The struggle for the emancipation of women is far from over

Vukile Theo Phanyaphanya is a retired teacher and an active author. Picture: Supplied

Vukile Theo Phanyaphanya is a retired teacher and an active author. Picture: Supplied

Published Jun 25, 2024


The governing ANC has had a spree of signing into law some controversial bills, particularly in the period leading to the national general elections, a gesture seen by many as meaningless exercise intended to garner votes for the ruling party.

The recent signing ceremony was for the National Council on Gender-Based Violence and Femicide Bill and the National Prosecuting Authority Amendment Bill. It is one thing to sign the bills and let people think that liberation is on the doorstep but it is another to have the laws do what they are intended to do.

Anyone who wants to prove the uselessness of the legislative papers need look no further than the so-called best Constitution in the world that South Africa claims to have, but with the highest volume of inequality resulting from unfair division of classes and the highest rate of unemployment and poverty in the world. The country has even surpassed countries that were regarded the worst in the Third World.

The oppression of women has been reduced to meaningless nomenclature such as gender-based violence which does not see the might of the Legal Mafia as violence against women. Instead, the campaign is just an excuse to continue the persecution of men and the destruction of the black household.

It has not been long since the country was ridden with the contradictions in the infamous Muslim Marriages Bill. Although the attempt to enact the bill was triggered as early as 2007, to date, inputs are being sought from the public, especially Muslim communities, customary marriages and common law.

The lawmakers have also been battling, since 2008, with the so-called Cohabitation Bill of Rights, without a comprehensive outcome. Woman judges themselves are bound hand and foot to employ patriarchal legislation as a tool to further oppress women and be part of the Legal Mafia that seeks to further advance male chauvinism against women.

Is this an indication that the rights and emancipation of cohabiting women from systemic patriarchy is far from over and the Constitution should protect women and families? Is this an indication that Muslim women will have their rights restored? Well, it looks like patriarchy, just like governments in power positions would never negotiate themselves out of the power of woman domination simply because there is the so-called Bill of Rights and/or a flood of woman emancipation structures such as women’s leagues, Women Against Women Abuse and campaigns such as the 16 Days of Activism for No Violence Against Women and Children Campaign or Gender-based Violence.

In many instances, it is the woman structures that participate in enhancing woman oppression in society, institutions of work, churches and political organisations where women themselves lobby against one another in favour of the male folk. Ironically, after voting for men, the women go out and punch their fists in the air, shouting empty feminist slogans.

The contradictions do not just benefit patriarchy but are propelled by male chauvinists who themselves get standing ovations in big meetings where they make long speeches about woman empowerment. The strategy has been shifted to woman empowerment rather than the liberation of women and the agenda is clear: demonisation of men.

In fact, the elements are used as tools of woman oppression in any bourgeois democracy. This explains why the structures will not be seen actively involved in the fight for woman liberation or actively taking part in court cases involving the fight for the rights of women and children.

Theirs is to canvas for woman empowerment, which has been turned into a tool to advance the disempowerment of men. This is the strategy to break the traditional family structure as we know it and it is the agenda of the New World Order.

The judicial system is one of the key tools used to maintain the status quo in the name of the Constitution and constitutional democracy. Again here, the irony is that the judicial system fails women and makes them pay legal fees they cannot afford because they are unemployed, looked after or earn less than their male counterparts even though they do the same jobs. This has made constitutional democracy a lie, with the doctrine called “Constitution” posing as the emancipation tool.

The well-publicised case of Pearl Walsh of Cape Town is a clear example of the facts raised. Walsh has been fighting for her right against self-appointed executors of the estate of her life partner, who had assumed reciprocal duties for her and her children. He took reciprocal duties for his new family while they were living together in the so-called domestic partnership, and had been a good father to the child living with Walsh and her girls.

In this case, it seems like there is clearly a calculated attempt to block the matter from being heard by the courts. Walsh is representing herself as she cannot afford the costs of legal representatives.

Interestingly, the lawyers, executors and trustees confirmed that the handwritten will did not comply with the Wills Act No. 7 of 1953. It is clear that the matter is manipulated by what I call the Legal Mafia within the system.

The case is just one among many where the self-proclaimed activists of gender-based violence see nothing wrong with a woman being denied access to her cohabitation partner’s estate. The question is: What justice system will it take for this poor woman to be granted her rights in the so-called constitutional democracy? A claim by the Legal Mafia is being made that since her partner died in a foreign country, there is nothing they can do to help her wind the estate.

Again, the question is: What happened to international law? It would seem that someone is benefiting from international tax manipulation of jurisdictional processes. Why would the judges not apply the law in dealing with the discrepancies she has raised? The answer to this question lies in the fact that someone in the legal fraternity stands to benefit from the delay in resolving the case as the assets would dissipate and the estate run insolvent.

It is the same issue with the Muslim Marriages Bill. Some Muslim elitists stand to benefit in the maintenance of the status quo in the Muslim Marriages practices which are oppressive of Muslim women. Ironically, Muslim women in the legal practice would also like to be heard on this matter but the contradiction is that while they do not want Muslim women to suffer the rules of the Ulama, they are also sceptical about the idea of the government regulating Muslim marriages.

The stance makes sense only in so far as the desire to disapprove the legitimacy of bourgeois democracy and its constitutional bullies, the constitutional dictatorship that serves only to calm the people from protesting simply because the Constitution agrees.

We should not forget one point: constitutions do not come by through a representative societal constituent assembly; they are a product of a few individuals who have been paid to make sure they fake, as far as they can, the will of the people and call it a constitution.

Therefore, our women need to understand that not everything said by the courts is divine truth. Constitutional democracies have, for centuries, from the Bonapartist revolution to the Kuomintang Comprador pseudo-communists, lied to the people about democracy and what they stand for. The passing of legislation and doctrines in pretence of fighting for the rights of women is a constitutional lie that needs to be exposed for what it is.

The act of congesting our prisons with male folk in the name of protection of women is a lie that must be exposed, especially by women. It is a deliberate act of extinguishing the male folk from society. One may ask: To what end? Well, the intended end is simple – for the ease of societal control and destruction of the family structure of society.

If the fight for women and children’s rights is not a sham, Why do the courts fail so many women and why would women and their children not have access to the estate in cohabitation relationships when there are laws governing cohabitation relationships? Why do we have an International Charter for Human Rights when the laws cannot protect our women.

Can Walsh and her children be rescued from the bully character of the Legal Mafia running the legal system here and unleashed against a defenceless woman and children? Is this just another case of not walking the talk from those self-proclaimed protectors of women’s rights?

Vukile Theo Phanyaphanya is a retired teacher and an author