Today, 8 March 2021, marks International Women’s Day – a day to commemorate and celebrate the vital role women play the world over. In the global Parliamentary space, only 24% of women occupy parliamentary seats across the world.
The Legislature has two dedicated committees for women, namely the > Portfolio Committee on Women, Youth and Persons with Disability and the Joint Multi-Party Women’s Caucus, that focus on gender issues.
The Portfolio Committee on Women, Youth and Persons with Disability has an oversight function: it oversees the performance of the Department and the Commission on Gender Equality. Its core focus is the empowerment of women and other marginalised groups.
The Joint Multi-Party Women’s Caucus is more of an advisory body, and is a platform for women Parliamentarians to champion gender equality and women’s issues in and outside of Parliament, across party political lines.
Portfolio Committee of Women, Youth and Persons with Disability
This Committee was first established in 2009.
In its fifth term legacy report, the Committee highlighted that government programmes and initiatives for women are not adequately resourced and prioritised.
It was particularly concerned about the participation of women in the economy and the lack of an overarching plan to deal with Gender-Based Violence (GBV) in an integrated manner that involves government and civil society.
Another area of concern was the slow pace of progress with regards to gender mainstreaming and gender responsive budgeting.
Read the Committee’s legacy report here
The Joint Multi-Party Women’s Caucus (MPWC)
The MPWC was re-established at the start of the Fifth Parliament, in 2014.
While the Committee created awareness and made initial progress in some areas, it did not achieve all of its objectives and identified these focus areas in the 6th Parliament: -increasing the number of women represented in decision-making positions, including advocating for legislation on gender quotas -the provision of free sanitary products to indigent women and girls -lobbying for the decriminalisation of sex work -Women and health focussing on cancer and other sexual and reproductive health rights - Dealing with GBV and femicide
Read the Committee’s legacy report here.
Gender issues should not be tokenised on days of commemoration. Instead they should be visible throughout the year and not only on this month. Follow both structures to track their work and get involved.
Parliament, through the Portfolio Committee on Justice and Correctional Services, is currently processing three crucial Bills that will hopefully change the landscape in terms of how government departments, law enforcement and the courts deal with cases of violence against women and the vulnerable. The three Bills, namely the Domestic Violence Amendment Bill; the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences and Related Matters) Amendment Act Amendment Bill; and the Criminal and Related Matters Amendment Bill are currently under consideration by the aforesaid committee. Track the Bills here.
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