Femicide in South Africa

 

HC UToronto X HC UCT 

Edited by Tasmiyah Randeree

 

According to data collected in 2017/2018, in South Africa a woman is murdered every 3 hours. On Thursday, September 4th, South Africans took to the streets in order to protest against the Gender-Based violence that plagues our country. 

 

 
 
 
 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

One Nation #SASHUTDOWN #AMINEXT #CAPETOWN #SOUTHAFRICA #parliament #capetownmag

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This past Wednesday, people of all ages gathered in front of Parliament to protest gender-based violence and demanded to be addressed by President Cyril Ramaphosa. 

Witnessing the enraged protesters with powerful placards and grieving faces was moving, to say the least. This protest escalated, resulting in a number of students being brutally and violently arrested by the police.

 

 

It wasn’t until September 5th that President Ramaphosa finally addressed the issues, in an even bigger Cape Town protest- the turnout was quite remarkable. The #AmINext March was an organised protest to the South African Parliament Buildings in Cape Town. The march was sparked by recent news coverage of several gruesome and violent cases of women being murdered. The organisation of the march was arguably sparked by the case of a student at the University of Cape Town, Uyinene Mrwetyana. 

 

 
 
 
 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

1990 or 2017

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Uyinene Mrwetyana was a 19-year-old student in her first year at the University of Cape Town (UCT), fondly known as Nene by her peers. On August 25th around 2 pm, she left her residence to fetch a parcel at the post office and didn’t return. Her friends acted fast and began circulating missing posters on social media, and soon most of UCT knew her name and face. Several days later, news broke that a 42-year-old post office employee had confessed to her murder. She had come to the post office and was told by the accused that their system was offline and that she should come back later. When she returned, she was raped and bludgeoned to death with a scale inside the post office. The post office is located right next to the police station.   

The news of Nene’s death left us feeling shattered. I was angry, afraid and frustrated, and this incident just added on to the list of murders that had occurred over the last two weeks. On Thursday, August 22nd, 32-year-old Lynette Volschenk was murdered and dismembered in her home, Friday, August 30th, 19-year-old Jesse Hess was found murdered in her home, and 25-year-old South African boxing champion, Leigh-Andre Jegels was murdered by her boyfriend on that same day. All these incidents and more occurring just as we exit South Africa's Women’s Month. All of these women died at the hands of men in terribly violent manners, and this is only the tip of the iceberg.  

 

 

It should be noted that women aren’t the only persons who fall victim to gender-based violence, there are many transgender, gender-nonconforming and non-binary persons who fall victim to violence on a regular basis. We've all been socialised into taking precautions for our own safety; we're told to go out in groups, take self-defence classes, and make sure our car doors are locked as soon as we get in, but nobody seems to question why this responsibility has been placed on us, rather than investigating and prosecuting perpetrators of Gender-Based Violence (GBV).  

Femicide has become an epidemic in South Africa, yet even our own government reinforces this narrative that we are responsible for the acts of violence committed against us. We live in constant fear for our lives, the lives of women closest to us and even strangers we will never meet. We are told we should be “vigilant”, but we already take all the safety measures we can! It is so ingrained in us to constantly look over our shoulders, to stay away from “unsafe” places, to share our whereabouts with loved ones, and to believe the safest place is our home. But what happens when we are attacked in our homes? When a daily errand at a seemingly safe place, in broad daylight, leads to our death? When the very police officers who are supposed to protect us from gender-based violence choose to protect perpetrators and act violently towards women? We acknowledge that no woman is safe, that absolutely anyone could be next, and thus birthed the “#AmINext?” movement.  We are tired, we are scared and we are urgently pleading for action from our Government. 

 

 

Gender-Based Violence has become such a frequent occurrence that there are no more preventive measures that can be put into place. Women of South Africa have demanded that the root of this issue be addressed; the perpetrators of rape and violence in South Africa, namely men. The burden of preventing Gender-Based Violence has been placed upon the shoulders of women when it should not be our responsibility. Normalised patriarchial ‘banter’, misogynistic ideologies and men's silence in these discussions are everyday actions that contribute towards normalising GBV and Rape Culture.

Women are so tired of not having their voices heard and nothing being done about their reported cases of rape and sexual abuse that they took to social media platforms such as Twitter and Instagram to seek justice and call out perpetrators themselves. Twitter namely has been a platform women are using to speak out on their own experiences of sexual abuse. South African business owners, musicians, public figures and even educators were amongst the long list of perpetrators. One thing became alarmingly undeniable and spread over the pages of social media: men are trash!    

In addition to the #AmINext march, people have begun fighting back through social media activism, using the hashtags #MenAreTrash, #AmINext and #IWillNotBeNext to share their experiences surrounding GBV, rape culture, and what changes need to be made in order for us to feel somewhat safe. In addition to this, a group of UCT students have started the I Will Not Be Next Campaign, a charity drive to buy and distribute pepper spray to students who are unable to afford it.   

As of now, we have been made somewhat empty promises for change, both by our academic institutions and our government. We know that many women experience GBV on a global scale and can relate to the discussions taking place. We invite you all to stand in solidarity with us by following the movement online, sharing the discussions about femicide in South Africa, and supporting us in our fight for change.

 

 

If you’d like to help support survivors of GBV in South Africa please consider donating to organisations such as Rape Crisis, The Triangle Project or Tears Foundation.

 

Image 1 by Adam Thomas-James / Image 2