|2012 08 02 Traditional practices may be harmful: Xingwana|
Cape Town - Women should raise their voices and give input when the overhauled Traditional Courts Bill is introduced, Women's Minister Lulu Xingwana said on Wednesday.
She said in Cape Town her relentless opposition to the contentious legislation would continue, adding that the bill would not pass constitutional muster.
"For instance, the bill is set to promote all cultural practices and not all cultural practices are good for our communities, especially our women and children," she told reporters on the first day of Women's Month.
She singled out the practices of "ukuthwala" and "ukungenwa".
Ukuthwala refers to young girls being abducted and forced into marriage, often with the consent of their parents.
Ukungenwa is the practice whereby a widowed woman automatically becomes her brother-in-law's wife.
"We have many harmful traditional practices that we cannot protect and promote," she said.
Xingwana said the legislation did not give women an opt-out clause.
Currently, women could choose whether they wanted to access a traditional court or a magistrate's court, but they would not have this option under the proposed law, Xingwana said.
The Traditional Courts Bill has come under fire from various gender rights groups.
In May, Democratic Alliance leader Helen Zille called for the bill to be scrapped because it undermined women's rights and reinforced apartheid-era homeland powers.
Zille came under fire from the Congress of Traditional Leaders of SA (Contralesa), the African National Congress, and the Inkatha Freedom Party.
Contralesa told the DA not to "meddle" in the affairs of Africans, while the IFP and the ANC could not understand why there was so much opposition to the bill.
Xingwana vowed that the bill would not become law.
"Women were not consulted when this bill was drafted and this is the biggest outcry from women," she said.
Xingwana said the Commission on Gender Equality had given its input, but that none of its concerns had been taken into consideration before the bill was drafted. - SAPA/INL