Women’s Day: No let up in gender disparity

This article was originally written for The Cape Times
By Lisa Isaacs and Nicolette Dirk

South Africa remains a deeply patriarchal society, with one of the highest rates of violence against women in the world.

Women earn less in the workplace and are far less likely to be in management positions.

As the country pays homage today to the 20 000 women who took to the streets in 1956 in protest against the pass law, statistics show that women are still not on equal footing with their male counterparts.

On average, three women a day are killed by intimate partners.

South African women also earn 15 percent less than their male counterparts, according to a 2015 study by the South African Board for People Practices.

They found that over the last 100 years, the progress in narrowing the gender pay gap has been painfully slow.

A survey released by Grant Thornton this year showed leadership positions held by women decreased from 27 percent in 2015 to 26 percent in 2016.

Sonke Gender Justice executive director Dean Peacock said: “Violence and HIV are exacerbated by gender norms that equate manhood with dominance over women, the use of alcohol, the belief that men must be independent and not seek help, as well as by norms that encourage women to be submissive.

“Gender-based violence is entrenched by a slow and often ineffectual justice system which takes too long to bring perpetrators to book or not at all.”

The 2015 General Household Survey shows close to two-thirds of fathers do not live at home with their biological children.

“This number has stayed more or less the same for the past decade.

“There remains a huge gap in fathers’ presence in their children’s lives and gives rise to a lack of positive male role models in South African society.”

The Saartjie Baartman Centre receives an increasing number of women seeking help.

In the past financial year, the centre has assisted 3 354 people, many of whom are not just victims of gender-based violence, but did not feel safe in their communities, centre dir­ector Shaheema McLeod said.

Of the clients assisted, 31.56 percent reported they suffered physical abuse and 13.73 percent suffered emo­tional abuse.

Over 30 percent said the perpetrators were their part­ners or ex-partners; 14 percent said the perpetrators were boyfriends; and 13 percent identified the perpetrators as children.

According to StatsSA, gender disparities continue to exist in access to benefits.

The proportion of employ­ees who had access to pension/retirement fund contributions by their employer increased from 45.5 percent in 2008 to 48.9

“As women have to fulfil many roles in society that needs to be considered. She is an employee, a mother, a cook, a cleaner.

There needs to be flexibility for women, who are usually the ones who have to leave the office when a child is sick.”

Peacock said women need to be empowered through edu­ cation and equal work wages.

“We need to make sure that our laws on gender-based vio­lence are properly enforced and that our government puts in place measures to prevent violence. This will include pro­viding psycho-social support to children exposed to violence, banning corporal punishment and engaging with men and boys to challenge the deeply entrenched and harmful gender norms in South Africa.”