Newsletter 12/12

Arthur Chaskalson, former Chief Justice of South Africa (1931-2012)

Arthur Chaskalson, one of the greatest jurists of the last fifty years, passed away on 1 December 2012.
He leaves behind an international reputation.
He possessed a vast legal culture coupled with a highly effective commitment to fundamental rights. 
As a lawyer in Johannesburg, he was a member of Nelson Mandela's defence team during the Rivonia trial in the early 1960s.
In 1979, he set up the Legal Resources Centre, which continues to aid those deprived of their economic and social rights.
He was involved in the negotiations on the new constitution and in 1994 was appointed President of the newly created Constitutional Court, a post that he held until his retirement in 2005.
He made a high-profile visit to France in 1998.
On 12 June 1998, in Marseilles, he both opened and chaired a conference organised by the French Committee for South Africa.
In the course of his visit, he introduced the French public to the protective mechanisms introduced by the new constitution, which must remain an example to others and be preserved in full.

The French Committee for South Africa's work with the United Nations:

I – On the elimination and prevention of all forms of violence against women
Extracts from the document drawn up by the French South Africa Committee for the 57th session of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women.

Violence against women and girls is a scourge that transcends countries, ethnicities, cultures, social classes and age groups. The statistics give cause for concern. Depending on the country, between 15% and 71% of women have been victims of violence over the course of their life. No woman, no girl in the world is free from the risk of violence by virtue of her gender. 
The French South Africa Committee is keen to make its contribution by offering concrete proposals:

1. Reinforce awareness and prevention campaigns
- set up awareness campaigns for men, who are often unaware of the gravity of their acts
NGO EngenderHealth has set up Men as Partners (MAP) programme that runs workshops for men in locations such as the workplace, trade union halls, prisons and religious institutions.
A majority of the men attending these meetings reject violence against women. Adolescents are more inclined to change their views than older men.
- Remove the violent spouse in order to protect the wife and children.
South Africa could take inspiration from a pilot scheme in France, whereby women whose violent spouse has been removed from the home for their protection are given an "emergency telephone number" connecting directly to an emergency service. Thanks to caller ID, the service is immediately aware of the caller's situation and thus able to alert police services without delay.
Also in France, a recently enacted decree entitles any woman in danger to instant protective measures, independent of or prior to reporting a complaint. This emergency measure also makes provision for organising key aspects of the victim's everyday life, such as obtaining housing or child custody.
- Help victims not to perpetuate the violence they suffered
In a paper presented on 21 September 2010 to the World Conference on Injury Protection and Safety Promotion, the World Health Organization stressed for the first time that exposure to violence as a child was one of the main risk factors in becoming a victim or a perpetrator of domestic and sexual violence in later life. 42% of those who had seen their mother violently abused admitted to using physical violence against a partner in the past 10 years and 9% admitted to violent behaviour in the past twelve months.
Yet treatments exist for such traumas, and are effective. Specialist care needs to be developed. Those convicted of violence should be also ordered to undergo treatment.
- Prevent risks of HIV/AIDS transmission
In addition to direct transmission, women subject to sexual abuse in childhood are statistically much more likely, on reaching their teen or adult years, to follow higher-risk patterns of sexual behaviour, further increasing their risk of HIV infection. 
More action is therefore needed along the lines of the work done by NGO Nisaa, which runs shelters and HIV/AIDS awareness, prevention and treatment campaigns for both mothers and children.
 - Communicate to disabled women
In neighbouring Namibia, the International Planned Parenthood Federation, with the aid of a grant from the UN Trust Fund to End Violence Against Women, has set up an awareness programme targeting women and girls living with disabilities. As a result of the programme, disabled women have gained greater access to protection services.
Specific tools (such as awareness brochures written in Braille, for example) for women living with disabilities need to be developed.

 2. Improve victim care
- Make it easier to report violence by setting up a single free helpline
Many NGOs and government services run victim helplines. A single, free nationwide helpline, however, that was widely publicised via media advertising campaigns, would enjoy a much higher profile and would be easily available to victims. Counsellors would be specially trained to listen to victims' stories and advise them where to turn for help.
 - Train police officers in dealing with victim complaints 
Special emphasis should be placed on the concept of spousal rape, often considered as no more than a domestic dispute.  Indeed, domestic violence is all too often seen by the police as an offence of a purely private nature.  It is not taken seriously enough, the gravity of the offence is underestimated and the gathering of evidence is rarely satisfactory. 
The aim would be for at least one police officer – preferably a woman – in each police station to receive specialist training in this area and then be designated to handle cases of this kind.
- Increase the number of shelters for women victims of violence and their children
South Africa has increased the number of emergency shelter places available for battered women. Even so, provision is still inadequate and the shelters are for the most part located in towns or cities, leaving rural women in a vacuum. The United Nations objective of one shelter place for every 7,500 inhabitants should be reached at the earliest possible opportunity, and efforts must be made to set up shelters in rural areas.

3. - Guarantee the effectiveness of victims' rights
Great progress has been made in terms of laws and policies to combat violence against women.  No fewer than 125 of the 193 UN member states have now outlawed spousal violence. As of 2007, with the passing of the Criminal Sexual Offences Act, South Africa now has one of the most extensive legal arsenals in place to combat this scourge.  
Progress now needs to be made in the application of such laws, however, all over the world.
According to the Council of Europe, conviction rates for rape are falling almost everywhere in Europe even as the number of rapes reported has increased.
In both South Africa and France, recent trials have left an impression that rape can be committed with impunity. Worse still, even today, many murderers of women are never brought to trial or are not found guilty. 
The justice system should punish those found guilty of such crimes with the full weight of the law, as a deterrent to others. Magistrates should receive special training to familiarise them with the laws applicable.

II – Combating poverty in remote rural regions
Document drawn up by the French Committee for South Africa for the February 2013 session of the Commission for Social Development of the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) of the United Nations.
The fight against poverty is set against a background of growing demographic imbalance between the major conurbations with their ever-expanding deprived areas, and rural areas that are increasingly falling victim to abandonment and depopulation.
These gigantic major urban centres, to be found on every continent, frequently contain a population of millions and pose enormous social, economic and environmental challenges, increasingly difficult to meet, as regards housing, education, access to healthcare, sanitation and clean drinking water.
It will be impossible to achieve sustainable development goals if this growth model based on the giant urban metropolis becomes the only choice.
Consideration must be given to ways of rehabilitating remote rural regions and so creating new opportunities for sustainable development across the whole of a country.
New balances must be sought through a range of actions including:
1- Introducing market regulation on the sale of arable land to preserve family or community agriculture, and continuing the fight against soil desertification.
2- Developing family agriculture by encouraging small and medium-sized farms, particularly though interest-free or subsidised-interest loans.
3- Introducing local training centres in modern agricultural techniques in all depopulated rural areas.
4- Assisting the small and medium-sized crafts and businesses that work with family farms to acquire the tools and goods they need to operate.
5- Reinforcing the network of local dispensaries and hospitals.
6- Creating cooperative groups, free associations of family farms, to support the sale of agricultural products at fair prices.
7- Developing cooperative banks, with farmers as partners, taking deposits and savings from and making loans to farmers.
8- Public investment in maintaining local transport networks.
9- The role of local NGOs, particularly in the fields of education, sports, the arts and culture.
Regular assessment of the impact of such measures would be required in order to restore, without delay, the essential balance between rural areas and major urban centres.


Talented dancers from Tanzania, Namibia, South Africa, Congo, Guinea, Ghana and Ethiopia with South African gumboots.
Pelouse de Reuilly (Paris), cirque Phénix until 13 January 2013 (01 40 55 50 55).