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Human Rights Day memo: FHR fights violence against vulnerable groups

In spite of progressive laws, inequality and discrimination prevail and SA's marginalised groups remain vulnerable to attacks. FHR funds projects that seek to create awareness of rights and deal with gender-based violence.

In spite of progressive laws in South Africa, it is the lives of women, children, the elderly, the disabled, migrants and members of the LBGBTI community that remain circumscribed by inequality and discrimination. In response to such attacks the Foundation for Human Rights (FHR) has supported a range of programs from Eshowe in KwaZulu-Natal to Groot Brakrivier in Western Cape.  The FHR is aware of the continued need for the promotion and protection of the rights of the vulnerable groups which is its focus as the implementing partner of the Department of Justice and Constitutional Rights (DoJ&CD) in the Access to Justice and Promotion of Constitutional Rights Programme (AJPCR).

All of the estimated 400 programmes the FHR supports, target the vulnerable groups, focusing on addressing discrimination, through constitutional rights awareness programmes, enhanced access to justice and participatory democracy. All of these programmes have a component addressing gender-based violence.

In the wake of the brutal rape, mutilation and murder of Anene Booysen in Bredasdorp, Western Cape in February 2013, the FHR responded with a number of projects focusing on women’s rights and providing interventions on violence against women. Currently eight projects nationwide provide targeted interventions with additional projects providing education and awareness on Women’s Rights through events.

In the Western Cape, Women’s Legal Centre Trust (WLCT) has made extensive enquiries into violent discriminatory activities against women, rooted in cultural and religious views. The FHR supported enquiries into various community practices such as Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), Ukuthwala and breast-ironing. The organisation has facilitated dialogues in communities to encourage women to voice their experiences.  

The FHR supported research that led to litigation instituted by WLCT. A 32-year old man was charged with rape and trafficking of a teenage girl in the Eastern Cape in the Wynberg Regional Court; the first ruling of its kind on Ukuthwala. The FHR has supported programmes through POWA (People Opposing Women Abuse) and Tshwaranang Legal Advocacy Centre, including a national talk show and broadcast public service announcements addressing rape and domestic violence. Posters creating awareness of this campaign were distributed to 93 advice offices supported by the FHR as well as to institutions in local communities, including information on helplines, including steps to take in case of violent attack.

The FHR has put out a specific call for 16 days of Activism for Violence against Women and Children and have supported civil society organisations in activities addressing gender-based violence. The FHR is currently supporting a project run by Women on Farms, training activists to tackle violence at a community level, including education about the domestic violence act.

A programme through the Johannesburg Society for the Blind has addressed violent attacks on disabled women and the migrant community and the FHR has trained the South African Gender Commission on gender-based violence issues and sexual offences and increased the capacity of educators to deal with the problem in their communities.

 In addition, the FHR supports the work of the National Task Team on LGBTI issues and which aims to create ongoing awareness and organizing civil society to respond to violent attacks against the LGBTI community in particular black lesbians and transgender men and to develop capacity to do so.

Among specific events supported are Gay Pride in Gauteng Limpopo and projects that have increased rights awareness and confidence among this community as well as research on homophobia in schools.

The FHR has supported programmes addressing violence against children through workshops directed at men and women on parenting, workshops and events for children, taking human rights education to schools in under-resourced communities as far as the Northern Cape.

The Johannesburg-based Khulisa Social Services works countrywide in the areas of crime prevention and restorative justice with schools, the Department of Education in the Western Cape and the SAPS. More recently the organisation has instituted a programme targeting youth offenders aimed at preventing re-offending while also addressing aspects of children’s rights that primarily relate to children. The work is ongoing.