We celebrate those who work towards unity and mutual respect and those who continue to fight for the rights of others – quite often whilst still being denied their own respect and dignity.
The Constitution clearly sets the tone for the creation of a society in which women and female children are valued, respected and afforded every opportunity that any other person may enjoy. Section 1 of the Constitution proclaims human dignity, the achievement of equality and non-sexism as some of the founding vales of our constitutional democracy. Moreover, section 9 – apart from enshrining the right to equality before the law and equal protection by the law – prohibits discrimination, among others, on the grounds of gender. However, even though gender may, in principle, not be a discriminating factor thanks to the Constitution, we still have a long way to go to eliminate prejudice, stereotyping and gender discrimination in the minds of a staunch patriarchal society.
We may be preaching gender equality in language that is not offensive, but our practice surely does not yet make perfect. As such, tradition, culture and personal beliefs across cultural groups continue to perpetuate sexism, gender discrimination and sexual violence. Women continue to be abased, battered and violated by men – ironically, quite often by those men who have pledged to love, hold and protect them until death them do part. Women continue to draw the short straw when it comes to representation in corporate boardrooms, senior management positions, various professions and, of course, various religious denominations.
Gender discrimination and violence against women can never be negated by the Constitution and laws alone. For that to happen, we require a society that values women as equals, that respects their dignity as equals and, more importantly, that acts accordingly.
By Adv Johan Kruger, Director: Centre for Constitutional Rights