Every August, we commemorate the Women's March which took place in Pretoria in 1956. This momentous day brought together over 10 000 women from across the racial boundary lines to protest against the introduction of the Apartheid pass laws for black women in 1952, and to present a petition to the then Prime Minister J.G Strijdom.
Exactly 63 years later, women across racial lines are coming together again. This time, the fight is against Gender-Based Violence (GBV). Sparked by the cruel murder and rape of UCT student Uyinene Mrwetyana, women are now fighting for GBV more than ever.
The stats are clear. The police recorded 177,620 reported crimes against women in the 2017/18 financial year that ended 31 March 2019. The statistics from SAP list 36,731 sexual offenses, including rape, assault and the murder of 2,930 women, which was up by 11%, from 2,639 murders of women in the 2016/17 financial year. Crime statistics can reveal how many rapes are reported to the police but, the fact is, they don’t tell us how many rapes are committed every year, as so many rape cases go unreported.
Rape culture - So what are we doing about it?
Besides the fear of violence, what many people forget is that the rape culture also has a physical and economic cost for women and the country. Exercising in public has left many women too scared to even attempt it cause we fear for our lives. We have to worry about what we wear and we cant take up certain jobs because it is not safe to walk at night.
Then there is also the economic cost of GBV. Gender-based violence costs are estimated at R24-42 billion annually with additional social costs that compromise the sexual and reproductive health, mental health, social well-being, productivity, mobility and capacity of survivors to live healthy and fulfilling lives.
As we mourn the death of Uyinene and the many women and LGBTQIA who have also been victims of GBV, women are also using this dark period to take action and deal with rape culture in the country.
Here are a few things that you can do to support the movement:
Sign the petition
Laura-Lee Gillion has created a petition to pressure the government to take Gender-Based Violence seriously. As part of the petition, she says, “ In Sierra Leone, the president declared 200 rapes for the year a state of emergency. South Africa’s murders against women are currently around 3000 per year, whilst sexual offenses against women are at 50 000 per year (sic).
Signing this petition will help our government realise the severity of the situation or that we are no longer tolerating this. Gender-based violence needs to be discussed and addressed from the Parliamentarian level already. Our society has embedded violence against our women (sic).”
You can sign the petition here
Rape culture movement - Submit and comment on the National Strategic Plan on Gender-Based Violence and Femicide.
The interim committee for Gender-Based Violence and Femicide has put together a strategic plan to fight crimes against women for the next decade and is calling on South Africans to contribute and comment on the plan. The plan outlines six outcomes such as Accountability and Leadership and Economic Power which they have identified as a priority in order to deal with the scourge.
If you would like to be part of discussions and contribute as part of a group. You can join the small session created by Public Relations Manager and activist Nelisa Ngqulana to work on a submission next week Thursday, 12 Sep from 9am - 12pm in Rosebank, Johannesburg.
Rape culture - How to call it out.
While many people think that getting a taser or taking self-defence classes may be the solution, the best way to fight and reduce rape culture is to call it out and prevent it altogether.
There are several ways you can call out rape culture. For example, start by taking an active role in calling out people who ask questions like “what was she wearing?” when referring to a rape victim. It involves teaching our brother's consent and to make them understand that they will be held accountable when they say offensive things about other women or show predatory behaviour.
"It is believing and supporting women when they say they are raped."
While cancel culture may seem extreme for many, it can play an important role in taking a stand again rape culture by hitting men where it hurts the most, their pockets.
That means never listening to R- Kelly again, ensuring he never receives royalty money ever again. It also means reporting the cashier at your nearest post office to their manager/head office when they sexually harass you, this will ensure that there are repercussions for their behavior and they don’t have the power to do that to someone else - it is also an important warning to other men who show predatory behavior.
The onus of dealing with Gender-Based Violence shouldn’t be left with women - the victims. But the truth is, there is no social or political will from government and men to deal with it, that is why women need to take the matter into their own hands and force men to do better. Do these few things to play your part in dealing with the issue. Perhaps in 10 years, we may find this country a better place for women to live in.
Blog by Sanelisiwe Maliza | Twitter @Sani_Maliza Sources: Africa Check and Gender-Based Violence and Femicide Strategic Plan