Minister's plan for traditional courts
MORE women at the helm and more sensitivity towards women. That is how traditional courts will change if Lulu Xingwana, minister for women, children and people with disabilities, gets her way.
Xingwana has said - ahead of the launch of the National Council Against Gender-based Violence this week - that she planned to have women as presiding officers in 50% or more of the traditional courts.
A planned overhaul of traditional courts has been derailed by a controversial bill that many civil advocacy groups, and even the minister herself, believe would undermine the rights of women.
"Our concern with the Traditional Courts Bill as it stands is that it has not been an inclusive process," Xingwana said.
Fortunately, she said, Justice Minister Jeff Radebe supports the view that the bill is flawed.
She believes there is a place for traditional courts, but she wants them to be more progressive.
As the bill will operate in the rural areas, she believes that women - specifically rural women - needed to be consulted. She is now moving to get that done.
The bill's lack of an "opt-out clause", where a person can choose not to go to a traditional court, but rather to a magistrate's court, is what Xingwana sees as the biggest problem.
"In cases of eviction or domestic violence, traditional courts are not equipped or have the necessary expertise to handle these cases," she said.
Gender-based violence is a major concern for Xingwana's department.
The National Council Against Gender-based Violence, a high level national intervention headed by Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe is due to be launched this week.
It looks as if it would be a hard slog to get traditional leaders to accept her more progressive plans.
Asked whether she has had support from traditional leaders, she sighed and said "some".