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Law, Gender and Inequality in South Africa


  • Catherine Albertyn


Post-apartheid South Africa has seen the extensive use of law to address the inequalities of the past. This article looks at the role of law in addressing gender-based inequalities, considering how it has addressed “recognition” in terms of women's status and social subordination, as well as questions of redistribution and economic inequality. South Africa has been particularly successful at extending legal rights and benefits of recognition, and at entrenching in law powerful normative frameworks that challenge traditional gender roles. Redistribution, on the other hand, has been primarily race-based, with limited policies and substantive rights that address gendered economic inequalities. The law and courts have played a lesser role here. The ability of law to redress inequality through transformative social and economic change is limited. However, it can be an important site of struggle in the engagement of cultural norms and social attitudes, as well as economic policy. The article concludes that, apart from concrete rights and benefits, the normative frameworks of law offer significant strategic opportunities for pushing at the boundaries of inequality and exclusion in the public and private spheres.

Suggested Citation

  • Catherine Albertyn, 2011. "Law, Gender and Inequality in South Africa," Oxford Development Studies, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 39(2), pages 139-162.
  • Handle: RePEc:taf:oxdevs:v:39:y:2011:i:2:p:139-162
    DOI: 10.1080/13600818.2011.568610

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