Commission on Gender Equality

The Commission on Gender Equality is a state institutions set up in terms of the Constitution to promote and strengthen democracy and a culture of human rights in the country.

The Commission’s role is to advance gender equality in all spheres of society and make recommendations on any legislation affecting the status of women.

The Commission aims to transform society by “exposing gender discrimination in laws, policies and practices; advocating changes in sexist attitudes and gender stereotypes; and instilling respect for women’s rights as human rights”.

Although the Commission acts in the interests of women generally, it pays particular attention to the most disadvantaged women – those living in rural and peri-urban areas, on farms, in domestic work.

Structure of the Commission

The chairperson of the Commission is nominated by the President.

There must be no less than seven and no more than 11 commissioners, and between two and seven of these must be full-time, the rest part-time. The Commissioners are nominated by the public and after being endorsed by a parliamentary committee, are then appointed by the President for a term of up to five years.

What does the Commission do?

The Commission’s functions are to:

  • Monitor all organs of society to ensure that gender equality is safeguarded and promoted.
  • Assess all legislation from a gender perspective.
  • Commission research and make recommendations to Parliament and other authorities.
  • Educate and inform the public.
  • Investigate complaints on gender-related issues.
  • Monitor South Africa’s progress towards gender equality in relation to international norms.

The Commission on Gender Equality co-operates with other institutions set up under the Constitution to promote human rights and democracy, including the South African Human Rights Commission and the Public Protector.

It has close partnerships with other government-appointed agencies such as the Youth Commission, Independent Communications Authority of South Africa, and the Public Service Commission. It also works closely with government, particularly with Parliament, the Department of Justice, the Department of Women, Children and People with Disabilities, and the houses of traditional leaders.

Complaining to the Commission

The Commission investigates gender-related complaints from the public. Those falling outside its mandate are referred to other organisations. Complaints are dealt with confidentially and the identity of any complainant is protected by the Commission.

Complaints about discrimination can relate to race, sex, pregnancy, marital status, disability, sexual preference, age and trade union, government and private activity.

Complaints can be in any language but they must be in writing. They can be submitted via:

Don’t forget to include your name and contact details on all correspondence.

Many of the complaints the Commission receives concern domestic violence. Its intervention in such cases involves helping the complainant to file a restraining order.

The Commission has the power to subpoena a person who fails to co-operate to attend a hearing – for example, a maintenance officer who is not complying with the law in assisting a women with a maintenance order.

SAinfo reporter and the Commission for Gender Equality

Reviewed: February 2014

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