AFRA News No. 65 October 2009How land policies have affected women on commercial farms
Laws and legislation are essential for achieving and fostering transformation and social and economic justice, especially for those affected by unjust apartheid laws. It is unfortunate therefore that women staying on commercial farms are negatively affected by the Labour Tenant Act of 1996 and the Extension of Security of Tenure Act of 1997 (ironically enacted to protect them), and have suffered immense human rights violations and gender discrimination.
This is experienced in many subtle forms, most obviously in the forcible removal of spouses in the event of the death of the male breadwinner. Section 8(5) of the Extension of Tenure Security Act of 1997 stipulates that in the event of the death of a spouse, a farmer can give the surviving spouse twelve months notice of the intent to apply for a legal eviction order. The argument that ‘spouse’ is gender neutral is weak, because women are mostly on farms due to their husbands’ employment and the termination of the husband’s working relationship makes their tenure vulnerable. Case material shows that conversely, when a man loses his wife, he simply takes another and his right to reside on the farm is not affected.
This gender discrimination has a ripple effect on the family’s human rights. Children lose the right to education because they are now off the farm and the family’s livelihood is aff ected because it no longer has access to land. For a woman who has never had to earn an income, life outside the farm is diffi cult. Most stay in tribal areas in two roomed houses built by government, and cannot keep the same number of cattle as before due to lack of grazing and theft. She then sells her investments rather than lose them to thieves. On the farm she sustained her family with cropping and grazing, but if she moves to a township she needs employment to pay for food, water, rates, school fees and transport – and without education and skills, this is a challenge.
AFRA believes that land reform policies should clearly define the rights of women, and when they are implemented, officials must safeguard these rights.