Sonke Gender Justice urgently calls on the newly elected South African political leadership to adopt policies and practices to promote gender justice.
South Africa has one of the highest rates of sexual coercion and violence in the world and an AIDS epidemic that is inextricably linked to gender inequality and violence against women.
In a country where young women constitute 75% of infections among young people, leaders and especially men in positions of leadership – have a critical role to play in upholding women’s rights and promoting healthier models of masculinity.
“The South African Constitution clearly states that government has a duty to proactively implement measures to promote gender equality, yet not a single political party has made this part of their manifesto,” said Sonke co-director Bafana Khumalo. “Nor have they focused on the role men and boys can play in creating an environment in which men and women enjoy healthy, equitable and just relationships. These issues are of the utmost importance and critical to the development of a truly democratic society.”
According to Sonke, the government should take immediate steps to:
- Protect the health and rights of all South Africans by ensuring access to essential, quality health services including HIV services and male and female condoms;
- Protect its citizens from discrimination, sexual coercion, violence;
- Collaborate with civil society to ensure swift implementation of existing policies and plans, including the Domestic Violence Act, the Sexual Offences Act and the National Strategic Plan on HIV and AIDS;
- Develop national campaigns and policies in schools, the media and other institutions to change men’s attitudes and practices; and
- Consider new paternity leave policies that encourage men to be fully involved in the lives of their children, from birth to adulthood;
Since 1994, the ANC has made many promises towards achieving gender equality. For example, it committed itself to working with civil society to engage men and boys in transforming gender roles and relations as part of the 2004 and 2009 United Nations Commission on the Status of Women. However, South Africans have yet to see those commitments fully realised. The few efforts have been ad-hoc, and have led to little sustainable change.
“Women and men and girls and boys would all benefit if government makes concerted efforts to engage men and boys in gender equality matters,” said Sonke advocacy coordinator Mbuyiselo Botha. “We challenge men in positions of leadership to be at the forefront of achieving gender equality for all South Africans.”