South Africa has a comprehensive system of social legislation, which includes unemployment insurance, workers' compensation, old age pensions, disability pensions, war veterans' pensions, pensions for the blind, maternity grants, and family allowances. The cost of most of these benefits is borne by the national government, but the cost of industrial accident insurance is borne by employers, while contributions to the unemployment insurance fund are made by employers, employees, and the government. The retirement age is 65 for men and 60 for women. Sickness and maternity benefits both pay 45% of weekly earnings; maternity benefits are payable up to a total of 26 weeks.
Human-rights activists focused for many years on South Africa's perpetuation of white-minority rule, its disfranchisement of the black majority, and its restrictions on the rights of Coloureds and Asians. The government assumed broad powers under South African law to ban any organization suspected of communism or subversive activities, to prohibit its publications, to liquidate its assets, and to detain without court proceedings (for up to six months) or to strip of civil rights any of its members or known supporters. All outdoor gatherings, except sporting events or specially authorized meetings, were banned between 1976 and 1990. The state of emergency imposed regionally in 1985 and reimposed nationally in 1986 allowed any member of the police or military to arrest and detain, on his own authority, any person whom he believed to be a threat to public safety. Much of that security legislation was repealed in the final months of the de Klerk government.
The current ANC "government of national unity" has sought to provide more social services for its black constituents within the constraints of a weakened economy. Its top priorities are housing, health, education, and the creation of more jobs in the formal economic sector.
Despite legal protection, sex discrimination is still widespread, especially in connection with economic issues including wage disparity, credit access and property rights. Domestic abuse is widespread, and victims who seek redress are not treated adequately by law enforcement, medical personnel, or the judicial system. The incidence of rape is extremely high due to general lack of security and the prevailing attitude condoning violence against women. There are many governmental and nongovernmental organizations monitoring and promoting human rights for women. The government has passed various pieces of legislation to eliminate discrimination and protect the rights of all citizens. Recent laws include The Labor Relations Act, the Gender Equality Bill, The Censorship Bill, and the Abolition of the Death Penalty Bill.
Although South Africa's human rights record has improved, there are continued reports of detainees dying in custody. There is continued racially motivated violence including numerous killings of white officers by black subordinates. Criminal activity is widespread, and vigilante and mob justice is increasing. Prison conditions are harsh.