Gender equality Act on the cards

September 1st, 2012

By Nomfundo Manyathi

The Minister of Women, Children and People with Disabilities, Lulu Xingwana, recently announced that the Women Empowerment and Gender Equality Bill would be tabled before cabinet during the 2012/13 financial year.

Minister Xingwana was speaking at a media briefing in Pretoria on 6 August. She said that the Bill, once law, would assist in enforcing compliance with gender equality in both the public and private sector. She said that South Africa had made commitments through the Constitution, various pieces of legislation and international conventions to respect, promote, protect and advance the rights of women, and that her ministry had a duty to honour these commitments.

The Bill would also strengthen provisions in the Promotion of Equality and Prevention of Unfair Discrimination Act 4 of 2000 by providing clear and unequivocal prohibitions on discrimination based on gender, the Minister said.

According to the green paper ‘Towards a gender equality Bill’, the Bill is expected to –

  • regulate the obligations of the state and related agencies to change the conditions and circumstances hindering the promotion of gender equality;
  • identify appropriate penalties for non-compliance;
  • address African customary practices perceived to be discriminatory, such as the abduction of young girls into forced marriages (ukuthwala); and
  • prohibit the use of primogeniture as a customary principle underpinning succession and inheritance along the male line.

Minister Xingwana said that according to the Businesswomen’s Association (BWA) ‘BWA South African women in leadership census 2011’ (, accessed 8-8-2012), women were in the minority among their male counterparts in leadership positions. She said that the survey revealed that women held –

  • 4,4% of chief executive or managing director positions;
  • 5,3% of chairperson positions; and
  • 15,8% of directorships.

Minister Xingwana said that those who were committed to building a society based on equality were concerned about the ‘continued exclusion of women and the slow pace at which they were being incorporated into the corporate space at senior level’. She added that it was clear that the empowerment of women could not be left to market forces. She said that, through the Bill, her ministry would respond to the calls made by South African women who are discriminated against on the basis of their gender.

Minister Xingwana said that her department was encouraged by the ‘almost universal opposition’ to the Traditional Courts Bill (B1 of 2012), adding that: ‘As a result of the relentless and unequivocal position adopted by women, this Bill will not see the light of day.’ She said that the Bill, in its current form, would not stand the ‘constitutional test’ and citizens of South Africa should guard against attempts to reverse progress made in terms of women empowerment and gender equality.

Minister Xingwana also announced that government would launch the National Council Against Gender-Based Violence during Women’s Month (on 25 August), adding that the council – which is chaired by Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe – will, among others, facilitate assisting victims of gender-based violence.

Nomfundo Manyathi,

This article was first published in De Rebus in 2012 (Sept) DR 9.

De Rebus