For South African women, August began with a #TotalShutDown march against gender-based violence.
It’s Women’s Month and, in response to having seen “one too many posters of missing women,” the march organisers called on women from all sectors to join together in protest.
It prompts the question: What exactly are we celebrating on Women’s Day? We’ve come very far in speaking out and addressing gender-based issues, but we still have a long way to go. Are we doing enough to drive social change? Or are we treating 9 August like another Valentine’s Day?
Women in this country have had enough of the fluffy campaigns and high teas; we want to know what exactly is being done to address the issues that affect women regardless of race, gender, religion, or success.
Femicide, rape, misogyny, and domestic violence still plague the country at rapid rates and it is high time we put down the tea and cupcakes and have the uncomfortable conversations about issues that negatively affect our society as a whole.
Since the brutal murder of 22-year-old Karabo Mokoena by her ex-boyfriend in 2017, the issue of femicide has been a roundtable discussion across the country. But the rate at which women are being killed by their supposed loved ones has not slowed down one bit.
Minister of arts and culture Nathi Mthethwa recently stated that the femicide rate in South Africa is five times the global average. A woman is reportedly killed every four hours in South Africa — and at least half of these are killed by their partners.
Why does this happen? Why are men killing women?
Masculinity and misogyny play a major role in our femicide statistics. Men are raised to believe that they are not only superior to women, but that they own them as well. The issue of power relations come into play not only in whether we have successful jobs and how we are viewed in society, but also in whether or not our lives are valued.
Siyabulela Monakali‚ from anti-gender violence organisation Ilitha Labantu‚ recently spoke to Times Live and stated that the law is not doing enough to protect women against their perpetrators.
“Far too often a perpetrator will abuse a woman‚ get arrested for the crime, and a week later the perpetrator is out roaming the streets and committing the exact same crime they were arrested for in the first place,” he said.
“In South Africa we have laws in place to protect women; however, the problem lies in the implementation of these laws,” he continued. “It is imperative that strict laws are put in place so that women feel safe enough to report crimes committed against them and that the perpetrators are dealt with accordingly.”
According to a study done by the Economist, South Africa is the "rape capital of the world." One in three women will be raped in their lifetime and, horrifically, a rape is believed to occur every 13 minutes.
Young Rhodes University student Khensani Maseko tragically fell victim to this statistic and, earlier this month, died by suicide. Her experience triggered an outpouring of support for her family and a wave of national outrage.
The suicide of #KhensaniMaseko has exposed an entrenched, dangerous, mysoginistic and repulsively patriarchal belief system amongst many men: that a husband/boyfriend doesn't need consent to have sex with his partner. If this is what you believe, be assured that YOU'RE WRONG!— Jack Devnarain (@JackD157) August 7, 2018
Another rape survivor, Bontle Nthudisane, 31, who is now a motivational speaker, told local newspaper Sowetan that she was raped four times within two years.
"I was first raped in 2010,” she said. “I was raped again in 2012. In 2014, a taxi driver raped me and tried to drive over me. I was saved by four men who also gang-raped me. When they were done, they hit me with a stone on the head."
But again, the perpetrators did not face any criminal charges, nor have they suffered any consequences for their crime. It further highlights the little to no protection women have in this country, and even once a rape is reported, it is unlikely the attacker will be brought to justice.
3. Missing women and general safety
The Gauteng community safety department said in July that it is investigating the disappearance of 597 women who were reported missing in the province since last year.
Member of the executive council (MEC) Sizakele Nkosi-Malobane has since raised concern regarding the rapid rate of women going missing in the Gauteng area and has stated that the department is actively investigating every case.
“According to our statistics provided by the South African Police Service (SAPS) in the province, 597 women were reportedly missing in 2017 of which 151 were found,” she said. “The missing women are of different age categories. All the remaining cases of missing persons are being investigated until finalised.”
But the SAPS needs to be held more accountable. What task forces and preventative measures have been put in place to not only prevent women from going missing, but to also investigate and find missing women in a timely manner?
Women in this country have lost in faith in the law.
Women don’t feel safe in public and private spaces, and they have been burdened with the responsibility of actively raising awareness about the injustices being done against them.
The question remains: What have we, as a country, done to drive social change and protect our women before, during, and after Women’s Month?
- If you've been affected by any of the issues raised in this article, you can find resources for support here.
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