n South African Journal on Human Rights - More work for women : a rights-based analysis of women's access to basic services in South Africa

Volume 25, Issue 3
  • ISSN : 0258-7203



South Africa has a commendable legislative and policy framework for basic services that explicitly recognises historic disadvantage, including gender. Yet, as explored in this article, inadequate access to water and electricity services has a disproportionately negative effect on women. This is because there is a sexual division of labour within most households meaning that, in addition to typically being singly responsible for childcare, washing, cooking and cleaning, women must usually also take on the role of managing water and energy supplies. In this role, women experience multiple obstacles in accessing these goods, related to the availability, affordability and amount of water and electricity supplied. Analysing such obstacles, this article concludes that, as public services that enter the private realm of the household, water and electricity services are perhaps uniquely resistant to gender-specific legislative and policy recommendations. It suggests that the best way to improve women's access to basic services is through a socio-economic class analysis, advancing greater access by poor households.

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