Exploring the Relationship: Black Women and Feminism in South Africa
Understanding why many black women are hesitant to fully embrace women’s rights discourse and prioritize addressing violence against women politically involves considering two key factors.
Firstly, it relates to the historical context of the discourse and how black women became part of it. Secondly, black women have unique perspectives on their immediate survival needs and broader communal liberation.
Although they were initially hesitant, black women in South Africa actively joined the struggle against racial oppression. In honor of their contributions, the nation celebrates National Women’s Day on August 9. This special day pays tribute to a momentous march in 1956, during which women from diverse racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic backgrounds came together in unity. This march demonstrated the influential power of women, publicly voicing their concerns on issues they deemed crucial to their daily lives.
These events, along with women’s sustained involvement in South Africa’s liberation movements, paved the way for women’s participation in the government post-apartheid.
The Untold Story: Unveiling the True Significance of the African Middle Class
or a long time, people have failed to thoroughly examine the middle class as a distinct group, neglecting important aspects that are traditionally studied in the field of social sciences.
A major issue arises when individuals are classified as middle class solely based on their minimum income. This approach is not reasonable because it focuses solely on financial aspects and disregards other factors such as professional and social standing, cultural norms, lifestyle, political beliefs, and impact. When these factors are taken into account, they are often examined only on the surface level.
Furthermore, the debate has neglected previous studies on African elites and wrongly assumed that the middle class is always beneficial for the development of African societies.
Fortunately, the situation is starting to change. Scholars from various fields related to African Studies are taking charge and offering different perspectives. Recent publications reflect a more concerted effort to respond with nuanced views that are grounded in social realities. These studies examine specific cases to test assumptions and portray the identities and practices of social groups that may or may not be considered middle class.
In summary, the discussion on the African middle class is evolving, with a greater emphasis on informed analysis and a recognition of the complexities involved.
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Cultural Diversity: A Catalyst for Legal Transformation in South Africa
South Africa’s Constitution aims to build a culturally diverse society by granting its citizens strong rights to culture, language, and the practice of traditional or religious family laws. It also establishes a comprehensive Bill of Rights, which includes an impressive non-discrimination clause.
One way to assess South Africa’s progress towards achieving a multicultural society, after nearly three decades of democracy, is to examine the status of customary law within the country’s legal system, particularly in relation to marriage. Customary law, also known as indigenous law, is recognized by Section 211(3) of the Constitution and is placed on an equal footing with the common law. This provision was a significant attempt to create a more fair and equitable society in the aftermath of apartheid. It should be considered alongside other sections in the Bill of Rights that address complementary rights concerning culture, language, religion, belief, and opinion.
The question arises: has customary law been successfully integrated into the mainstream legal system? If so, in what way? The courts and the legislature play crucial roles in this integration process. The courts interpret and apply the law in real-life cases, while the legislature enacts new laws or amends and updates existing ones.
In my opinion, both the courts and the legislature have not fully capitalized on the opportunity presented by the Constitution’s clear aspiration to build a genuinely culturally diverse society, regardless of how idealistic that aspiration may have been in the beginning.
Unveiling Commercial Contracting: Lessons from South Africa’s Informal Sector
What happens when traditional African customs encounter modern business practices? Whether it’s in the boardrooms of Sandton or the dynamic mix of cultures and the vibrant “popular economy” found in South African townships, businesspeople from diverse ethnic backgrounds and worldviews are engaging in contracts on a daily basis.
Is there something uniquely “African” about this process, or are all businesspeople simply pursuing profits like the individuals described in conventional free market economic theory? The answer to this question informs the policy discussion on whether South Africa should develop its own dedicated indigenous contract law.
It is often said that humanistic values hold significance in traditional African political economy, emphasizing concepts like ubuntu (communal solidarity and humanness). This is sometimes contrasted with the individualistic nature of “Western” society. Is this comparison valid?
In late 2017, we published an article in the South African Journal on Human Rights that presented a new theory for studying commercial contracts in South Africa. Our approach aimed to shift the focus from centralized state law to the context of the popular economy—the space where the informal and formal sectors intersect.
The formal and informal realms mutually influence each other, resulting in an intriguing intersection. We believe that studying the South African popular economy provides a valuable micro-context, as it exhibits fewer influences from the “Western” norms typically associated with the central state’s contract law.
Our findings are preliminary and based on research conducted by social scientists, incorporating elements of contract law and economic theory.
Why should South African lawyers take an interest in this? Our project carries an ideological component. We firmly believe that examining indigenous business customs is a worthwhile endeavor in any African country. However, there is currently no legal debate on this issue. African customary law courses overlook these business-related aspects, and commercial law courses do not encompass African customary norms.
This situation exists due to artificial divisions between the two legal subjects. As demonstrated by legal historian Martin Chanock, this stems from South Africa’s historical context, where past discriminatory rules determined which laws applied in specific situations, influencing the development of both customary and common law.
Our aim is to change this trend and present our initial ideas for consideration.
Reclaiming Tradition: Rural Community’s Fight Against Westernization of Spiritual Life
Across the globe, the arrival of western customs and lifestyles has brought about significant changes in indigenous communities. These changes have often resulted in a reduction or limitation of their access to essential resources. The impact, whether intentional or unintentional, has frequently been negative.
The AmaBomvane community in South Africa’s Eastern Cape serves as a prime example of the consequences caused by such disruptions. The traditional spiritual beliefs that form the foundation of their entire way of life have suffered harm due to interventions deemed “modern.”
The AmaBomvane are not alone in facing these challenges. Many indigenous communities worldwide perceive globalization as a disconnection from their spiritual roots. This includes the Cree of Whapmagoostui in northeastern Canada, the Anishinaabe (Ojibwa) in North America, the Mohawk community of Akwesasne, as well as various indigenous communities in Hawaii, Australia, the Pacific islands, and New Zealand.
During my PhD research, I focused on studying indigenous spirituality and its impact on well-being. I also examined how the imposition of western, individualistic values affected Bomvanaland, a deeply rural area located in Elliotdale, within the former Transkei region of South Africa. Additionally, I explored the factors that enable the AmaBomvane to persevere in the face of these challenges.
Struggling for Spiritual Preservation: Rural Community’s Resistance to Western Influence
The BBC, an international broadcaster, recently released a captivating documentary about a man from Malawi who revealed how he introduces young girls to sexual activities as part of a traditional ritual.
This man, commonly referred to as a hyena, is believed to be just one of many individuals in a southern Malawian community who are paid to carry out this practice. One shocking revelation is that, despite being HIV-positive, he chooses not to use condoms during sexual encounters with these girls.
This report serves as a stark reminder of how vulnerable children can be.
Following the broadcast, President Peter Mutharika of Malawi publicly condemned harmful cultural practices. Consequently, the “hyena” in question has been apprehended. However, the question remains: does targeting one hyena resolve the larger issue? What about the families, mothers, fathers, and relatives who were involved?
The reality is that, despite having access to ample knowledge and information, communities still hold on to cultural practices that put their children at risk.