From Gender Apartheid to Non-Sexism: The Pursuit of Women's Rights in South Africa
New York Law School
North Carolina Journal of International Law and Commercial Regulation, Vol. 26, 2001
This article discusses the quest for women's rights in South Africa and how the transition from apartheid to democracy led to a commitment to gender equality as incorporated in South Africa's transitional and final Constitutions. This paper refers to the organizational attempts by women prior to and during the constitutional drafting process to ensure that the new Constitution embodied the aspirations and reflected the struggles for women's rights by women activists in South Africa. This article is divided into six sections. Section Two describes the legacy of apartheid for all women in South Africa. This section shows how the laws and policies of apartheid were comprehensive, not only in enforcing rigid racial segregation, but also in racializing gender. Section Three focuses on the Constitution and outlines the myriad of ways this document details comprehensive rights for women both in the public and the private spheres. This section demonstrates how the South African Constitution, in particular its section on equality, has been described as one of the most impressive human rights documents of the twentieth century. Specifically, the Constitution details rights expansively and comprehensively, while its inclusion of sweeping rights for women satisfies South Africa's international legal obligations. Section Four of this article focuses on two cases regarding women's rights decided by the Constitutional Court, arguing that South Africa's evolving constitutional jurisprudence demonstrates a deep commitment by the highest courts to eradicate odious discrimination against women. Section Five analyzes the lobbying efforts of women's organizations during the transitional period to ensure that women's rights were incorporated into the new Constitution. In addition, this section analyzes how these lobbying efforts resulted in significant formal gains as reflected in the Constitution. This article concludes by assessing some of the remaining obstacles to attaining women's equality despite the significant advancements made thus far.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 23
Keywords: Women's Rights, Human Rights, Constitutional Law
JEL Classification: K10
Date posted: August 13, 2007
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