Women need a voice – Prof Amanda Gouws
Prof Amanda Gouws, lecturer in the Department of Political Science at Stellenbosch University and one of the commissioners of the Commission for Gender Equality, was the guest speaker at the University’s Women’s Day celebrations at the University Museum on Wednesday, 8 August.
The event was hosted by the Division of Community Interaction (DCI), the Beyers Naudé Centre for Public Theology (BNC) and the Frederik van Zyl Slabbert Institute (FVZS Institute) for Student Leadership Development.
Prof Gouws asked: “Is multiculturalism bad for women? The conflict between universal human rights and culture/tradition.”
This is also the title of a book by Susan Moller Okin, who came to the conclusion that if cultural traditions are bad for women they should be outlawed.
Prof Gouws argued that the dichotomy between universal human rights and culture/tradition will be less pronounced if women are able to put forward their own issues.
She said that cultural tradition is often regarded as something that plays itself out in the private sphere and argued that that it should receive attention on political level as well.
“The state and the law determine who is recognised and who gets what,” she said.
She referred to the Communal Land Rights Bill and the Traditional Courts Bill and asked how it is possible that these pieces of legislation made it to parliament, especially when one considers that 45% of the members of parliament are women. She described the Traditional Courts Bill as “completely unconstitutional” and said it recognises traditional leaders, but not women.
“There is no parity of participation,” she added.
Her conclusion was that it is wrong to assume that women in parliament will put women’s issues on the agenda because many of them do what is best for their political careers or are involved in political pacts.
During question time she indicated that activism is very important to ensure that women’s voices are heard. “It’s not about ability, but about opportunity,” she said.