31 August 2012

South Africa: Traditional Courts Bill - Minister Favouring Traditional Leaders Above Women's Rights

Photo: So-and-So/IRIN
Girls dance to entertain guests.

press release

On 18 May 2012 it was reported that Justice Minister Jeff Radebe agreed that some aspects of the Traditional Courts Bill "may infringe on the rights of women and affect gender equality".

On 24 August it was further reported that the Justice Minister had informed Minister for Women, Children and People with Disabilities, Lulu Xingwana, that the Bill would be "withdrawn and overhauled". We noted with interest that Minister Radebe subsequently neither confirmed nor denied that he had said this. The same article referred to a document, reportedly compiled by the Justice Department, that refers to the "barrage of complaints" about the Bill, which are "genuine and insurmountable".

Yesterday, Minister Radebe told representatives at Women's Parliament that the Traditional Courts Bill will not be withdrawn.

He is quite correct that his Department cannot interfere with the Bill while it is in Parliament. Parliament can rewrite the Bill. However, in the wake of the fundamentally flawed nature of the Bill, we are of the view that the only option is to withdraw it and start from scratch.

Four provinces in the National Council of Provinces are opposing the Bill, which means that it will not be passed, so the Minister will have to table a new Bill if he wishes to re-introduce it. This is the ideal opportunity to show his genuine commitment to women's rights.

However, it is quite clear that the Minister is bowing to pressure from traditional leaders, who are trying to protect their vested interests and ensure that rural women in particular remain subjugated to a discriminatory culture of patriarchy.

Debbie Schafer, Shadow Deputy Minister of Justice and Constitutional Development

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