Traditional Bill outcry
It will coninue in parliament despite the hundreds of women who attended the Women's Parliament held in Cape Town last week rejecting it and calling for its withdrawal from the legislature.
The Women's Parliament, an event attended by female parliamentarians, councillors and representatives of non-governmental organisations, among others, drafted a strongly worded document of draft resolutions with the final resolution stating that "for now, the Bill, as it stands, must be withdrawn".
But this resolution was overturned in the final version, in which the women merely stated that "through a parliamentary process, the Bill is amended to protect affected women, especially in rural communities".
Deputy Speaker Nomaindia Mfeketo admitted to the Mail & Guardian that "all women at that gathering were opposed to the Bill as it stands".
She said, however, that Parliament would continue with the current Bill because if it was not fixed, "it would merely prolong the suffering of women under the current traditional courts system".
"Remember, if you withdraw a Bill from Parliament, there are rules that say you can reintroduce that same Bill after a certain time," she said. "I think the view from the house (Women's Parliament) was that we have an opportunity now to have further consultation that will look at the real problem, more than a Bill that is merely regulation.
"That real problem is how these traditional courts are functioning, what their responsibility is and the impact they have on women. Withdrawing the Bill does not close down the traditional courts," said Mfeketo.
Minister of Justice and Constitutional Development Jeff Radebe told the gathering that he was not aware of any intention to withdraw the Bill from Parliament. "Doing so will not only interrupt the vibrant discourse occurring in Parliament that will shape the end product of this Bill, but will allow the department to redraft another Bill somewhere in a dark corner of its corridors, away from the public eye," he said.
Radebe's statement that the Bill would not be withdrawn has raised the ire of opposition parties and civil society organisations that are opposed to the Bill.
Earlier this year, Lulu Xingwana, the minister for women, children and people with disabilities, indicated that she wanted the Bill to be scrapped and the process started from scratch because it was discriminatory and oppressive to women.
ANC insiders say the processing of the Bill at the National Council of Provinces was "messed up", especially because of the mixed messages from various ministers.
On September 5, a meeting of the committee processing the Bill was postponed.
The meeting was intended to short-list the organisations that would be invited to make presentations at the public hearings scheduled to take place between September 10 and 12.
Committee secretary Gurshwyn Dixon said its chairperson, Tjheta Mofokeng, had asked for the postponement to "consult his party" [the ANC].