Women and Equality – What has changed?

What is equality? What does equality mean? Does equality exist in  society for women? The 9th of August 1956 was only the beginning for women’s rights in South Africa, when more than 20 000 women marched to the Union Building in protest against the extension of Pass Laws.

Sexism is a term commonly known to all women.  But what is done to ensure that women are treated equal and to be afforded the same and equal opportunities as their male counterparts? The short answer – quite a lot.

One body- created in Chapter 9 of the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, 108 of 1996, (hereinafter the “Constitution”) is the Commission for Gender Equality (hereinafter “CGE”).

The CGE was established in 1996 along with other Chapter 9 Organisations namely the Public Protector of South Africa and the South African Human Rights Commission (hereinafter “SAHRC”), the Auditor General and others.

The CGE deals with all matters relating to gender inequality and will receive referrals and complaints from the SAHRC, individuals, Companies, State Departments, Schools and institutions to name a few.

Chapter 2 of the Constitution contains the Bill of Rights and also provides for equality.  However, it is not only Chapter 2 which promotes equality. Chapter 9 of the Constitution sets out functions of different bodies to assist in promoting equality and to achieve gender equality.

The functions of the CGE functions are set out in Section 187.  However, the Constitution also has an equality clause namely, Section 9.  The guaranteed right to equality and the equal protection to all (not only women) it creates, should be understood against South Africa’s history of inequality, racism and sexism.

South Africa is committed to the eradication of inequality and unfair discrimination, by the enactment of the Constitution and the different Sections set out. This is also ensured and achieved when complaints are made about inequality as well as resolving such complaints.

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