By Zoleka Qodashe
Amid all the trials and tribulations that confront our country, like the threat of being relegated to junk status, a corrupt president, the Gupta’s influence, captured parastatals etc, there is course to celebrate in our country.
This is so because we have an independent judiciary. Our judiciary inspires public confidence by dispensing justice without fear, favour or prejudice. South Africa’s Constitution, the Supreme Law of the land, should also give citizens a reason to celebrate. Adopted in 1996, the South African Constitution seeks to ensure that “never, never and never again shall it be that this beautiful land will again experience the oppression of one by another,” as in the words of late former president, Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela.
The Constitution also aims to empower those who have more often than not, been marginalized in all spheres of society. Section 12 of the Constitution offers such empowerment giving everyone bodily integrity and reproductive rights. Bodily integrity is cited as, “The inviolability of the physical body and emphasizes the importance of personal autonomy and the self-determination of human beings over their own bodies. It considers the violation of bodily integrity as an unethical infringement, intrusive and possibly criminal.” This section also offers reproductive rights.
The World Health Organization defines reproductive rights as follows, “Reproductive rights rest on the recognition of the basic right of all couples and individuals to decide freely and responsibly the number, spacing and timing of their children and to have the information and means to do so, and the right to attain the highest standard of sexual and reproductive health. They also include the right of all to make decisions concerning reproduction free of discrimination, coercion and violence.”
The above mentioned is particularly vital with regards to the empowerment of women within our society. Women’s reproductive rights may include the right to legal and safe termination of pregnancies, the right to birth control, the right to good-quality reproductive healthcare to name but a few. This section places women’s issues at the epicenter of public discourse. The Constitution does this by giving women the right to claim what is rightfully theirs.
A woman’s right to her body, as we have observed many a times, has been infringed upon in many ways than one. If women are not being slut-shamed for one reason or the other, then a complete stranger feels that he can do with our bodies as he pleases. It is against this backdrop that this particular section of the Constitution aims to provide security for all women and this is indeed good news for the Republic.