Traditional Courts Bill: Rural women’s access to justice is betrayed again

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The passage of the Traditional Courts Bill and the Traditional and Khoi-San Leadership Act through Parliament is clear evidence of a choice to betray the vision of South Africa as based on democracy and equal citizenship for all.

The new version of the Traditional Courts Bill (TCB) that I, and many other rural women have spent years grappling with, and are seeking to expose, is back in Parliament again. As before, there is nothing in the bill that acknowledges the structural exclusion and alienation that many women experience in such courts, and nothing but vague platitudes to address these burning issues. The more Parliament refuses to hear rural women’s voices against the TCB, the louder we will scream.

When the first version of the bill was defeated in Parliament, after five of the nine provinces refused to support it, Deputy Justice Minister John Jeffery established a reference group consisting of traditional leaders, four civil society individuals and government. I was one of the civil society participants in the drafting processes, and I remember that traumatic process very well. The keywords and content were changed so often behind our backs that we got confused about which version we were working on.