Issues: Gender Equality Bill

In January 2014 FOR SA made submissions to Parliament in respect of the threat that the controversial Women Empowerment and Gender Equality Bill (WEGE) posed to religious freedom, freedom of religious speech and the autonomy of the church to govern its own affairs.

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FOR SA succeeded in persuading Parliament to amend the Bill to exclude public benefit organisations (including therefore churches, and religious and charitable organisations) from the application of the Act.

Had churches not been excluded from the Bill, the Bill would have effectively outlawed Scriptures such as that the husband is the head of the home (Ephesians 5:23). Churches and pastors who teach this scripture would potentially have been liable for criminal conviction, punishable by a fine of up to 10% of the church’s annual income or five years’ imprisonment.

For other churches (including the Roman Catholic Church and many Protestant churches) who believe that governance of the Church is reserved for men (according to their interpretation of 1 Timothy 2:12), the Bill would have forced those churches to abandon their doctrine and to ensure that women make up at least 50% of their eldership (or governmental body) in the church. Again, failure to comply could have led to criminal charges and upon conviction, a fine or imprisonment.

By God’s grace, FOR SA became aware of the Bill before it was too late. FOR SA made submissions to Parliament, challenging the constitutionality of the Bill and recommending that the Bill be amended so as to protect religious freedom and the autonomy of the church in South Africa. The good news is that Parliament accepted FOR SA’s recommendations, and excluded churches and religious organisations from the Bill.

This is a huge victory for religious freedom and for the Church in South Africa. Had churches not been excluded from the application of the Bill, it would have made the State rather than the Bible the highest authority on the roles of men and women in the Church, and indirectly also then in the home. This would have set a frightening precedent for legislation allowing the State to interfere in the autonomy of the church, whose autonomy has always been recognised as integral to the constitutional right to religious freedom.

The Bill was approved by an overwhelming majority in the National Assembly (NA) on 4 March 2014, and referred to the National Council of Provinces (NCOP) for concurrence. As the legislative process surrounding the Bill could not be concluded and the Bill had not been signed into law before the general elections in April 2014, the Bill lapsed.

On 1 July 2014, the new Minister in the Presidency Responsible for Women announced that the Bill was being withdrawn altogether to allow a new bill to address the issues while ensuring sufficiently broad consultation.  According to the Minister, the focus will not be on imposing quotas but on mechanisms to eventually achieve gender equality in the work-place.

FOR SA will keep an eye on any developments in this regard to ensure that any new (or proposed amendments to existing) equality legislation do not infringe the religious freedom of Christians, and/or the autonomy of the Church to regulate her own internal affairs.

News & Media

A Victory Against Government Interference – CCFM Mzantsi People

Wayne Turner on Radio CCFm 107.5 interviews Advocate Nadene Badenhorst regarding the exclusion of churches, religious and charitable organisations from the controversial Women Empowerment and Gender Equality Bill following submissions made to Parliament by FOR SA....

Submissions

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Media Releases

Persverklaring – 2 February 2014

PERSVERKLARING DATUM: 2 Februarie 2014 INSAKE: PARLEMENT HERINNER DAT SA GRONDWET VRYHEID VAN GELOOF WAARBORG EERDER AS VERBIED Kontroversiële nuwe voorgestelde wetgewing, naamlik die Wetsontwerp op die Bemagtiging van Vroue en Geslagsgelykheid, is deur die Parlement...

Policies & Laws

WEGE Bill – Draft 1, 2 & 3

The WEGE Bill was adopted by the National Assembly (NA) on 4 March 2014, and is currently serving before the National Council of Provinces (NCOP) for concurrence.   [button link="https://www.dropbox.com/s/1901v9m4pzzj8wf/WEGE%20-%201st%20draft.pdf" type="icon"...

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