Cape Town - Feminists and gender activists are expected to take to the streets across South Africa to protest against gender-based violence.
“We just decided that this has to be stopped and that this cannot be normalised,” said #TheTotalShutdown spokesperson Lucy Nomhle Bowles.
Bowles said women had been subjected to heinous crimes for years, and it was time to hold the government to account.
“Women are no longer safe to walk alone without being whistled at by men; we need to start protecting the women in our country,” she said.
#TheTotalShutdown has urged the public to stay away from work and wear black with a touch of red to show solidarity.
Mass marches are expected to take place across all nine provinces, while neighbouring countries Lesotho, Botswana and Namibia will hold their own marches. Transgender women and members of the LGBTIQA+ community will also participate in the marches.
The protest in Cape Town is expected to start at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology and will make its way to Parliament to hand over a list of demands. The organisation is demanding that Parliament form a special unit to deal with gender-based violence.
This includes the establishment of an independent ombud for gender-based violence and a specific enquiry mandate for the SA Human Rights Committee, Commission for Gender Equality and Commission for the Protection of the Rights of Cultural, Religious and Linguistic Communities.
They are also demanding that the school curriculum include content that informs pupils about gender-based violence and how to prevent it, in a bid to change attitudes. “It’s time someone holds the government responsible, and we will ensure the demands are seen to,” Bowles said.
So far, various unions and civil society organisations have backed #TheTotalShutdown campaign. The SA Federation of Trade Unions said it fully supported the call. “As trade unions we also have to fight for women workers who have been sexually harassed or assaulted in their workplace and encourage them to say #MeToo.
“This is harder than for Hollywood stars, given the levels of patriarchy in the work hierarchy, the use of intimidation to stop whistle-blowers and the danger of being dismissed, or even murdered, if they speak out,” said spokesperson Patrick Craven.
Information advocacy group Right2Know also is also backing the campaign.
“R2K wants to once again raise our voice to say enough is enough.
We cannot afford to remain silent,” a spokesperson said.