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One Year Since Uyinene Mrwetyana’s Murder – Has Anything Changed in the Fight Against Gender-Based Violence?

Trigger warning: Gender-based violence

It has been a year since the gruesome and horrific murder of UCT student, Uyinene Mrwetyana. After this horrible act of gender-based violence (GBV), protests erupted all over South Africa, even some overseas. The entire country stood together against GBV. Because of the mass number of protests all over the country, the government had no choice but to listen to out demands. The President made a promise to help the fight against GBV using stricter sentences towards attackers and perpetrators. Since it has been a year we have to ask, what has changed? Were promises kept? 

To give some perspective, in 2019 the police reported 87 000 complaints of GBV. You could ask, since it is only September, how could we judge the severity of GBV this year? Think about this - a record of 2300 complaints were recorded during the FIRST week of lockdown in March. That is only ONE week! Imagine if we tally up the complaints for the year, so far. And those are only the complaints that get reported. What about the complaints that are not called in? 

Regardless of the ‘promises’ that were made, NOTHING has gotten better. The lockdown is forcing countless women and men to live in the company of abusive partners. We have had to read repeatedly of the femicide in our country. Just a few weeks ago, news released that there was a serial killer in KwaZulu-Natal killing women. Two suspects were found; one died while the other confessed to the 6 bodies found and indicated additional victims. Having to watch the news of students accusing their assaulter and their assaulter having their bail set, AFTER we were promised much stricter actions to be taken against the perpetrators, is sickening. 

Just when we thought that it could not possibly get worse, a series of anti-GBV movements were organized in Cape town, Johannesburg, and Port Elizabeth. Most of these protests were successful except for the Cape Town (29 August 2020). This started with a police presence already even though the protestors were extremely peaceful. Suddenly, a large group of bikers invaded the protest, aggravated policemen, and started getting violent. There were clear distinctions between the bikers and peaceful protestors, but police officers shot stun grenades, rubber bullets and tear gas at the peaceful protestors after the bikers had fled. At an anti-GBV protest there was police brutality... And police officers did not even care that there were minors there. 

I don't know about you all reading this, but I am SICK and TIRED of women just becoming hashtags or faces of protests. Having to constantly look over my shoulder if I am out and feeling terrified everywhere I go should NOT be the norm! An Instagram account called @girlsagainstoppression posted a question that asked South African women, “What would you do if there were no men for a day?” The most common answer was "TAKE A WALK". Simply a nice walk at night. Some said they want to spend time in nature, to wear whatever CLOTHING they want without feeling AFRAID. Some said they would implement laws for the safety of victims and make the sex offenders list public. Some said they would have freedom to do whatever they desired. Lastly, some answered they would live a day with no fear of being raped or assaulted. These are not supposed to ever become demands; these are supposed to be fundamental rights.    

“Until the colour of your skin is the target, you will never understand”- Angela Davis
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