Parliament calls for increased women representation

Friday, August 9, 2019

Parliament’s Presiding Officers have joined the nation in saluting the women and girls for their resilience, courage and tenacity as the nation marks Women’s Day.

National Assembly Speaker Thandi Modise and National Council of Provinces Chairperson Amos Masondo said they remain inspired by the country’s women to fight injustice.

“We continue to be inspired by the unwavering and bold resolve by this country’s women and girl children towards the elimination of any form of injustice, to bring about a non-sexist, united, non-racial, prosperous and free South Africa. 

This year marks the 63th anniversary of the 1956 Women’s March against the pass laws, as well as 25 years of freedom and democracy in South Africa.

2019 also marks 65 years since the founding conference of the Federation of South African Women, which adopted the 1954 Women’s Charter.

The Charter, amongst other things, called for the enfranchisement of men and women of all races; for equal opportunities in employment; equal pay for equal work; equal rights in relation to property, marriage and children; and the removal of all laws and customs that denied women such equality.

Last year, Parliament hosted the Women’s Charter Review Conference as part of a national conversation to review the Women’s Charter through sustained dialogue and interactive discussions with women across the country.

“On Women’s Day, the nation must reflect deeply on progress achieved in 25 years of democracy, particularly in the areas of women’s empowerment, gender mainstreaming, equality and the abolition of any discriminatory practices and abuse against women,” said Parliament spokesperson Moloto Mothapo. 

But as the country marks this historically significant day, it unfortunately continues to be plagued by the scourge of gender-based violence.

Parliament said gender-based violence undermines the gains of the country’s hard-earned democracy and the sacrifices of gallant women activists, such as those who confronted the nerve centre of evil and brutality in 1956.

“South Africa can never claim to be free if children and women continue to die at the hands of men and boys, most of whom share close relationships with them. 

“All of us must serve as active citizens who, within our homes and communities, work daily to squeeze out of our society all the perpetrators of violence and discrimination,” said Mothapo.

Parliament urged men, boys, husbands and brothers to safeguard the country’s democracy and freedom against gender-based violence and discrimination. 

“We owe it to a better tomorrow and future generations to inculcate values of responsible citizenship and Ubuntu amongst boy children, in particular,” said Mothapo.

As the highest oversight and law-making body, Parliament committed to continue to use its powers enshrined in the Constitution to champion to course and rights of women.  

Through legislative interventions, Parliament said it will continue to protect women and girl children while holding the executive to account regarding the implementation of laws and policies promoting their interests.

Mothapo said that the battle against discrimination and harmful practices against women also requires women to fill key positions of power in all spheres of society.

“The continuing increase in women’s representation in Parliament enables greater sensitivity and vigour in the advancement of women’s issues through oversight, law-making and public engagement,” he said.

From 124 women Members of Parliament in the first democratic Parliament of 1994 to 1999, the number of women MPs has significantly increased to 201 women in the current parliamentary term.

Out of the 54 countries in Africa, the South African Parliament is ranked third in women’s representation after Rwanda and Namibia, while globally the Inter-Parliamentary Union places South Africa in 10th place out of 193 countries.

“Although there is still so much to be achieved, the gains in women’s representation in the national legislature over the years is a clear indication that Parliament takes women’s issues seriously,” said Mothapo. -