Protocol watch

South Africa

South Africa signed the Maputo Protocol in March 2004 and ratified it in December 2004.


  • Traditional Courts Bill: Critiqued for marginalising women’s voices by shifting the power to male heads of household in traditional courts and affects single women without male family members [i]


  • Recognition of Customary Marriage Amendment Bill: Would allow women who entered into customary marriages before 1998 equal rights to marital property, even in polygamous marriages [ii]
  • New proposed law will seek to harmonise the three marriage acts on the principles of equality and non-discrimination, including outlawing marriage under 18 years of age, and including muslim, hindu, and LGBT marriages in the legislation [iii]


  • The government held a consultation regarding the Land Expropriation Bill and Constitutional Amendment of Section25, focusing on including the voices of women and making sure to center women’s access to land in the upcoming legislation [iv] 
  • June Section 18 of the Criminal Procedure Act, 1997 (Act 51 of 1977) began to be amended so that sexual offences can be prosecuted regardless of how much time has passed since the incident. This is a change from the previous 20 year statue of limitations. The bill has not been enacted into law yet[v]


[i] Maverick Citizen (2021), “Traditional Courts Bill: How to entrench inequality and a parallel reality for 18 million marginalised South Africans”.

[ii] SADC Gender Protocol Alliance (2019), “State of Women in SADC 2019 Report”.

[iii] Ensor, Linda (2019), “New, single marriage law proposed based on ‘principle of equality’”

[iv] South African Government (2020), “Invitation to the Review of the Land Expropriation Bill and ConstitutionalAmendment of Section 25. 

[v] South African Government (2020), “Minister Ronald Lamola on passing of amendment bills to curb patriarchal laws.