Let’s go 50-50 on gender empowerment

2013-11-10 14:00

Lulu Xingwana’s department for women, children and people with disabilities seems to have radically reappraised its place in the world.

Its new Women Empowerment and Gender Equality Bill, which sets a 50% target for women’s representation in all decision-making structures, public or private, is a far cry from the original draft released last year.

Then, the draft bill was all about sanctions and enforcement, including fines and imprisonment for noncompliance?–?much like the new thinking around BBBEE and the war on fronting. Now the department is defining itself as a kind of universal gender guidance councillor.

There is no enforcement mechanism, only “dispute-resolution” mechanisms.

All told, the new bill is less naive and modest than its predecessor. Xingwana’s last draft attempted nothing less than to police patriarchy with directives and fines.

This bill reflects a more collaborative approach to enforcement.

It will likely require amendments to practically every act that touches on empowerment or transformation targets to insert the 50% quota for “progressive realisation”.

Ultimately, it does little to add to the spirit of the Employment Equity Act and may have serious practical implications.

The targets are higher, but in all other respects, it adds little value to the issue of gender equality in a country that has struggled to meet lower quotas than the ones proposed.

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