ActivismSex & Gender

south african women are taking the streets to kick patriarchy’s balls with powerful protests

August 3, 2018
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August is Women’s Month in South Africa and this usually entails corporate and government agencies inundating women with pink themed products, trinkets and events that are supposed to show “support” for the plight of women in South Africa. This year, these shallow gestures are being kicked to curb as women all over South African took the streets protesting the pandemic levels of gender-based violence ravaging women, children and the gender-nonconforming population.

With National Women’s Day on the 9th of August, WomensProtestSA took the opportunity to reframe the conversation on gender-based violence by starting the month of August with a march protesting the high rates of femicide under the banner #TotalShutdown. Women marched to Parliament in Cape Town, the Union Buildings in Tshwane as well as all over South Africa and in neighboring Botswana, Lesotho and Namibia. The organizers planned to hand over a memorandum that details steps towards meaningful action to curb gender-based violence but President Cyril Ramaphosa was not at the Union Buildings when the crowd gathered. “Among those leading the march was Nomasomi Limakwe a wheelchair-bound woman‚ who said‚ “This is an important platform for me as a woman who is also disabled‚ to raise my voice to say enough is enough,” reported Times Live.

South Africa has garnered bad press for its gender-based violence before as it was once called the “rape capital of the world”. Not much has changed in the case of GBV because the “South African femicide rate is 5 times more than the global rate,” Nathi Mthethwa, the minister of arts and culture stated. Key findings from the “many surveys which have been done on this matter” included that “in South Africa, every 8 hours a woman is killed and at least half of these women die at the hands of their intimate partners”. Cases that punctuate this hell-scape include the story of Karabo Mokeona who was murdered and burned by her boyfriend Sandile Mantsoe. Mantsoe was found guilty and sentenced to 32 years in jail but the callousness of his actions and his testimony reveal in deeply ingrained lack of regard for the life of a women – an attitude many South African men display when confronted about the violence perpetrated against women.

The #TotalShutdown march was a rallying cry towards men and government figures that leave women in vulnerable positions when it comes to intervening in GBV. The Minister of Women, MP Susan Shabangu was even quoted saying “Karabo came across as very strong, but internally she was weak. She was weak and hence she became a victim of abuse”. Minister Shabangu further emphasized that “Karabo was in a relationship where she thought it would work for her but it led to unfortunately the death of her,” wrote Daily Maverick. Shabangu’s remarks mimic the structural attitude towards victims of violence as police officers have often told women that file reports against partners to go back and to the abuse and “work it out”. Africa Check spoke to Major-General Sally de Beer, the South African Police Service’s head of corporate communication and she told them that that “the crime registrar office of the South African Police Service does not keep intimate-partner-violence statistics, as this is not a legally defined crime”.

South African women, children and gender-nonconforming people are let down by men, the police and government structures on a consistent basis and now refuse to not be heard. When we dare state that #MenAreTrash, we’re met with a barrage of #NotAllMen and hoards of defensive men who refuse to acknowledge the systematic implications of the very toxic masculinity that propels gender-based violence.

The jig is up! Down with gender-based violence! No more funerals!