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The Right To Social Security - Addressing Women's Poverty and Disadvantage

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Women in South Africa are generally poorer than men and more vulnerable. They perform the bulk of the caring functions in society, usually without remuneration. Their greater need is reflected in their disproportionate use of the social assistance system. This system is evaluated in terms of the right to social security contained in South Africa's Bill of Rights. The right is explored, interpreted and developed from a feminist legal perspective. The categories of reformism, feminist critique and utopianism are used to 'engender' the right. International law, as well as the emerging jurisprudence on the right to social security, is considered in the reconceptualisation of the right. This article briefly discusses some of the gender dimensions of each of South Africa's three, largest social assistance grants - the Old Age Pension, Child Support Grant and Disability Grant. It points to some of the areas of research and future examination that would assist those attempting to expand the meaning and reach of the right to social security so that it is able to help everyone in South Africa, and in particular, poor women to 'improve their quality of life' and 'free their potential'.

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