Last week we celebrated another International Women’s Day – how equal are women in South Africa?
Gender inequality remains a significant challenge in South Africa, with women facing various forms of discrimination and violation of their human rights. Despite constitutional protections and progressive laws aimed at promoting gender equality, women continue to experience unequal treatment in various spheres of life, including education, employment, healthcare, and politics.
One of the most pressing issues facing women in South Africa is gender-based violence. The country has one of the highest rates of gender-based violence in the world, with women and girls facing high levels of physical, sexual, and emotional abuse. The situation has been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, which has led to a surge in domestic violence cases. The latest figures show that more than half of the women murdered in South Africa, are victims of intimate partners. Four in 10 divorced or separated women reported physical violence, as has one in three women in the poorest households.
In addition to gender-based violence, women in South Africa also face unequal access to education and employment opportunities. Although there have been significant gains in gender parity in education, women are still underrepresented in certain fields such as science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). Similarly, women are often paid less than men for doing the same job, and they face barriers to career progression and leadership positions. According to UASA (United Association of South Africa), the average pay gap in South Africa remains between 23% and 35%, with the projected time to close this gap standing at roughly 135 years (so there’s still hope for me, if I’m able to make it to a ripe age of 160!).
Another area of concern is reproductive rights. Women in South Africa face numerous obstacles in accessing reproductive healthcare services, including limited access to contraception, sanitary products and safe abortion services. This has significant implications for women’s health and well-being, as well as their ability to make informed choices about their bodies and lives, evident in the high prevalence of late-adolescent pregnancies. Furthermore, while condoms are widely available, an alarming 7 million girls in South Africa do not have access to, or cannot afford to buy sanitary products.
To address these challenges, the South African government has implemented various policies and programs aimed at promoting gender equality and protecting women’s human rights. These include measures to address gender-based violence, such as the National Strategic Plan on Gender-Based Violence and Femicide, as well as initiatives to promote women’s economic empowerment, such as the Women’s Empowerment and Gender
Equality Bill. However, considering the fact that the GBV rates as well as pay gap has increased, the implementation and efficacy of such measures leaves much to be desired.
Gender inequality remains a significant challenge in South Africa, with women facing various forms of discrimination and violation of their human rights. While progress has been made, much more needs to be done to ensure that women’s rights are fully realized, and that women can live free from violence and discrimination.
If you or anyone you know has suffered from GBV, contact the gender-based violence command centre on 0800 428 428 or the STOP Gender violence Helpline on 0800 150 150 / *120*7867#.