South Africa: Situation of single women, particularly those of Indian origin, who are also the head of their household, including information on access to housing, employment, and healthcare; treatment by society; protection and support services available, both from the government and civil society (2010-Feb. 2013) [ZAF104295.E]

Research Directorate, Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Ottawa

Information about single women, particularly those of Indian origin, was scarce among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate within the time constraints of this Response.

1. Situation of Women

The US International Religious Freedom Report for 2011 reports that, according to government estimates, there are about 1,275,000 ethnic Indian/Asians in South Africa (US 30 July 2012, 2). Sources report that the majority of the Indian population lives in KwaZulu Natal Province of South Africa (ibid.; Khabar June 2012; PHW 2012).

Sources report that the South African constitution prohibits discrimination on the grounds of gender (Human Rights Watch Jan.2013), race (Freedom House 2012; US 24 May 2012, 21), disability, ethnic or social origin, color, age, language (ibid.), sex (ibid.; Human Rights Watch Jan.2013), pregnancy (ibid.; US 24 May 2012, 21), marital status (ibid.; Human Rights Watch Jan.2013), sexual orientation (ibid.; US 24 May 2012, 21; Freedom House 2012) or culture (ibid.; US 24 May 2012, 21). Freedom House reports that equal rights for women are promoted by the Commission for Gender Equality (2012). According to the website of the Commission for Gender Equality, the commission promotes gender equality through educational programs and runs an information-and-resource centre to answer public enquiries about gender issues (South Africa n.d.a). A number of policies and plans have been developed to promote gender equality, such as the establishment of the Women's Empowerment and Gender Equality Branch within the Ministry for Women, Children and People with Disabilities (UN 5 Apr. 2011, para.6). According to the website of the Ministry of Women, Children and People with Disabilities, the Women Empowerment and Gender Equality Branch promotes gender equality and creates and oversees gender equality programs (South Africa n.d.b). Further information on these programs could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate.

However, sources indicate that women continue to face "discrimination" (ibid. 1 Aug. 2012; US 24 May 2012, 21, 24; Freedom House 2012). According to the website of the Ministry for Women, Children and People with Disabilities, a government official stated in 2012 that

[w]hile significant strides have been made to empower women and promote gender equality, women still bear a disproportionate burden of the triple challenges of poverty, inequality and unemployment. Women continue to be marginalized and discriminated against in terms of economic opportunities, the labour market as well as access to land, credit, and finance. In addition, a life of abuse, discrimination and violation of human rights remain the harsh reality for the majority of the women in our country. (South Africa 1 Aug. 2012)

Similarly, the US Department of State’s Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2011 states that women experience discrimination in the following areas: wages, extension of credit, and ownership of land (US 24 May 2012, 24). Freedom House reports that "women suffer de facto discrimination with regard to marriage (including forced marriage), divorce, inheritance, and property rights, particularly in rural areas" (Freedom House 2012). The report adds that women also experience wage discrimination and sexual harassment in the workplace (ibid.). Country Reports 2011 indicates that, according to the statistics of the Commission for Employment Equity, 63 percent of top managers in private companies were white men, 3 percent were black women and 1 percent "coloured" and Indian women (US 24 May 2012, 25). The Early Childhood Development Learning Community (ECDLC) in KwaZulu, which was created by sixteen early childhood development NGOs in South Africa in partnership with the Bernard van Leer Foundation (ECDLC n.d.), indicates that, according to a government report on living conditions of households in South Africa in 2008-2009, 43.8 percent of households in South Africa are female-headed (ibid. 10 Oct.2011). The report further notes that "female-headed households are poorer than their male counterparts" (ibid.). The survey was conducted between September 2008 and August 2009 and information was collected from 25,075 households across the country (South Africa 15 Sept. 2011, 2). Corroborating information on the statistics and further information on the situation of single women who are also the head of their household, could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate within the time constraints of this Response.

This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim for refugee protection. Please find below the list of sources consulted in researching this Information Request.

References

Early Childhood Development Learning Community (ECDLC). 10 October 2011. "Stats SA Publishes Living Conditions of Households in South Africa Report." <http://www.ecdlc.org.za/index.php/news/advocacy-news/171-stats-sa-publishes-living-conditions-of-households-in-south-africa-report.html> [Accessed 14 Feb. 2013]

_____. N.d. "About Us." <http://www.ecdlc.org.za/index.php/about/about-us.html> [Accessed 21 Feb. 2013]

Freedom House. 2012. "South Africa." Freedom in the World 2012. <http://www.freedomhouse.org/report/freedom-world/2012/south-africa> [Accessed 15 Feb. 2013]

Human Rights Watch. January 2013. "South Africa." World Report 2013: Events of 2012. <http://www.hrw.org/world-report/2013/country-chapters/south-africa> [Accessed 20 Feb. 2013]

Khabar. June 2012. Archana Shan. "People in Peril: Indians in South Africa." <http://www.khabar.com/magazine/cover-story/people_in_peril_indians_in_south_africa> [Accessed 14 Feb. 2013]

Political Handbook of the World 2012 (PHW). 2012. "South Africa." Edited by Tom Lansford. Washington, DC: CQ Press.<http://library.cqpress.com/phw/document.php?id=phw2012_SouthAfrica> [Accessed 19 Feb. 2013]

South Africa. 1 August 2012. Ministry for Women, Children and People with Disabilities. "Statement by Minister Lulu Xingwana at the Launch of Women’s Month." <http://www.dwcpd.gov.za/news/entry/statement_by_minister_lulu_ xingwana_at_the_launch_of_womens_month> [Accessed 20 Feb. 2013]

_____. Statistics South Africa. 15 September 2011. "Living Conditions of Households in SA 2008/2009." (P0310) <http://www.ecdlc.org.za/images/stories/downloads/ STATSA_LIVING_CONDITIONS_HOUSEHOLDS_SA_2008-2009_SEPT_%202011.pdf> [Accessed 20 Feb. 2013]

_____. N.d.a. Commission for Gender Equality. "Public Education and Information Department." <http://www.cge.org.za/index.php?option=com_content&view= article&id=72&Itemid=78> [Accessed 20 Feb. 2013]

_____. N.d.b. Ministry for Women, Children and People with Disabilities. "Women Empowerment and Gender Equality." <http://www.dwcpd.gov.za/women> [Accessed 20 Feb. 2013]

United Nations (UN). 5 April 2011. Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW). Concluding Observations of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women: South Africa. (CEDAW/C/ZAF/CO/4) <http://www.unhcr.org/refworld/docid/4eeb5fbe2.html> [Accessed 14 Feb. 2013]

United States. 30 July 2012. Department of State. "South Africa." International Religious Freedom Report for 2011. <http://www.state.gov/j/drl/rls/irf/religiousfreedom/index.htm?dlid=192759> [Accessed 14 Feb. 2013]

_____. 24 May 2012. Department of State. "South Africa." Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2011.<http://www.state.gov/j/drl/rls/hrrpt/ humanrightsreport/index.htm?dynamic_load_id=186244> [Accessed 14 Feb. 2013]

Additional Sources Consulted

Oral sources:Attempts to contact the following were unsuccessful: academics at Harvard University, University of KwaZulu Natal, University of Toronto, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg; Center for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation, South Africa; Commission for Gender Equality; Education Training Unit for Democracy and Development in Johannesburg; Global Organisation of People of Indian Origin; South African Human Rights Commission.

Internet sites, including:African Centre for Migration and Society, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg; African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights; All Africa; Amnesty International; British Broadcasting Corporation; Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation, South Africa; Community Agency for Social Enquiry; Confluence; Daily Maverick; Deccan Herald; Education Training Unit for Democracy and Development in Johannesburg; Europa World Year Book; Factiva; First Post; Frontier Centre for Public Policy; Gender Across Borders; Global Organisation of People of Indian Origin; International Crisis Group; International Federation for Human Rights; International Women's Rights Action Watch Asia Pacific; Kamla-Raj Enterprises; Minority Front; Minority Rights Group International; New Delhi Television; People Opposing Women Abuse; Say No to Violence; South Africa – Community Safety and Liaison of Province of Kwazulu-Natal, Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs of Province of Kwazulu-Natal, Department of Education of Province of Kwazulu-Natal, Department of Health of Province of Kwazulu-Natal, Human Rights Commission, Kwazulu-Natal Provincial Government, Parliament of South Africa, Public Protector South Africa, Public Service Commission, South Africa Government Online; South African History Online; South African Regional Poverty Network; United Kingdom Border Agency; United Nations – Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, Office on Drugs and Crime, Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Refworld, UN Development Programme, UN Women, World Health Organization; United States – US National Library of Medicine; University KwaZulu Natal.