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National Women’s Day and Your Rights as a Woman

On National Women’s Day, we celebrate womanhood and we usually tend to focus on what it means to be a woman, this includes being a mother, a daughter, a sister, and a friend.

However, there is a lot more to the 9th of August than we might think. National Women’s Day is a public holiday wherein we should pay tribute to the more than 20,000 brave women who marched to the Union Buildings on the 9th of August 1956 to present a petition demanding the end of discriminatory pass laws. 

It is a day on which we should remember the bravery those women showed and focus on what we as women have achieved in a time where violence against women and children is at its worst. We should also place our focus on the issues that women are still facing and fighting on a daily basis.

What happened on this day?

The first National Women’s Day in South Africa was celebrated on the 9th of August 1995 and in 2006, on its 50th anniversary, we saw a reenactment of how the women marched.

As mentioned above, on this day in 1956 more than 20,000 women marched to the Union Buildings to present a petition demanding the end of pass laws.  This petition contained more than 100,000 signatures.

During the protest, members of the Federation of South African Women (SAFW) rallied against the government. Thousands of mothers, daughters, sisters, and friends came together to initiate change. The march did not stop at marching, the women remained standing outside the Union Buildings in silence for 30 minutes as a gripping and powerful display of unity.

After the 30 minutes of silence, the women started singing a protest song that was composed in honour of the occasion: Wathint’Abafazi Wathint’imbokodo! (Now you have struck the women, you have struck a rock.) Years after the protest the phrase “you strike a woman, you strike a rock” has come to represent women’s unity, courage and strength in South Africa.

The Women’s Charter

The Women’s Charter was adopted at the Founding Conference of the Federation of South African Women in Johannesburg on the 17th of April 1954. The Charter included the aims of the newly established (FSAW) and called for the removal of unjust laws, regulations and conventions which was repressive towards women.

The Women’s Charter was incorporated in the 1955 Freedom Charter and its Preamble proclaimed:

“We, the women of South Africa, wives and mothers, working women and housewives, African, Indians, European and Coloured, hereby declare our aim of striving for the removal of all laws, regulations, conventions and customs that discriminate against us as women, and that deprive us in any way of our inherent right to the advantages, responsibilities and opportunities that society offers to any one section of the population.”

On 27 February 1994 the second draft Women’s Charter was approved. The second draft was drawn up by the National Women’s Coalition and it deals with a lot of the issues that women still struggle with today.

What are your rights as a woman in South Africa?

On the 14th of September 1981, at the Conference of the Women’s Section of the ANC, Oliver Tambo said the following, 

“It remains true that the burden that women carry is seldom recognised. Their silent fortitude as they toil under the weight of manmade hardships often passes unnoticed and unsung.” 

Violence and abuse against women are an awfully bitter pill to swallow and have transgressed as far back as history can recall.

In South Africa legislative provisions have been implemented to protect women and children, the most significant being The Domestic Violence Act, The Criminal Law Amendment (Sexual Offences and Related Matters) Act and the Protection from Harassment Act, which all offer protection for women and children alike.

Article 10 of the Women’s Charter – VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN

In terms of Article 10, both sexual and domestic violence are pervasive and all women live under the threat of or experience violence. The Women’s Charter demands the following in Article 10:

  • That women should be entitled to security and integrity which includes the right to be free from all forms of violence in the home, in communities, in the workplace and in public spaces.
  • That the state should be responsible for public education about the dignity and integrity of the person.
  • That there is legal protection for all women against sexual and racial harassment, abuse and assault.
  • Facilities with trained personnel where women can report cases of rape and sexual assault and undergo a medical examination, and receive appropriate treatment and counselling.
  • That the appropriate education and training should be given to the police, prosecutors, magistrates, judges, district surgeons and other persons involved in dealing with cases of rape and sexual assault.

The Domestic Violence Act

The South African government has taken a significant stride towards improving the law and safeguarding the rights and dignity of vulnerable groups like women and children. The government has introduced the Domestic Violence Amendment Bill 14 of 2022 (“the New Act”), which is an amendment to the Domestic Violence Act 116 of 1998 (“the Old Act”). The Domestic Violence Amendment Bill 14 of 2022 came into effect on the 14th of April 2022.

This Domestic Violence Act recognises a wide range of violent acts against women, acknowledging that it can occur in a domestic relationships. In terms of the Domestic Violence Act a complainant may apply to the court for a protection order by lodging the application with the clerk of the court or electronically.

Read more about the Domestic Violent Act here.

The Criminal Law Amendment (Sexual Offences and Related Matters) Act

The purpose of the Criminal Law Amendment (Sexual Offences and Related Matters) Act was to repeal the common law offence of rape and to replace it with an extensive statutory offence of rape, applicable to all forms of sexual penetration without consent, irrespective of gender.

This Act deals with all matters surrounding rape and sexual assault. Anyone that has been a victim to any one of the sexual offences mentioned in the Act, has the right to report the offence and to be protected.

Protection from Harassment Act

In terms of the Protection from Harassment Act, harassment means to directly or indirectly engage in an act that one knows or should know causes harm or inspires the reasonable belief that harm may be caused to the victim or a related person. This can be done by following. watching. pursuing the victim or a related person, or loitering outside of the place where the victim or a related person resides, works, carries on business, studies or happens to be. It could also be engaging verbally or electronically with the victim or a related person.

The purpose of the Protection from Harassment Act is to provide victims of suspected harassment with an effective solution. It entails creating procedures for the timely issuance of Protection Orders to victims of harassment

Happy National Women’s Day!

Our firm is an all-women firm and we are honoured to be able to celebrate a day like National Women’s Day, we are also honoured to remember the brave women that have and continue to fight the issues that women and children face on a daily basis. Our aim is to join the fight against the abuse of women and children in our beautiful country.

Stand with courage and speak with compassion. Together, we can break the cycle and create a world where every woman lives free from fear and abuse. Join the fight for change.

If you or someone you know needs any assistance or guidance with any Domestic Violence related matter, please contact us.

This Post Has One Comment

  1. Anneline

    Thank you for an inspirational blog!

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