Let’s talk about Women’s Day.
No, let’s not.
Our Dear Leaders ‒ and some companies and PR people ‒ extend it to a month to sell stuff, get social responsibility pats on the back or deliver speeches. Not even stirring speeches. Despite the publicity clamour, how many South Africans even know what it’s meant to commemorate?
So instead, let’s talk about what it means to women who have been constantly under attack for years.
News of the Krugersdorp mass rape sent me into an ineffable rage, further stoked by the reactions of our Dear Leaders.
Minister Hat immediately summoned his blue light convoy to go there to get on camera. President Ramaphosa demanded the apprehension of this group of savages, as if these monsters were different to the thousands of others who rape every day. Minister Motsoaledi burst into “haunted” tears. EFF’s CIC couldn’t find a creative way to defend his welcome illegal immigrants. Of course, there was an uproar because these rapists were non-citizens, not your average South African savage.
I couldn’t find anything on the health minister offering services to the eight young women who were gang-raped. One, a 19-year-old, was raped by 10 men. It’s unspeakable. The ANC Women’s League and minister of women, children and the disabled were equally absent.
We should have a Ministry of Rape because the reality is South African women are raped by South African men every minute.
In one of the many speeches made about GBV, it was described as a second epidemic.
So, with this acknowledged, what is being done by those who could actually do something? Nothing that helps a woman.
How many safe houses has this government built? How many social workers have been trained and employed? How many police stations have rape kits? How many people are trained and available to use the rape kits? How many already-violated women are re-raped by police officers to whom they turn for help? How many of these stations have a comforting private space in which raped women can report their violation? What is being done to overcome our forensic science black hole so we can actually get rapists behind bars?
How many trained counsellors are on standby to help these women take their first steps to any possible healing?
How many people are spreading across the nation, running frequent educational campaigns at schools to get the message across that rape is an unacceptable crime? And don’t blame single mothers ‒ millions of them raise boys who do not become rapists.
We need giant strides, but small steps help. For example, companies can start with educating their male driving staff that it is not acceptable to drive our streets, hooting and catcalling at women pedestrians.
It is so easy for those who have the power to say all the right things. We also have the long-winded and decidedly unsnappy campaign named something like 10 Days of Activism against Women and Child Abuse coming up soon. Various government agencies and PR people are no doubt devising plans for their ministers and clients to bemoan the statistics or stand up against abuse. But do nothing as the scourge rages on.
Women don’t need a day, or 10 days. We need real help.
- Lindsay Slogrove is the news editor.
The Independent on Saturday