Unfortunately, there are a few serious gaps in South African law that are still screwing women over. We are still far from gender equality. Here are some of the ways in which the law is failing us. Fortunately, there are also a number of laws that really empower us. We’ve broken them down:
1. Sex work is still criminalised
South Africa has some rather outdated laws when it comes to sex work and sex worker rights. As a result, many sex workers are raped and murdered by the police, and by their clients. With femicide constantly in our headlines, sex workers are, particularly at risk. And being marginalised by the law doesn’t help.
The president promised to review the outdated laws and policies that still criminalise sex work in SA when he signed a declaration on gender-based violence. He’s assured us at a gender summit last year that he will look at decriminalisation. But it hasn’t happened yet. We’re still waiting.
2. Sanitary pads are not free or accessible
Sanitary product tax is no longer a thing, and that is awesome (although it should be the norm). But it’s not enough. Even though these products are now VAT-free, they remain very expensive and unaffordable for many.
It’s a sad reality that many South African girls skip school when they get their period because pads are too costly. This causes a higher drop-out rate. Sanitary products are also inaccessible in certain areas, resulting in some girls missing up to a quarter of their school year. Dropping the VAT doesn’t fix the problem of accessibility, but it is a start.
3. The gender pay gap still exists and equal pay is not enforced
Some of the worst industries in terms of the pay gap are healthcare, media, tech and finance. But how are we doing compared to the rest of the world? South Africa ranks 19th in the world for gender inequality.
Policies like the Employment Equity Act are there to protect women (and others) against discrimination. But IOL reports that this Act lacks bite in stopping discrimination against women in the workplace. The numbers reflect this. Men earn around 28% more than women.
It’s totally possible to make the pay gap illegal and enforce it. It’s been done. Iceland made the gender pay gap illegal and the legislation enforces this law by fining companies that perpetuate gender inequality. Can we do this too, please? Thanks.
But on the upside, these laws work in our favour:
It’s not all bad. We have some progressive laws too – and not all countries enjoy these. Here are a few SA laws that empower women:
- Abortion is legal in South Africa. It’s your legal right to choose what to do with your body.
- Leaking nudes is now a crime and you can be thrown in jail for sharing private pics or sex tapes without consent. The new revenge porn laws make it that much harder for bitter exes to violate your privacy.
- President Ramaphosa is making moves towards fighting gender-based violence. He is amending the sexual offenses act so that names will be included in a national sex offender register.
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