Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba’s bid to curb child trafficking could be discriminatory against single mothers, gender policy expert Lisa Vetten has pointed out.
The immigration policy for travelling with minors has come under fire with tourism bodies arguing it was harming South Africa’s revenue by discouraging tourists with young children.
Gigaba announced on Wednesday that this visa regulation would be relaxed for foreign nationals, but that South Africans would still need to provide consent from both parents when leaving the country with a minor. The controversial ruling was introduced by Gigaba in 2014.
Vetten said this was one of many discriminatory regulations government needed to attend to.
A Johannesburg mother told The Citizen she had experienced this discrimination first hand.
In 2015, Diana Nthabela, 36, was forced to leave her nine-year-old son with a distant relative on the border between Swaziland and South Africa after she failed to produce written consent from the child’s absent father.
“I was going to Swaziland to visit family and to take my son to my grandmother’s grave,” Nthabela explained. “When I got to Oshoek, they saw my son and I had the same surname, but still said I couldn’t go through without written permission from the father.
“They also said I needed to produce his birth certificate.
“I realised I would be fighting a losing battle so I went home that day and had an abridged birth certificate printed.
“When I went back they told me they needed an unabridged birth certificate and still needed the father’s permission.”
Nthabela said after her second attempt to cross the border with her son, she decided to leave him with an uncle who lived nearby.
“I didn’t know where to start looking for his father. They told me that even if I was allowed through, I might have trouble getting back into South Africa.”
Vetten said lawmakers needed to be mindful of the potential discrimination arising from certain policies and pieces of legislation.
“There should be an assumption that we are not creating a law for a homogeneous population and that people come from vastly different backgrounds, life experiences and levels of education.”
She said while many laws held the potential to discriminate against a particular part of society, lawmakers needed to be mindful of differing impacts that laws had, especially on marginalised groups such as single mothers.
“We can say that the law is going to affect all single parents but the reality is that in most cases that single parent is a mother,” she said.