Pretoria: Women were more likely to have less access to basic services, to earn the lowest wages or not find employment or promotions and were likely to be less treated seriously when going to law enforcement agencies or the courts for redress.
This is what President Jacob Zuma said during a gathering of law makers at UN General Assembly underway in New York. He said these were some of the challenges South Africa had been working to reverse since the dawn of freedom in the country in 1994.
“We believe we have done well so far. Our country’s constitution promotes women’s rights as human rights, and also makes provision for a Commission on Gender Equality among other mechanisms,” Zuma said at high level event on women’s access to justice.
He said since gender equality was a national priority, all in society remained conscious of the need to mainstream gender transformation in their policies and programmes of government.
Politically, South Africa had performed well, he said, presently having 44% women representation in Parliament and 43% women in Cabinet.
At provincial level, five of the nine provincial premiers were women.
According to recent studies, South Africa had the fifth-highest proportion of women on its corporate boards after Norway, Sweden, Finland and the US.
However, Zuma said more needed to be done as women in South Africa still bore a disproportionate burden of multiple challenges of poverty, inequality and unemployment.
“To this end, we commit ourselves to pass into law by 2013 the Gender Equality Bill, in support of achieving 50/50 gender equality across government, public and private sectors, particularly at leadership and decision-making levels.”
The Bill will demand that entities and companies meet the 50/50 gender equality target through the institution of specific gender parity measures, subject to monitoring and review by the Ministry of Women, Children and Persons with Disabilities.
“I am conscious that as in other countries with large traditional and rural based constituencies, South African women still bear the brunt of financial dependency on husbands, fathers, partners and family members,” said Zuma.
South Africa was also stepping up the fight against gender-based violence and in particular sexual offences and domestic violence.
The Ministry of Justice will soon make an announcement on the establishment of a Special Sexual Offences Courts as an important tool to combat the unacceptable scourge of violence against women and girls.
Already there were transformative laws such as the Domestic Violence Act, Maintenance Act, Employment Equity Act, Child Justice Act, and Children’s Act which promote the rights of women and girls.