Various pro men civil society organisations have welcomed the recent Johannesburg High Court ruling which ruled in favour of fathers and other categories of parents when it comes to paternity leave.
Last week, the Johannesburg High Court handed down a judgment that according to Sonke Gender Justice, will now see South African fathers enjoy up to four months of parental leave and associated Unemployment Insurance Fund benefits.
This matter was brought to court by a Polokwane couple, Werner and Ika van Wyk, with Sonke Gender Justice and the Commission for Gender Equality among other organisations appearing as amicus (friends of the court).
The judgment declared the provisions of the Basic Conditions of Employment Act (BCEA) relating to maternity, parental, adoption and commissioning parental leave and the relevant provisions of the Unemployment Insurance Act (UIA) unconstitutional and invalid for falling foul of the rights to equality and dignity in terms of sections 9 and 10 of the Constitution
This has allowed other categories of parents to be afforded the same rights as mothers.
According to Bafana Khumalo, co-executive director of Sonke Gender Justice and co-chairperson of the Global MenEngage Alliance, under the new interim conditions, new parents who have a child by natural birth will be able to determine how the four months of parental leave is shared among themselves, while parents who have a child by surrogate and adoptive parents to children under the age of 2 will enjoy the same parental leave rights.
“Sonke believes this ruling marks a new era of a more inclusive and equitable society, as well as recognising the diversity of modern family structures and that both parents play an integral part in the nurturing of children.
“We welcome this landmark judgment which is contributing to growing our jurisprudence on the quest for shared care work in families. Although we did not get all that we prayed for, we are nevertheless gratified that the court was persuaded on the key tasks by the legal teams. This is groundbreaking and will go a long way in influencing a positive attitude towards shared care work,’’ Khumalo said.
Speaking to the Saturday Star, Amatyma SA Wellness Network founder Thato TT Mbha said the network welcomed the judgment by Deputy Judge President Roland Sutherland.
Mbha said “for us as a network that focuses on issues affecting a wide variety of men and male parents we see this ruling as a victory. We understand that some fathers are widowed, single and fall in many other different categories which this ruling is now able to accommodate”.
Garron Gsell, of the Men Foundation, said the ruling went a long way in restoring the dignity of men in society.
“The Men’s Foundation welcomes and supports this ruling for various reasons. As we strive for a gender equal society, righting the wrongs of the past where women have been marginalised members of society, we cannot ignore the plight of men that choose to be active parents. We are dealing with the societal impact relating to the high rate of absent fathers, and legislation is needed to support men who are active parents and play a role in the lives of their children,“ Gsell said.
He said some of the issues affecting men were caused by a lack of legislation that supports them.
“Our research proves that men are at 47% more at risk of suicide at the time of becoming fathers due to the changes and pressures faced by men and the impact on their mental health. This ruling provides men the opportunity to adapt to the impact of fatherhood. With South Africa having the highest male suicide rate globally, this ruling does enable men (to take) the time to seek the necessary support,” said Gsell.