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Johannesburg - At first glance they resemble blood-stained panties, and they have words like Stop Rape! written on them.
But the panties dipped in red paint are a provocative campaign by women’s rights activist Prudence Mabele in a desperate bid to bring an end to rape.
Mabele, the executive director of the Positive Women’s Network, walked through the women’s jail on Constitutional Hill on Valentine’s Day where she intended to hang 100 pairs of women’s panties in what she described as civil disobedience against the violence of women and young girls.
Mabele said the red paint on the underwear symbolised blood on people’s hands.
“When people go and violate you, they do all they can to ensure they get what they want. Panties are a personal thing and the first things that come off in a rape,” she said.
Mabele said it all began with the rape of a three-month-old child. This indicated the lack of action in our country had gone too far.
“We’ve lost our way as a society. How do you rape a defenceless 97-year-old grandmother and a young infant? What has happened to our morals?” she asked.
According to Mabele, the underwear is for all ages. She added that she had deliberately painted red on nappies and body suites worn by children to show that they, too, were affected by rape.
Mabele said she planned hanging more underwear at the Union Buildings and at embassies across the country.
She added the campaign titled: “Stop the war on women’s bodies” would even go as far as the UN.
“We need to tackle this in a fashionable way. We also need to stop reacting for seconds and forgetting about victims in the long run,” she said, recalling the rape of nine-month-old Baby Tshepang in 2002 by six men in Upington.
On seeing Mabele’s controversial panties campaign, Gloria Moitze said she had no doubt that the campaign would hit home.
“Maybe by doing this, people will start realising that women are human beings.
“We are worthy of living in a non-discriminatory and safe society. Our kids, our mothers, and grandmothers have suffered for far too long. “It’s not fair that they be put through a traumatic (attack),” she said.
Kutlwano Paid who looked bemused by the “blood stained” panties said he felt the campaign would make an impact.
“It probably will not appeal to everyone who comes across it, but it definitely has a hard-hitting message that will force any man to sit up and take notice,” he said.
Activist and One Billion Rising regional co-ordinator Gillian Schutte said violence against women and girls affected all classes of society and that the public needed to unite against rape.
The Joburg leg of the One Billion Rising campaign was run at Constitutional Hill where different activities were held.