, sexually or otherwise.

(By Satang Nabaneh)

Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) is a widespread and pervasive human rights violation experienced by women and girls.  FGM refers to all procedures “involving partial or total removal of the external female genitalia or other injury to the female organs for non-medical reasons.”[1] It is estimated that more than 200 million women and girls have been cut in thirty countries across Africa, the Middle East, and Asia where FGM is concentrated. Another estimated 3 million girls are at risk of FGM annually.[2] The World Health Organization (WHO) has also estimated that 100 to 140 million women and girls worldwide are currently living with the consequences of FGM. It is mostly carried out on young girls at some point between infancy and the age of fifteen years old. In Africa, an estimated 92 million girls from ten years of age and above have undergone FGM.[3] 

(By Prof Frans Viljoen)

Africans concerned about human rights are closely following a meeting of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights taking place in Egypt’s Sharm El-Sheikh.

The commission – the continent’s primary continental human rights body – is meeting in the shadow of a decision it took last year that’s raised questions about its reputation. The view among activists is that it yielded to political pressure from the African Union when it took away the observer status of the Coalition of African Lesbians. It had granted the organisation the status in 2015.

(By Thiruna Naidoo)

In 1966, the United Nations General Assembly adopted Resolution 2142 (XXI), which proclaimed 21 March as the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. This day commemorates the horrific events that took place in Sharpeville, South Africa in 1960. It is also a national day commemorated annually to remind South Africans about the sacrifices that accompanied the struggle for the attainment of democracy in South Africa. On 21 March 1960, police opened fire and killed 69 people at a peaceful demonstration against the racially discriminating apartheid ‘pass laws’. This was a gross violation of human rights.

(By Satang Nabaneh)

Around the world, 8 March is celebrated as International Women’s Day. It is a global day celebrating the achievements of women with a rallying call to action for accelerating gender parity.

(By Prof Magnus Killander)

Is South Africa regularly denying children their right to access education as well as health care on the grounds either of petty bureaucracy or by a misinterpretation of the country’s laws and international obligations?

(By Prof Frans Viljoen and Dr Ashwanee Budoo)

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi has been sworn in as the African Union’s chairman until January 2020. A new chair is selected annually from among the members of the African Union Assembly of Heads of State and Government, which is the union’s “supreme organ”.

AL-Sisi’s ascent to this powerful position, even if it’s just for 12 months, should concern anyone who is committed to human rights. The legitimacy of his claim to the Egyptian presidency is tenuous: he came to power in 2013 after staging a coup d’état that overthrew President Mohamed Morsi. That’s in contravention of the AU’s own rules; in fact, Egypt was suspended from the AU after the coup.

(By Prof Magnus Killander)

“Poor and vulnerable people are made into criminals for being poor and vulnerable.” – On World Day of Social Justice, Professor Magnus Killander of UP’s Centre for Human Rights argues that some municipal by-laws are effectively criminalising poverty – and should be rethought.

(By Prof Frans Viljoen)

Angola has decriminalised consensual same-sex acts between adults in private.

An erstwhile Portuguese colony, Angola inherited an ancient colonial statute – dating back to 1886 – that criminalised “indecent acts” and persons habitually engaging in “acts against nature”. These formulations have widely been interpreted as a ban on homosexual conduct.

(By Prof Danny Bradlow)

Kofi Annan (80) was an important historical figure who played a critical role in many key events of the 1990s and 2000s. His death is therefore an opportunity to both celebrate his life and to begin honestly assessing his contributions to the world.

The Ghanaian diplomat’s legacy is complicated. He served as both head of the United Nations peacekeeping and as Secretary General of the UN. His tenure in these high offices – from 1992 to 2006 – were marked by great human tragedies as well as episodes of progress. His role in these events raises difficult questions about individual responsibility and the role of international organisations and their leaders in creating a more peaceful and just world.

(By Yolanda Booyzen)

If breastfeeding did not already exist, someone who invented it today would deserve a dual Nobel Prize in medicine and economics” – Keith Hansen, World Bank (2016).

At the beginning of every August, we celebrate World Breastfeeding Week (WBW). And every year we are reminded of the elixir-like qualities of breastfeeding and how it can address some of the world’s toughest challenges – infant mortality, malnutrition, food insecurity, poverty, obesity and environmental degradation. The 2018 WBW campaign focuses on how breastfeeding is the “foundation of life” and how there are links between breastfeeding and each of the 17 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

(By Dr Ashwanee Budoo)

The African Union has taken several initiatives to demonstrate its commitment to eliminating injustices against women in Africa. The most recent has been a meeting ahead of the African Union (AU) summit scheduled for later this year to highlight the continent’s commitment to gender equality.

Other examples include the African Women’s Decade (2010-2020), adopting the African Union Gender Policy and creating a fund for African women. In addition, the AU declared 2016 the year of human rights with a particular focus on the rights of women.

Fifteen years ago the AU adopted the Maputo Protocol under the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights to boost the protection of women. Its implementation was meant to be overseen by the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, a human rights body set up under the African Charter. And the process was meant to be monitored by the Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Women in Africa.

Despite the protocol’s adoption, the violation of women’s rights is still widespread across the continent. The list is long. But some of the more egregious acts include violence against women, child marriage, gender-based discrimination and exploitative widow rites. The reasons for these range from culture, to tradition, ignorance, lack of education and patriarchy.

The problem is that the protocol’s provisions remain mere words on paper. This is because its potential has been stifled by a weak monitoring and evaluation function.

There is a solution to the problem: the creation of an institution whose sole purpose is to protect women’s rights. But it will require political will and a commitment to make the necessary funds available.

(By Dr Ashwanee Budoo)

Mauritius has been shaken by the news of the death of a 13-year-old pregnant girl who was married. Her death was particularly shocking because the country doesn’t have a high child marriage rate. It’s extremely low compared to countries like Niger where 76% of brides are children or the Central African Republic where the figure is 68%. In fact it’s so low that no recent studies have been done to estimate the number of child marriages in the country.

(By  Prof Charles Ngwena)

What seemed unimaginable has happened. After an uninterrupted ‘reign’ of 37 years, Robert Mugabe, the de facto emperor of Zimbabwe, has ‘resigned’ from office. There has been genuine jubilation not least among those who have been at the receiving end of Mugabe’s increasingly despotic, corrupt and dysfunctional governance – the majority of Zimbabweans. Emmerson Mnangagwa has taken office as Mugabe’s successor. It is a historic moment. Since attaining independence in 1980, Zimbabweans have only known Mugabe as their political supremo – initially as prime minister and latterly as president. The fact of Mugabe’s departure from office, alone, has raised hopes that we might be at the cusp of a compassionate, fairer, humane and democratic Second Republic. At the same time, the clouds are pregnant with contradictions, counselling us not to throw caution aside even as we pine for change. Why is this? 

 (By David Ikpo)

We have not done enough for queer persons at South African universities.

Studies and surveys carried out at universities in the United States and Australia show that queer persons suffer higher rates of sexual violence and harassment than non-queer persons. These surveys were carried out in jurisdictions with progressive laws and legal systems, much like those of South Africa. They are evidence that tough laws and policies provide good structures, and that the living and social realities of queer persons in our universities need to catch up. The harassment of queer persons is an issue too pressing to be ignored if the sanctity of learning spaces is to be guaranteed. Queer persons are as much a concern as other members of the staff and student community in planning both the present and the future training of foot soldiers through awareness raising and education.

(By Yolanda Booyzen)

One of the smartest investments that a country, a community and a family can make is to promote breastfeeding.

This is the message spread  by UNICEF, the World Health Organisation (WHO) and other international organisations that are promoting the benefits of breastfeeding during World Breastfeeding Week. The multiple advantages offered by breastfeeding include the most commonly known benefits of exceptional nutritional value, economic viability and cost-effectiveness, the prevention of childhood diseases, increased brain development in babies and a decreased risk of diabetes and some cancers in mothers.

(Prof Charles Ngwena) - As we celebrate Women’s Day let us engage in more than just reciting our affirmation of the equal citizenship and dignity of women in all their shades as adults, girl-children, transgender, straight, lesbian, disabled, black, white, brown and other shades of the human rainbow. Let us also engage in remembrance so that we summon our past and draw apt lessons. Histories are an integral part of our present and futures. Especially where unfulfilled promises or continuing injustices abide, as is borne by the continuing scourge of entrenched gender-based discrimination, including sexual violence and exploitation, remembrance offers us a powerful and creative cultural resource for investing with imaginary coherence our quest to create just, inclusive societies where women count. To this end, as we honour Women’s Day in South Africa, on the African continent and across the world and as we affirm the rightness of women’s equality, among other resources, we can draw on the memory of a Saartjie Baartman (also known as Sara or Sarah). The memory of the grotesque dehumanisation she suffered during her short life can serve to strengthen our resolve.

Whatever her intentions, the recent public utterance posted on Twitter by Western Cape Premier, Helen Zille, reminding the nation of the enormous debt owed to colonialism, has generated public debate. In not so many words, in a nation still healing from a racially bruised past, Zille has been asking black Africans to be complicit in their own historical oppression and show gratitude to a system that was scrupulously built on white supremacy. This sounds incredulous, but perhaps not so once we understand where Zille is coming from – her situated reasoning and vantage point. The utterance shows all too clearly that the terms on which the world is understood, even by persons holding high public office, including in post-apartheid South Africa, are more than porous to self-serving 'regimes of truth'. Every truth has its history, but which is Zille's?

(By Dr Ashwanee Budoo)

The Maputo Protocol, adopted by the African Union in 2003, was expected to transform the landscape for women’s rights on the continent. Its aim was to set standards and create positive change across a range of areas including violence against women, child marriage, land rights and harmful practices.

But 14 years and 37 ratifications later there’s a great deal that remains undone.

As we recently observed the International Day of Persons with Disabilities, we have reason to see the glass as half-full. In the past ten years, there has been a discernible shift towards raising the profile of disability in our human rights systems. The adoption of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) by the United Nations General Assembly in 2006 was a pivotal event at the global level. Conceptually, the CRPD is paradigm-setting; it constitutes a shift not just from a charity model of disability to a rights-based social model, but also in the way we look at disability.

Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir waves to supporters during a rally against the International Criminal Court after arriving from Ethiopia, at Khartoum Airport in Sudan, July 30, 2016. /REUTERS

South Africa is withdrawing from the Rome Statute which established the International Criminal Court (ICC). The Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, signed the Instrument of Withdrawal on 19 October, following a cabinet decision.

It is a sad day for South Africa. It is a sad day for Africa. Why did it come to this?

The minister states that the reason for the withdrawal is that:

[South Africa] has found that its obligations with respect to the peaceful resolution of conflicts at times are incompatible with the interpretation given by the International Criminal Court.

Monday 17 October was the first working day for Advocate Busisiwe Mkhwebane, our new Public Protector. President Zuma formally appointed her to the position; she is set to serve her seven-year term. (This is the second Public Protector President Zuma has appointed; he also appointed Thuli Madonsela in 2009.) Parliament overwhelmingly supported her; and civil society organisations such as Corruption Watch endorsed her

If some concerned South Africans still view Busisiwe Mkhwebane’s appointment with some apprehension, it would be up to her to set suspicious minds at ease. Her actions would confound her critics. Regrettably, there indeed seems to be some cause for caution.

As the spotlight falls on the adoption of South Africa’s landmark Constitution, 20 years ago this year, one of its striking features -- the inclusion of the first-ever constitutional guarantee of non-discrimination based on sexual orientation -- is also under global scrutiny.

The scene is set at the current session of the United Nations (UN) Human Rights Council, taking place in Geneva, Switzerland, until Friday 1 July. The Human Rights Council is the UN’s primary human rights body, tasked with advancing and overseeing the protection and promotion of human rights in UN Member States. South Africa is currently represented in the 47-member Council.

Celebrating Youth Day, introduced in the post-apartheid era, always has a historical dimension, but this is even pronounced this year, which marks a landmark 40 years since those fateful events of 16 June 1976. 

We are reminded that 16 June 1976 was a turning point in at least three important ways.

Before thousands of school children took to the streets of Soweto to protest the imposition of Afrikaans as language of instruction for three subjects (geography, mathematic and history), it was still possible to sell apartheid as benevolent paternalism. After the blatant authoritarianism of imposing an extremely onerous policy without consultation or any effort at articulating reasonable grounds as justification, the benevolence-defence was no longer legitimately open to apologists of apartheid. The scales fell of the eyes of many, increasingly also white South Africans.