How important are women’s rights to you when you vote? How about seeing women in power, in key roles in politics? If these questions have crossed your mind, here are some things to consider before voting on Wednesday.
Gender Struggles are National Struggles
Many South Africans don’t have confidence in the government, some still don’t know who to vote for. And with all the tricks and campaigns competing for our attention, it’s easy to feel like you’re being manipulated and losing hope in the electoral process completely.
But the right to vote shouldn’t be taken for granted, it was fought for. It’s a right that was previously denied to women and people of colour. Women (particularly, women of colour) remain a marginalised group.
Here are some of the issues: Gender-based violence, the gender pay gap, discrimination against the LGBTQIA+ community, sex worker rights. These are all national struggles and should be treated as such.
Sexual abuse, as we’ve seen in the #MeToo movement, goes right to the top. It’s often powerful men who get away with sexual violence and are not held accountable.
It’s Not Just About Numbers
True representation is about more than the number of women in government or in a political party, as Eleanor du Plooy argues. Women’s representation goes deeper than that. She argues that we need more than ‘window dressing’ for power relations to shift. Women need to take up space in a significant way:
“A participatory democracy that focuses on the deliberate and meaningful inclusion of women’s experiences, interests and perspectives toward enriching government,” – News24.
Numbers are important, but it’s not the only factor. To change the way women are treated in South Africa, representation needs to actively include intersectional voices and lived experiences. It needs the perspectives of women from diverse classes, backgrounds and cultures. And these voices need to have real sway in shaping policy. This is what makes something truly representative.
What Have The Big Three Parties Done?
What good has been done regarding women’s rights?
The ANC made abortion legal in South Africa. President Ramaphosa has spoken about decriminalizing sex work (although it hasn’t yet happened). He has also announced that sanitary pads are now VAT-free. A big win, although ideally sanitary products should still be made more accessible.
The DA has run programmes delivering menstrual cups and towels to girls in rural communities. They are also for the decriminalisation of sex work.
The EFF are vocal on the protection of vulnerable groups (women, children, people with disabilities and the LGBTQI+ community). They are also for the decriminalisation of sex work.
What Are the Newer Parties Promising?
The Good Party is led by Aunty Pat (Patricia de Lille), there’s women representation in that alone, but what do they plan on changing? The party mentions tackling spatial apartheid, housing and healthcare among other issues.
The Capitalist Party of South Africa (aka the Purple Cow Party) wants to get rid of minimum wage and BEE, and ’empower’ women by giving them guns and promoting gun ownership.
The African Transformation Movement wants to bring back the death penalty. As a party that grew out of a conservative church structure, many of its members are anti-abortion and against gay rights.
So which parties are taking women’s rights and gender struggles seriously? It’s hard to say for sure when promises and platitudes are the order of the day. Whatever you decide, make your voice heard and place your vote.
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