The Gender-Wage Gap

In the world we occupy today, there are currently fewer women executives in the workforce than there are male executives named John. While this seems like an optimal moment to use the now infamous Hillary Clinton, glass ceiling metaphor, it turns out that getting on to the same level as this plethora of John’s is only the beginning of a women’s struggle in the work place. Surprise! More glass ceilings. Not only does there need to be a fight for a women’s success to equal that of John’s, but the false pretense that the struggle ends there only causes a woman to stop and say, “Wait!” when she looks down at her paycheck and compares it to that of her male counterparts.

The gender-wage gap is not a new phenomenon. In fact, as Mariarosa Dalla Costa and Selma James discuss in their writing “The Power of Women and the Subversion of the Community,” how capitalism pushed women further and further out of the workplace to the point where men were the primary wage earners and a women’s skills were wasted as she is reduced to her domestic work. However, discrimination in the name of gender is a complex animal and, of course, one glass ceiling would have been far too easy for a woman to break. Even when women shed their soapy, latex dish-washing gloves and join the work force, the system tells them that they are still not worth the same as men.

In fact, society tells women that although they can escape the home to the equally restrictive shackles of a desk, a woman still belongs to her chores. Men label women as distracted or inefficient, because clearly she must be focusing on the housework left undone at home, rather than the office tasks at hand. All in all, this justifies our wage gap. The perception that a women’s output cannot compare to a man’s when he has the ability to push home, family, and relationships out of his mind and focus in a way that, apparently, a woman cannot. The placement of men in the workplace and women in the home is so deeply ingrained in our society that now, in 2018, there is no need for a spoken justification for the gender-wage gap, this inequality lives, unquestioningly accepted, just below the radar of injustice.

My initial reaction to this idea was one of disbelief. In my experience, stereotypes surrounding women rely less on us being unfocused and stretched too thin, than on our ability to multitask, listen, and empathize. However, as I continued to read about the gender-wage gap, the more I was engaging with this justification of inequality. While the stereotypes that I associate with women are definitely informed by my own background, I generally view the ability to listen and other ‘female’ traits as skills of importance in the workplace that need to be fine-tuned in order to achieve success. However, while my stereotypes of women may be the polar opposite of those listed above, they still hold some sort of negative connotation in a work environment. While empathy is a trait that makes someone a decent human, it is hardly seen as valuable in the dog-eat-dog, masculine depiction of the business world.

Consequently, I began to question why I even associate these words with what it means to be a woman. Wait. Aren’t multitasking, listening, and an ability to empathize all traits assumed to be important in order to raise a child? Have I fallen back into the trap of connecting a woman to the home, her family and her domestic work? If these definitions of womanhood are circular, revolving around the home, can a woman not be anything, free to choose her own identity and how she manipulates it; or is anything really just synonymous with nothing? The fact of the matter is that a woman can be anything and should mean something different to every person, but society’s ability to understand women is still bound by the harsh limits of stereotyping as evidenced by the ongoing gender-wage gap.

So how do we combat this? How do we, as women, band together to change the fate of our bank accounts? How do we prevent another glass ceiling from forming right above our heads right before we successfully push through the one directly in front of us? While I do not have the answer to this question, I can only hope that by the time the John’s are equal to or outnumbered by the Emily’s, Hannah’s, or Julia’s in the workforce, we can finally push forward so that a women’s seventy-something cents can finally be equal to the man’s dollar.

 

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Talia Clark
interned at Rape Crisis in April 2018. She is currently a B.A candidate at the George Washington University studying International Affairs. In her third year at university, she decided to partake in a study abroad program in Cape Town to study multiculturalism and human rights which led her to her internship with Rape Crisis Cape Town Trust.

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Turning big ideas into action in 2018

It’s been a busy first quarter, not only making progress towards our programme targets but also building the strength of our organisation and forging better links with outside stakeholders. We have a vision of a South Africa where rape survivors are supported in their homes, by their communities and within the criminal justice system. We’re making it real.

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Kholeka Booi talks to a school social worker in Khayelitsha about our peer education programme that addresses sexual violence and promotes safety in schools.

 

 

Capture d_écran 2018-05-17 à 14.42.49Learners from Intlanganisa High School get to hear about what rape culture means as part of our peer education programme.
Capture d_écran 2018-05-17 à 14.42.59At Khayelitsha Mall members of the Rape Survivors Justice Campaign speak to people about the need for specialised sexual offences courts.
Capture d_écran 2018-05-17 à 14.43.13Our General Meeting is a space for staff, volunteers and Trustees to come together to talk about the wellbeing of the organisation and strengthen our internal bonds.
Capture d_écran 2018-05-17 à 14.43.25One of our donor partners, NACOSA, has organised an evaluation of the work we do supporting rape survivors undergoing a forensic examination at Thuthuzela Care Centres.
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Speaking her truth our director Kathleen Dey writes a chapter on feminism in practice that describes how feminism is lived in Rape Crisis today.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Capture d_écran 2018-05-17 à 14.43.50Attending the German Embassy reception at the opening of Parliament earlier this year with thanks to our partners from Oxfam Germany.
Capture d_écran 2018-05-17 à 14.44.06Making plans for joint advocacy with members of the Shukumisa Coalition's Law and Policy Strengthening Task Team.
Capture d_écran 2018-05-17 à 14.44.20Xhosa speaking staff and volunteers review the content of our You and Rape booklet as a self-help guide empowering survivors.

Sharing insight to develop better court models

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Spaces where researchers, activists and students can gather to share thoughts, ideas and dreams, are few and far between. That is why we were so grateful and excited when the University of Cape Town’s Centre for Law and Society offered to partner with us to host a panel discussion on developing court models in South Africa.

This discussion was designed to follow on from the National Forum on the Implementation of the Sexual Offences Act that was presented by the Department of Justice at the end of 2017 and where some of the research concerning sexual offences courts was first presented to the public. However, only a handful of representatives from the NGO sector could attend the DOJ’s forum and we were interested to hear the views of others in the field of sexual violence, colleagues who work in courts and fellow activists.

Our panel discussion on developing court models in South Africa took place on 26 April 2018 in Cape Town and we were joined by three panellists; Lisa Vetten, from the Wits City Institute, Dr Aisling Heath from the Gender, Health and Justice Research Unit at UCT, and Karen Hollely from the Child Witness Institute. Together they shared some of the key findings of their three separate research undertakings in the area of sexual offences in the court system. Their separate research studies looked at the experiences of victims of sexual violence in courts, the observation of court proceedings and the reviewing of court files. They not only shared their very interesting findings, but also their personal opinions of how this issue should be taken forward.

What made this event special is that it brought together groups from two worlds; those at the coal face working in courts, and those in front of the data and research analysing findings. In our experience it is felt that these two worlds don’t connect often enough and so the opportunities to bring these perspectives together to share insights and knowledge are always meaningful. Through the Court Support Project, Rape Crisis provides support services to survivors at five courts. This is an extremely an extremely important component of sexual offences courts. We believe that the very real experiences of our court supporters has the potential to add a depth and richness to the research done by these panellists. By the same stretch, their research helps to shed light on the systemic issues at play that influence the work that happens in courts.

The Rape Survivors’ Justice Campaign (RSJC) believes that specialised sexual offences courts are the key to restoring faith in the criminal justice system by decreasing the secondary victimisation of rape survivors, and in so doing increasing conviction rates for rape. Learning from the findings of skilled researchers in combination with our own experiences is immensely valuable. It influences our RSJC strategy and helps us work towards answering the question that is central to our campaign; what do sexual offences courts need in order to be successful in South Africa?

 

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Jeanne Bodenstein is the coordinator of the Rape Survivors’ Justice Campaign for the Rape Crisis Cape Town Trust.

Working towards making sexual offences courts a reality

We love big ideas. The big plans that make us believe that things can be better and that the world can become a better place.

The RSJC ‘big idea’ is that South Africa can reduce the number of rapes committed by increasing the conviction rates of these crimes and achieving stronger sentences for perpetrators. We believe that this goal can be achieved through the planned rollout of specialised sexual offences courts, which is why we advocate to hold our government accountable to the rollout of these courts. We believe that these specialised sexual offences courts are the key to restoring faith in the criminal justice system by decreasing the secondary victimisation of rape survivors, and in so doing increasing conviction rates for rape.

But in the real world, without the details, ‘big ideas’ cannot be achieved, and in order to see our ‘big idea’ realised the first step is to get the primary legislative framework for sexual offences courts in place. However; this legislation cannot come into operation and cannot function without the implementation of secondary legislation in the form of regulations that detail how to implement the primary legislation.

The primary legislation we lobbied for was signed into law in the second half of 2017 and the Department of Justice released the Draft Regulations on Sexual Offences Courts in December 2017 for public comment. This Draft Regulations document consisted of 54 regulations with several subsections and we provided the Department of Justice with detailed written comments on the regulations.

Making change often includes a lot of behind the scenes work before any “in front of the scenes” work can happen. This time the behind the scenes work was lobbying the Department of Justice to include the RSJC as members of civil society and experts in the field. Gaining the acceptance of our request to be included meant that we had a legitimate opportunity to drive the change we are working towards.

We therefore scrupulously worked through all 54 regulations and their subsections and put forward our comments and recommendations on each regulation to the Department of Justice at a meeting that took place the 26th March 2018 in Pretoria.

This meeting saw the RSJC team working with the Department of Justice, the National Prosecuting Authority, the South African Police Service and the Department of Social Development to finalise the regulations for sexual offences courts. We worked through much of the detail with the aim of ensuring that the final regulations would result in money being spent on specialist services and personnel, as well as court infrastructure that will reduce secondary trauma to rape survivors. We believe that it is these kinds of details that will ultimately make it possible for survivors to experience a supportive criminal justice system.

We view a meeting of this nature as a massive win for the RSJC campaign and on a personal level this is the reason why I do this work. Being in the room, influencing decisions about the details that will make sexual offences courts a reality, and helping to ensure better support for survivors, is what makes big plans come to life.

 

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Jeanne Bodenstein is the coordinator of the Rape Survivors’ Justice Campaign for the Rape Crisis Cape Town Trust.