A Constitutional entity mandated with building a society free from all forms of gender oppression and inequality is within reach of South African women.
Victims of gender-based violence often suffer in silence. They may be unable to pay for legal assistance, too fearful of the consequences of reporting the crime, or uneducated about the government laws in place to protect them.
The Commission for Gender Equality (CGE) reaches thousands of these women, providing free legal advice and education about gender rights, through legal clinics held across the country.
“The legal clinics educate and inform communities on legislation related to equality and gender equality. They also provide legal advice or make legal aid available to underprivileged people who suffer any form of gender discrimination,” said the head of the CGE’s legal department Marissa van Niekerk.
CGE officers host or conduct the clinics at venues where access by members of the community is easy and convenient.
“Conducting outreach, advocacy and legal advice clinics is the primary way to provide access to justice for people who have experienced any form of gender-related discrimination,” Van Niekerk said.
In the 2017/18 financial year, 162 clinics were hosted across all nine provinces. The clinics also offer a safe space for victims to report gender-based violence and find the assistance they need. Through these clinics, a total of 174 files were opened relating to cases of gender discrimination. Van Niekerk says that the cases ranged from women being discriminated against due to pregnancy, to obtaining domestic violence orders that protect victims from their abusers.
In December 2017, the CGE held an outreach and legal clinic in a rural Limpopo village. A case of Ukuthwala (forceful marriage) had occurred in the area, and a 14-year-old girl was rescued from the clutches of her ‘husband’.
“Anyone is welcome at the clinics. I encourage people who want to attend to contact their provincial CGE offices to find out the dates and areas where the clinics are held. Victims of gender discrimination are also able to make an appointment for a consultation with a CGE officer.”
For more information on how you can access a Commission for Gender Equality clinic in your area call 011 403 7182.