The period for public comment on the Women Empowerment and Gender Equality Bill ended on 30 September 2012. The Bill, which was approved by cabinet last month and published in the Government Gazette, requires “all entities” to “achieve at least 50% representation and meaningful participation of women in decision-making structures”. This includes inter alia, all spheres of government, private companies, non profit organisations, and even trade unions and political parties.

The Bill gives power to the Minister of Women, Children and People with Disabilities to issue compliance notices to entities that he or she believes are not complying with the legislation. It an entity fails to obey such a compliance notice its head or directors can be fined or even receive a prison sentence of up to 10 years if the fine is not paid.

According to the Commission for Employment Equity 12th annual report released earlier this month, the representation of women in top positions increased from 13% in 2001 to 18.7% last year. The percentage of women in senior management positions increased from 21% to 27.7% and the percentage of women in skilled positions from 40% to 46.2%.

Women account for 45.4% of the economy active population, according to Stats SA. This Bill clashes with both BBBEE legislation and the Employment Equity Act.