Statements and Speeches
Statement by H.E. Deputy Ambassador M. Mminele, Deputy Permanent Representative of the Republic of South Africa to the United Nations, at the Third Committee Meeting on the Advancement of WomenNew York, 11 October 2016
I wish to extend South Africa’s congratulations to Ambassador Maria Emma Meija, Permanent Representative of Colombia on her election as Chair of the Third Committee for the 71st Session of the General Assembly and would like to assure her of my delegation’s full cooperation and support as she guide the work of the Third Committee to a successful conclusion.
South Africa fully aligns itself with the statements delivered on behalf of the Group of 77 and China, the Africa Group, and the Southern African Development Community.
This year marks the anniversaries of a number of historic and landmark events and instruments which are aimed at the advancement of Women. The Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), celebrates 36 years since its adoption, commonly known as the international bill of rights for women whilst the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action celebrates its 21st anniversary.
For the second consecutive year the African Union has declared issues of Women Empowerment and Gender Equality as a priority and focus area for the African Continent, recognizing 2016 as “the Africa Year of Human Rights, in particular, with focus on the Rights of Women”. This displays the commitment, priority and utmost prominence that the African Continent places on the Rights of Women, Women Empowerment and Gender Equality.
The year 2016 further marks the 60th anniversary of the watershed moment in the history of our county, when 20 000 women from all walks of life assembled on the lawns of the Union Buildings in Pretoria, united in protest against the extension of the pass laws in apartheid South Africa. This protest demonstrated the significant role of women in the struggle for the liberation of the oppressed in South Africa.
South Africa’s struggle against apartheid was about the construction of a non-racial and non-sexist democratic society, in which all people have equal rights. Women have been historically disadvantaged and discriminated against, falling victims of patriarchal attitudes of the South African society, where men traditionally dominated the political and economic space.
Gender equality is therefore a founding principle and core right entrenched in the South African Constitution. Section 9 of the Constitution protects the rights of all persons to equal protection and benefit of the law, and to freedom from unfair discrimination on the basis of race, gender, sexual orientation, and marital status.
We recognize that significant progress has been achieved in the advancement of gender equality and the empowerment of women, however, more remains to be done. We are cognizant of the many challenges that continue to affect and impact negatively on women and girls, such as violence, abuse, discrimination, lack of opportunities as well as those that are socioeconomic in nature. All of us need to accelerate our actions at all levels to address these challenges, involving both men and boys in the process.
For her part, South Africa has ratified, without reservations, several international and regional instruments in its efforts to ensure that it is bound by international human rights law in the area of the promotion and protection of the rights of women. These include the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) on 15 December 1995 and the Optional Protocol to the Convention on 18 October 2005.
In March 2016, our country presented its 5th Periodic Report on the implementation of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) to the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women. The report focused on the progress made in advancing womens empowerment and gender equality, as well as challenges that still remain despite our non-sexist and anti-discriminatory legislative and regulatory framework.
In terms of the progress made in the Advancement of Women, the report addressed our approach to develop a Gender Responsive Budgeting framework; which seeks to ensure that there is financing for women empowerment at all levels of government. In addition, we have laws that speak to Gender: The Criminal Law Amendment Act – 2007, which deals with Sexual Offences and Related Matters. It seeks to protect women and children by criminalizing a wide range of Acts of Sexual Abuse and Exploitation; The Domestic Violence Act – 1998 seeks to afford the victims of Domestic Violence maximum protection from Domestic Abuse and the Prevention and Combating of Trafficking in Persons Act – 2013 seeks to Protect Women and Children from human trafficking. National government is also working on including a parity principle in the Promotion of Equality and Unfair Discrimination Act.
South Africa’s growing commitment to achieving the 50/50 gender parity representation is evident in the composition of her National Government, of 42% women representation. Furthermore, women Ministers comprise 43% of the Cabinet, women Deputy Ministers make up 46% of the total number of Deputy Ministers and there is a 41% total representation of women in the National Assembly. In fact women make up almost 40% of the Senior Management Service in the public service and overall women comprise more than 50% of employees in the public service. The representation of women Chairpersons of Committees in Parliament is at 52%, ranking South Africa third in the world in terms of representation of women in Parliament.
We continue to support the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. This Agenda resonates well with South Africa’s own National Development Plan (NDP), which urges everyone, including government, civil society and all our people to support a people-centred development agenda to ensure true empowerment and advancement of all women and girls in our societies. In this context, we encourage all member states to speedily implement the Agenda in their respective countries.
In conclusion, my delegation looks forward to working with you Madam Chairperson and other Member States to ensure a successful outcome to this year’s Third Committee deliberations.
Finally, South Africa reaffirms its commitment to continuing doing its part to promote and provide further impetus to the advancement of women
I thank you.