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Cape Town - The Women Empowerment and Gender Equality Bill is a waste of time and impossible to implement, the Cape Chamber of Commerce and Industry said on Thursday.
“It is simply not possible to force departments and companies to fill half of the top positions with women at this time, as the bill requires,” president of the chamber Janine Myburgh said in a statement.
The bill is aimed at ensuring 50 percent representation for women in all decision-making structures in government and private entities.
Parliament was set to hold public hearings on the bill on Friday.
“It is time Parliament stopped wasting time on unrealistic legislation like the Women Empowerment and Gender Equality Bill and dealt with the real problems of the country such as the economy and unemployment among the youth.”
Myburgh said that at least 90 percent of those employed in the mining, engineering and construction industries, at present, were men.
“So it will be an impossible task to find the qualified women to fill half the management jobs in these major industries, without significant intervention at a skills and training level.”
She claimed it was “natural” that some careers would be more appealing to men than to women, and vice versa.
The chamber believed that Parliament's role was to remove barriers to advancement rather than to introduce quota systems “and all the bureaucracy and inefficiency that goes with them”.
“This country needs to get down to business and not invent new ways to interfere.”
In August, Women's Minister Lulu Xingwana said the bill would provide a number of legislative tools to help achieve gender equality.
“We believe that the bill will help us to monitor and evaluate and enforce all initiatives aimed at empowering women in South Africa,” she said.
The proposed legislation would aim to eliminate discrimination against women and girls, including those with disabilities. This included any practices that violated women's rights to social, political, economic and cultural freedoms, she said.
The bill would provide for the monitoring of legislation to address discrimination and violence against women, as well as access to services and economic emancipation.
African Christian Democratic Party MP Cheryllyn Dudley raised concerns about the proposed legislation in November.
“In what way does this strengthen democracy when it effectively interferes with freedom of choice and dictates on grounds of gender?”
The party was concerned the bill would empower the minister to apply comprehensive requirements for gender equality to any public or private bodies of her choosing.
This meant that any company, non-governmental organisation, and religious group could be affected if the bill was passed.
At the time, Dudley said existing legislation protecting women needed to be implemented.