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Social Development on denial of access to basic health care to migrant women and children


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Social Development on denial of access to basic health care to migrant women and children

Social Development on denial of access to basic health care to migrant women and children
Photo by Bloomberg

24th March 2023


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/ MEDIA STATEMENT / The content on this page is not written by, but is supplied by third parties. This content does not constitute news reporting by

On the second day of the Sexual and Reproductive Justice conference, currently underway at Diep in Die Burg, in Pretoria, delegates, representatives from academic institutions, and government officials learnt from Ms Mbali Banduka, a Legal Researcher at +Section27, that denial to basic health care has unfavourable effects for migrant women and children in South Africa.
In her presentation, Ms Banduka, stated that in terms of Section 27 of the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa: “Everyone has the right to have access to health care services, including, reproductive health care …”
Ms Banduka said, this means, all persons regardless of nationality, have a right to basic health care. According to Ms Banduka, migrant women faced great difficulty when attempting to get health services as they are charged a certain amount of money to access basic health care in South Africa, and this is contrary to the country’s constitutional provisions. This, she said, “also has long-term negative effects at a later stage.”    
Presenting on same topic, Ms Thandeka Chauke, who works as Stateless Project Head at the Lawyers for Human Rights, made a presentation on Sexual and Reproductive Health of Refugee and Asylum-Seeking Women in South Africa. In her presentation, Chauke said that many women who flee violence in the hope of finding safety and protection in South Africa instead find themselves vulnerable and at risk. 

Chauke quoted a 20-year-old Burundian woman who fled her home country to seek asylum in South Africa who said that: “When I ran away from home there was no safety, and when I came to South Africa there is no safety; it’s also happening here.”
She said the bureaucracy of government also made it harder for migrant women to quickly access official documents because they must travel to Pretoria. 


“It is also costly for migrant women, who are expected to travel from various provinces to renew their documents in Pretoria. What worsens the situation is that failure to renew the migrant or refugee documents, these women may be regarded as illegal migrants which could result in arrest and deportation,” said Chauke.

In some instances, Chauke said, female refugees and migrants leave from their countries of origin as victims of Gender-Based Violence (GBV). On arrival in South Africa, they are forced to open a legal file which makes their abusive partners, the principal signatories, and such does not help but rather perpetuates gender-based violence.  
“The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHRC) estimates that South Africa currently hosts just above 250 000 refugees and asylum seekers, and many more are probably undocumented,” said Chauke.
Asylum seeking and refugee women in South Africa face significant and specific challenges to their sexual and reproductive health. Addressing the determinants of vulnerability, such as lack of documentation, exposure to Sexual and Gender Based Violence (SGBV), poverty and lack of resources and taking into account cultural norms and beliefs, is necessary to improve Sexual and Reproductive Health (SRH) outcomes,” Chauke concluded.


Sharing his views on comparisons between migrants and non-migrants, Mr Sadson Harawa, a Wits University student, indicated data migration is not always easy to measure as data is scarce and not always available as people’s movement is frequent.  
In addition, Harawa, said that there is a need for a more participatory approach to policy-making that views internal migrants as political agents with legitimate knowledge, rather than passive recipients.
South Africa is a signatory to several international instruments, including, the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) and the African charter on the Rights of the Child. The South African constitution and the Children's Act makes provision for rights of both women and children.
Tomorrow, Friday, 23 March, marks the last day of the conference where topical issues from presentations and deliberations -  including key opportunities to expand Sexual and Reproductive Justice in South Africa.  The Deputy Minister of  Social Development, Mme Hendrietta Bogopane-Zulu, will close the SRJ conference.  


Issued by Department of Social Development


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