Gender equity Bill passed amid criticism

Minister for Women Lulu Xingwana. (Gallo)

Minister for Women Lulu Xingwana. (Gallo)

The Women Empowerment and Gender Equality Bill was passed in the National Assembly, the department of women, children and people with disabilities said on Wednesday.

"The ... Bill calls for the progressive realisation of at least 50% representation of women in decision-making structures," said spokesperson Motalatale Modiba.

It also aims at improving access to education, training and skills development.

The Bill seeks to promote and protect women's reproductive health, and eliminate discrimination and harmful practices, including gender-based violence.

Minister for Women Lulu Xingwana welcomed the decision to adopt the Bill. "The women of South Africa have said to us that they cannot wait any longer to share in the fruits of our democracy," she said.

While significant strides had been made to empower women and promote gender equality, a disproportionate burden of the triple challenges of poverty, inequality and unemployment was still borne by women, said the minister.

"It is a precondition for meeting the challenge of reducing poverty, promoting sustainable development and building good governance."

The Bill has now been passed to the National Council of Provinces for further consultations and public hearings.

The Bill was adopted on Tuesday.

Nothing new
However, the Bill has faced criticism, with social and economic research​ associate Lisa Vetten previously saying it duplicates functions from other laws, and offers nothing new.

According to Vetten, the Bill duplicates the Commission on Gender Equality Act (1996), the Skills Development Act (1998), the Employment Equity Act (1998) and the Promotion of Equality and Prevention of Unfair Discrimination Act (2000).

Chapter five of the last-mentioned Act would render most of the Women Empowerment and Gender Equality Bill redundant – had it not been held in abeyance since 2003.

The Bill is also said to reiterate existing rights and protections to some women, while simultaneously neglecting the equality rights of other groups of women.​– Sapa, additional information from Lisa Vetten


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