Statement by the Secretary General During Stakeholder Consultations for the GBV Model Law – Religious and Traditional Leaders on 23rd September 2021 Featured
Director of Ceremonies; Mr Sheuneni Kurasha Thank you;
Her Royal Highness Princess Mihanta Ramanantsoa, Madagascar;
Professor Ezra Chitando, World Council of Churches, Southern Africa;
Distinguished religious and traditional leaders; Members of Senate and House of Chiefs
Ms Eva Jhala- Esteemed Legal Drafter; TWG Members here represented; Members of the Media;
Staff of SADC PF and National Parliaments;
It is a unique honour for me to welcome you all, on behalf of the SADC Parliamentary Forum, to this consultative meeting. I address you as a lay person in matters of theology and tradition, rather as an ordinary citizen of the region who is occupying the position of Secretary General. I consider it a rare privilege to address you my leaders and hope you will find it in your hearts to conciliate my views with yours should there be any discrepancy.
As you may be aware, this consultative meeting is being held in the margins of the development of the SADC Model Law on GBV which necessitated wide consultations with the appropriate stakeholders. Needless to say that the consultations would have been incomplete without the august participation of traditional and regional leaders. Being mindful of the crucial importance of faith leaders in the GBV discourse, it was thus imperative to engage you on the road to progressive norms such that your valued input is comprehensively garnered at this stage.
I. Why is the engagement with faith and leaders important?
Distinguished religious and traditional leaders,
The Forum is aware that your input as religious and traditional leaders is necessary to strengthen the social fabric of the SADC region. The SADC-PF has always promoted broad consultations on gender equality and sexual and reproductive health rights whereby there is ample room for consultation with religious and traditional leaders, and this has been the norm /since the inception of the Forum.
The SADC Model Law on GBV brings international best practices on GBV legislation to the shore of the SADC region, and the Model Law is specifically destined and customised for the SADC context.
In this regard, we are aware that Parliamentarians need to work in close tandem with religious and traditional leaders to ease the adaptation of the legal provisions to the local context.
II. The adaptations required to ease acceptance
I believe you will concur with me to find that the legal provisions concerning GBV are mostly in harmony with religious and traditional values. Where there are discrepancies, we will be open to discuss about them, and we indeed require your immense wisdom and on-the-field experience to rationalise provisions in view of the finalisation of the SADC Model Law.
During the presentations today on the SADC GBV Model Law, you will find that the mainstay of the Model Law consists of an unflinching compliance with human rights that are generally accepted internationally in global instruments as well as in the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights.
To cite but a few, the GBV Model Law is premised on the human right to physical integrity, the human right to health, the human right to life, and the protection of the individual from torture and inhuman and degrading treatment. We are all born in the image of God. We are all God’s children and equal in his eyes and from whence the idea of human rights comes. It follows in my view therefore that an injury to one is an injury to all.
In a spirit of Ubuntu, the Forum is mindful that shared religious and traditional values constitute the foundations of the notions of Pan-Africanism and the friendship, unity and solidarity that exists between Member States of the SADC, as well as from Member States of the African Union.
Religious and traditional beliefs, irrespective of the faith or religion, all point towards peace, justice, and freedom of the individual from torture and inhuman and degrading treatment. All religions and traditions of the SADC region want people to be safe and to feel safe whether at home or in the workplace. Besides, it is only when people feel safe about themselves that they can calmly and peacefully pursue their human right to freedom of religion and conscience. At the same time, the SADC Model Law on GBV is gender neutral, that is in simple terms, it covers both acts made by men on women, and women on men. The Model Law would apply without discrimination based on sex, race, religion, gender, or political opinion.
This is why we firmly believe that the SADC Model Law on GBV would also speak to the values preached by African religious and traditional leaders and there would be no difficulty for the acceptance and assimilation of the Model Law at national level.
III. Requesting help to do away with GBV taboos
Distinguished religious and traditional leaders, On this note, I would like to appeal to your leadership skills within your respective communities and religious groupings, to encourage adults as well as the youth to do away with the taboos that contribute to the promotion of GBV. For instance, within a marriage, whether it is a civil or traditional marriage, a spouse may not report GBV due to the fear of being stigmatised by society. The answer to this predicament is certainly not to silence the aggrieved spouse who is suffering atrocities, but instead to ensure that when GBV reports are made, there is an adequate level of confidentiality that allows authorities to take action without the matter being widely gossiped about and putting to discomfort or shame the parties involved.
There are indeed competing interests here in trying to preserve the sacrosanct relationship of marriage and at the same time, eradicating GBV in modern contemporary Africa.
In this respect, the Forum does not have all the answers to the questions that may arise, simply because, to make things work and to eradicate GBV, everybody has to play their part at the appropriate time. It is indeed impossible to forecast every scenario that may occur in the GBV context although a robust framework can be put in place through the Model Law.
This is why the role of religious and traditional leaders are so important since you are the implementers of positive change in society. You are the ones who are on the forefront to eliminate stigmas and work with authorities to make sure that the law is respected and the safety of individuals are ensured. You are also the ones who make public speeches to large groups of followers and they trust you and your wisdom. You wear multiple hats as preachers, peace keepers and also educators.
Educating individuals on GBV is as important as the implementation of the law itself since without education about the law and what it protects, the status quo will remain forever in society.
IV. About the Model Law as a regional instrument
Distinguished religious and traditional leaders, Before I end, I would like to say a few words about the Model Law on GBV as a regional instrument that awaits domestication in Member States.
While the Model Law provides for a benchmark that can influence the drafting styles of SADC national Parliaments as well as the content of national laws, there will be a measure of contextualisation and further adaptation that will occur at the national level when the GBV law, or amendments to the law, are enacted in Parliaments.
This is to therefore request religious and traditional leaders here today to keep an eye on GBV legislative reform at national level and to contribute abundantly to local reforms that are in line with the GBV Model Law.
While your wise input is required today, your guidance and contributions would be further required in consultations made at national level at the appropriate time. When such legislative opportunities will arise, SRHR Researchers based at national level within Parliaments will be in touch with you for further streamlining and contextualisation to befit the domestic realm.
Having made the above remarks, I wish to thank you again for your attendance today, and I wish you all a pleasant session.
Ms B.Sekgoma, Secretary General,
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