The Effectiveness of the Employment Equity Act and the Code of Good Practice in Reducing Sexual Harassment
CUNY School of Law
South Africa Journal of Human Rights, Vol. 17, p. 503, 2001
South Africa has recently taken a progressive stand on sexual harassment as one of only a few countries to prohibit sexual harassment directly through legislation. The Employment Equity Act, enacted in October, 1998, deals primarily with affirmative action, but is also groundbreaking in the area of sexual harassment. This legislation, with its accompanying Code for handling sexual harassment cases, can be considered an international model because of its comprehensive approach to and ambitious treatment of sexual harassment, specifically defining the type of conduct that is prohibited, and providing detailed procedures to address the problem and prevent its recurrence.
Although this new law is an important starting point for combating sexual harassment, political, social, and economic progress are not necessarily close behind. A variety of factors can facilitate or retard the effectiveness of anti-harassment objectives. The law's effect on social reform in South Africa, for example, might be questionable, given the endemic gender violence, the legacy of apartheid, the level of economic development, the political power of the trade union movement, and the extent of unemployment. Since the end of apartheid, South African women have made great gains in representation in government, law and society. Law, certainly an important mechanism for change, has been successfully used to remove the most blatant discrimination against women. But women are at a critical juncture. Gender equality is central to the continued development of democracy in South Africa, and many women have yet to feel the effect of the new laws. Because of lack of education and resources, a majority of women have not been able to take advantage of the new legislation, and because of cultural notions about women and institutionalized gender stereotypes, women's experiences and testimony have been largely discredited and devalued. All laws are enforced and interpreted by individuals - equality will not be a reality for most women until gender stereotypes no longer inform the thinking of the judiciary, prosecutors, police and the larger society.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 28
Keywords: Sexual harassment, South Africa, Employment Equity Act, Title VII, Gender Discrimination, Law and social change, Legal reform
JEL Classification: J71, K30, K31, K00Accepted Paper Series
Date posted: November 4, 2007
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