Don't Look Away while women in South Africa are being brutally murdered
Dumped under a tree, hidden under a bed, lying in a sack outside a lover’s shack, dumped on an open piece of field and left to rot. These are the circumstances under which the bodies of at least four women from various parts of South Africa have been found in the last few weeks. And there are many, many more.
Social media is abuzz with hashtags paying tribute to women brutally murdered by men they knew. Everyone is outraged. Newsrooms are scrambling to get together enough information on each case because we know that these women’s deaths cannot go unreported.
As a country, we are hurting. Everyone keeps asking why but the answers are simply not forthcoming. Our police can’t tell us why women are being annihilated. Our government can’t tell us what they are doing to stop the tide of murder and the attending heartbreak of children left without mothers, parents robbed of their daughters and communities ripped apart by the brutality of these crimes.
We’re fighting a coronavirus which has already claimed more than 1 500 lives locally and more than half-a-million across the world. A national lockdown which has lasted nearly three months has decimated the economy and brought untold hardship on the country’s citizens. Our children are gradually returning to school even as those who have to educate them are falling ill from Covid-19.
Fighting this virus, and all the issues that accompany it, should be our focus but the demon we have been fighting for years has risen and is hell-bent at ripping us even further apart.
Globally, the fight against Covid-19 has been overshadowed in recent weeks by the re-emergence of the Black Lives Matter protest movement. Since George Floyd died after being pinned down by a white police officer who knelt on his neck, country after country has seen mass protests against racism and, in recent days, against the statues and other symbols that represent racism and colonialism. And this is as it should be.
In South Africa, we saw Collins Khosa dying after a brutal assault by law enforcement officers and soldiers tasked with enforcing the lockdown regulations. Political parties and civil society united in anger, calling for those responsible to be brought to book. Investigations into the incident are still ongoing, and the pain and anger continue to simmer. As it should be.
But for the past few weeks, slowly at first, but rapidly gaining momentum over the past week, a wave of brutal murders has swept through the country. Again. The common thread in each case is that the victim is female, and in almost every instance was either acquainted with or had a relationship with the man who is believed to be responsible for her murder.
Two years ago, during the launch of our #WeRemember Women’s Month campaign, IOL made a promise to the women that we would not let their deaths go unnoticed. Later that same year, during 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence we asked husbands, fathers, police officers and the public not to ignore the signs of GBV with our #DontLookAway campaign.
For us, those 16 days have turned into two years of documenting the brutal deaths of mothers, daughters, sister and friends. We never stopped, and we won’t stop now.
IOL is once again saying to our readers, to government, to police officers to whom crimes against women are reported, colleagues who suspect those long sleeves are hiding bruises, to friends and family members of women trapped in potentially lethal situations, DON’T LOOK AWAY.
Over the coming days we will, along with reporting on the crimes committed against women, step up our efforts to offer you tools to help women get out of dangerous relationships, publish expert advice to assist victims of gender-based violence and their loved ones who are suffering with them, source thought pieces on where to next and press government to come up with a workable solution to end the scourge of violence against women.
* If you wish to submit a letter or an opinion piece for for consideration to be published as part of this campaign please send an email to [email protected] with the words Don't Look Away in the subject line.