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Cyril Ramaphosa is sworn in as South African President in Cape Town, South Africa, Thursday Feb. 15, 2018. Ramaphosa on Thursday was elected unopposed as South Africa's new president by ruling party legislators after the Wednesday resignation of Jacob Zuma.
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Girls & Women

Women Just Silently Stood in Protest During President’s Speech at South Africa’s First Gender Violence Summit


Why Global Citizens Should Care
The UN's Global Goals call for an end to violence against women and girls. And yet, in South Africa, rates of harassment, rape, and other types of gender-based violence are on the rise. Join us by taking action here to raise you voice and call for an end to the violence. 

Activists have joined together in silent protest against femicide and abuse of women and girls, as South African President Cyril Ramaphosa gave a keynote speech at the nation’s first gender-based violence summit, in Pretoria. 

Dressed all in black, women stood together on Thursday, holding underwear in the air bearing messages such as “no means no,” “stop rape,” and “don’t kill my pride.” 

The two-day Summit Against Gender-Based Violence and Femicide — held in Centurion, Pretoria — was launched in response to nationwide marches in August, for the #TotalShutdown. 

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Campaigners presented a memorandum of 24 demands to the government — insisting that it finds a solution to the shocking rates of femicide and abuse of women in the country. 

Ramaphosa convened the summit as a response, and to develop a national action plan to put an end to the violence. 

“Gender-based violence is an affront to our shared humanity as South Africans,” he told the assembled audience, as the protesters stood around the room, holding their messages above their heads. “The unrelenting murder of women in our country, for no reason other than that they are women, is steadily corroding the soul of our nation.” 

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“Survivors of sexual violence and abuse, be it physical, psychological, or economic, often live with these scars for a very long time,” he continued. “When abuse occurs in a situation of trust, whether in the family, in the church, in the schools of our nation, or elsewhere, the sense of betrayal is indeed intensified.” 

“One moment of violence can have permanent consequences on the lives of women,” he said. “Most of us can testify to the fact that we know someone who is a survivor, a survivor of gender-based violence, or who has in some way or other been affected by the heinous crimes that are being committed against the women of our country.” 

In June this year, StatsSA revealed that the number of women experiencing sexual offences had increased by over 100% in just one year, between 2015/6 and 2016/7. South Africa’s femicide rate is also five times higher than the global rate. 

“We cannot, and we will not, rest until we have brought those figures down to zero,” said Ramaphosa. “We are aiming for a femicide rate of zero.” 

He further said that “gender-based violence is a societal problem, and should never be seen as a problem for women alone.” 

“We must put an end to patriarchy,” he added. “It cannot go on.”

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Among those at the summit was Martha Marumo, who is currently serving a life sentence in prison after killing her abusive husband, and attended the summit under prison warden supervision. 

Marumo was arrested in 2003 and was sentenced in 2005. She is now serving her sentence at Kgosi Mampuru prison. 

“I am a woman who was abused and decided to take the law into my own hands by killing my husband,” she said after joining a panel at the summit, according to News24. “This was not a food solution.”

“I don’t want to lie, I never opened any case against him, but police were involved,” she continued. “I went to the station many times and we were told it was a family matter.” 

Women at the summit were also calling for Marumo’s release, according to reports, with chants of “release her now, release Martha now” reportedly echoing around the room. 


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