PRESS STATEMENT | New LHR report looks beyond paper law, into lived experiences of migrant women

Date: 08/02/2021

Today Lawyers for Human Rights (LHR) released a new report on gender and migration. The report, titled “Paper Promises”, is a gender audit of the legal framework governing migration in South Africa – looking at the law through a gender lens, and assessing the extent to which migrant women enjoy the rights to which the law entitles them. The answer is, South Africa should be doing more.

Through its walk-in clinics, LHR sees thousands of refugees and asylum seekers needing legal assistance every year. The organisation has noted over time that many of the challenges faced by refugees, asylum seekers, and migrants in South Africa appear to have a disproportionate impact on women. This is confirmed in its latest report. Under eleven key themes, the lived realities of migrant women in South Africa are examined and compared with the promises contained in the legal framework, including the Constitution and South Africa’s extensive international law obligations. Based on a comprehensive literature analysis, combined with case studies based on the voices of its women clients, LHR makes strategic recommendations to the South African government and other institutions for improving migrant’s women’s access to basic human rights.

“It became clear very quickly that this report is just the beginning of what should be a much larger and more comprehensive endeavour. There is still a lot more to understand about the experiences of migrant women in South Africa, especially those of migrant women whose sexual orientation or gender identity does not conform to our patriarchal societal norms,” said Sanja Bornman, attorney at LHR.

Michael Clements, acting National Director at LHR, added, “This report marks an important step in addressing the need for more research into the impacts of migration law and policy on women migrants. We are hopeful that it prompts further conversation about, and analysis of, the experiences of this extraordinary group, and are grateful for the opportunity to participate in this dialogue.”

The report is dedicated to all migrant women in South Africa and was made possible by the generous support of the Canadian Fund for Local Initiatives, through the High Commission of Canada in South Africa.

Access the full report and download it here:

For more information, contact:

Sanja Bornman, attorney:

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