Accepted paper:

Women at home with customary law in Nkomazi district, South Africa: the emergent forms of gendered and generational power in an erstwhile homeland

Authors:

Elaine Salo (University of Pretoria )

Paper short abstract:

Drawing upon an ethnographic study conducted in Nkomazi district in the old Bantustan of Kangwane, I examine how the application of customary law in the erstwhile “Homelands” informs women’s everyday relations to male kin within households and in local authorities and ; whether and how these relations differentially infringe upon or enable their rights to material resources, such as access to property, their mobility and freedom from gender based violence across the lifecycle. I ask whether and how women interpret or give meaning to local customary practices in relation to their legal and substantive rights, in a context where the population is overwhelmingly feminised, but where their access to secular legal institutions is uneven or non-existent.

Paper long abstract:

Drawing upon an ethnographic study conducted in Nkomazi district in the old Bantustan of Kangwane, I examine how the application of customary law in the erstwhile "Homelands" informs women's everyday relations to male kin within households and in local authorities and ; whether and how these relations differentially infringe upon or enable their rights to material resources, such as access to property, their mobility and freedom from gender based violence across the lifecycle. I ask whether and how women interpret or give meaning to local customary practices in relation to their legal and substantive rights, in a context where the population is overwhelmingly feminised, but where their access to secular legal institutions is uneven or non-existent. I reflect on how the women negotiate their way through the effects of customary law by drawing upon non-governmental institutions as well as everyday forms of generational agency. In doing so, I argue that the living customary law is being given diverse new meanings and instantiates finer forms of gendered and generational power that we need to take into account.

panel W030
Home, lands and homelands in post-apartheid South Africa (EN)