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A girl walks to school in South Africa.
Themba Hadebe/AP
Girls & Women

#AmINext: South African Women Are Sharing Really Heartbreaking Personal Stories of Gender Violence

Why Global Citizens Should Care
Gender-based violence in South Africa has become a pandemic. While president Cyril Ramphosa declared GBV a “national crisis”, the tide is yet to turn. Violence against women compromises both physical and emotional wellbeing and action needs to be taken to stop it. You can join us here to take action calling on world leaders to put an end to gender-based violence.

Editor’s note: This story contains details of sexual violence.

South African women have taken to Twitter to share personal stories of the violence and sexual assault they have experienced, and how the country’s pervasive gender-based violence (GBV) has affected their daily life.

Using the hashtag #AmINext, women have been sharing their fears for their safety. This comes after news that Uyinene Mrwetyana, the University Cape Town student who disappeared about a week ago in Claremont, Cape Town, has been murdered.

Police confirmed on Friday that a body found in Khayelitsha was that of Mrwetyana, and a 42-year-old man was charged on Monday with her rape and murder, appearing at the Wynberg Magistrates Court.

South Africa, it has long been reported, is one of the most violent places in the world for women.

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In an extensive 2018 report on violence in the country, Statistics SA noted the rates of femicide in the country were more than five times the global average. This trend goes as far back as 2000.

The report notes that rape targeting women and girls is one of the biggest problems facing South Africa. It also states that 250 out of every 100,000 women are victims of sexual offences.

This was supported by a report by the South African Police Service stating that 80% of the sexual offences reported in 2016 and 2017 were rape.

Feminist academic professor Pumla Dineo Gqola calls rape “a South African nightmare” — and women are now sharing their nightmares on social media in the hope of driving real change.

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From parents who are paralysed by fear over their daughter’s safety, to survivors of attacks by strangers, friends, and intimate partners. And yet more shared their experiences at work and academic institutions.

The tweets being shared capture the overwhelming feeling that women and girls don’t feel safe anywhere, and address the urgent need to tackle levels of femicide and gender-based violence.

"Pakile" is a slang-word for a curvy body. 

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In an emotional trip post, a mother recalled how she had already been groomed by her rapists when she was her daughter's current age.

In March this year, a group of academics wrote an open letter to the then minister of higher education and training Dr. Naledi Pandor, detailing the magnitude of sexual and other forms of violence experienced female and gender non-binary students.

Part of the letter said: "This environment compromises both the academic freedom and citizenship of female staff and students in our higher education and training institutions. We know that this is not unique to the academic setting but prevails in society as a whole. However, we hope that the Higher Education sector can start leading the way and show how to deal with sexual violence in other sectors as well."

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As well as sharing their fears and experiences, women once again called on Cyril Ramaphosa and the government to step up efforts to fight GBV.

The tragedy of Mrwetyana's disappearance and murder is not the only incident of GBV that has been making news in the country. A 22-year-old boxing and karate champion, Leighandre "Baby Lee" Jegels, was shot and killed by her police officer boyfriend. She had a protection order against him.  

Others shared the guilt and shame they felt after they were violated.

In her seminal anthology, Collective Amnesia, poet Koleka Putuma writes: "I don't want to die with my hands up or legs up."

Her words resonate with the experiences of many women and girls in South Africa. 

If you live in South Africa and have experienced sexual or gender-based violence, you can find resources for advice and support here.