(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.


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