The MenEngage Africa Policy report Series is a set of policy advocacy tools to assist MenEngage partners in highlighting the need for male engagement to be prioritised at a policy level. The policy reports assess the extent to which national policies contain language that promotes the proactive engagement of men and boys for achieving gender equality, within the areas of HIV and Aids, gender-based violence, sexual and reproductive health and rights, parenting and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) rights. The policy report for South Africa is the latest report in this series to be published.
The report is a product of a broad policy scan covering the areas of HIV and AIDS and gender-based violence prevention, sexual and reproductive health promotion, parenting and LGBTI rights. Overall, it was found that South Africa’s policies and laws are quite strong in terms of their recognition of the need to engage with men on the above-mentioned issues, as compared with the policies of the 12 other African countries included in the project.
The report found that South Africa’s sexual and reproductive health (SRH) policies left much room for improvement in terms of engaging with men. Policies did not adequately address men’s needs as clients of SRH services or men’s potential to support their partners’ SRH. However, subsequent to the completion of the report’s research, the South African Department of Health released new national contraception guidelines that focus on the need to engage with men much more strongly. The guidelines mention specific delivery routes and methods to improve access and services for LGBTIs, men, sex workers, migrants, adolescents and disabled persons. Strategies specifically aimed at engaging men suggest integrating SRH services into correctional facilities, the police forces and youth and defence forces. The guidelines highlight the need for clinics to be made more male friendly and outreach programmes to be developed to encourage men to seek SRH services. The policy also recognises the importance of engaging men for HIV and STI prevention and being actively involved in their partner’s decisions to plan or prevent pregnancies. This progress is very encouraging and will also require a lot of commitment and effort to ensure that such aims are realised.
It also emerged that there are a number of positive aspects in terms of engaging men within South Africa’s parenting laws and policies, particularly with regards to engaging prisoners and unmarried fathers. The Basic Conditions of Employment Act however only grants a male employee three days of annual paid family responsibility leave to use when, for example, his child is born or becomes sick. With increased focus on the need to engage men in responsible and caring fathering, along with gender norms transformation work, Sonke has been working on laying the groundwork for the introduction of paternity leave.
South Africa’s policies relating to LGBTI people can be used as a best practice example and are extremely progressive when compared with the majority of other Africa countries, where homosexuality is still often criminalised. However, much still remains to be done to address homophobia on the ground and the Promotion of Equality and Prevention of Unfair Discrimination Act does not criminalise and regulate hate crimes in the ambit of criminal law. Hate crimes such as rape, assault, murder etc. perpetrated against LGBTI persons because of their actual or perceived sexual orientation and/or gender identity are tried as ordinary criminal offences under which the elements of hate or the motive of hatred are not compulsory to bring to the attention of the courts. As the criminalisation of hate crimes against LGBTI persons could prove essential in addressing the increased reported perpetration of rape against LGBTI persons various CSOs and groups continue to push for hate crimes to be prosecuted as such.
In addition to assessing the extent to which policies and laws in South Africa contain language relating to the proactive and progressive engagement of men and boys across the above-mentioned areas, the policy report also provides recommendations for how such policies can improve the way in which they include men and boys, account for their needs, enable them to support their partners, children and peers and facilitate their role as advocates for change, and includes examples of recommended policy language.
The study did not evaluate however, whether policies have been, or are being, implemented. While this is an extremely important issue, it was beyond the scope of this project. The report acknowledges that the existence of a law or a policy most certainly does not automatically guarantee that the provisions in it will be implemented. As we are aware that various challenges exist in terms of the implementation of South Africa’s progressive policies and laws, the policy report is a tool to inform policy advocacy work. The scan was carried out to address the need for a shared policy agenda on engaging men. This is a central tenet in scaling-up the work of MenEngage and achieving significant changes in gender norms.