CULTURAL groups and traditional values enforcers say they feel bullied and are concerned that media giants Facebook and Google continue deleting online pictures of bare-breasted maidens. More than 200 maidens yesterday protested against the media companies, accusing them of discriminating against African culture.
Yesterday, Facebook removed a picture of three bare-breasted maidens posted by this reporter was removed by Facebook. “We removed this content, because it doesn’t follow the Facebook community standards,” read a message after the picture was removed. “…We restrict the display of nudity and sexual activity, because some audiences within our global community may be sensitive to this type of content – particularly because of their cultural background or age…
“We also restrict some images of female breasts if they include the nipple, but our intent is to allow images that are shared for medical or health purposes,” read the Facebook community standards in part.
Thuthukile Kabini, a facilitator of the Ndebele virgins, said they were tired of being bullied by white companies who knew nothing about African culture. “Let us fight for this. It is our culture and we must be proud of it. Facebook and Google must be abolished.
“Why do they allow women to post pictures of themselves in bikinis, yet they cannot allow our maidens to proudly wear their traditional attire and show their breasts?” Kabini asked. She said not only did the girls feel abused by the media companies, but ordinary citizens also discriminated against them. “When they walk around with bare breasts, they are touched. That is abuse and it should be reported to the police.
“If this continues, we will start sending our children to school in traditional attire. That is what we grew up wearing and were proud of it. There was no discrimination or abuse,” Kabini said. The maidens marched from Pieter Roos Park in Parktown to Beyers Naudé Square in the Joburg CBD. Braving the scorching heat, the maidens drew the attention of motorists, while others watched from their offices. Women ululated and cheered the girls on.
Facebook had not responded to questions by at the time of publication. Echoing Kabini’s sentiments, Paulina Buthelezi said the maidens should not stop being proud of their culture. “We say forward with our tradition. Africans are selling us out because of money. Let us uphold our culture,” she said.
Maiden Busi Madonsela, 18, from Tembisa in Ekurhuleni, said she wanted to be able to wear her traditional attire and not be abused. “When we walk around the taxi rank, taxi drivers touch us inappropriately. That is abuse. I’m here to showcase my culture, which I am proud of.
“I want to be able to wear my traditional attire on any day and be able to post pictures in the media. They must not be removed because that is discrimination,” said Busi. The "Paramount Chief of Africa", Francis Nwaneri, called on the companies to stay away from African culture. He said he had met with Google to discuss the matter, but to no avail.
“Stay away from our cultures and tradition… what you are doing here today is applicable to all African countries. This is the plan of the Western world – to pull down Africans. “I will always stick my head above the water to make sure that our culture and tradition is upheld,” he said, adding that it was unacceptable to call the maidens names and say they were naked. Bare-breasted and showing pride in her culture, Zinhle Sibaya, 16, said she was unhappy that the media companies would not allow them to come into their offices and deliver an invitation to the march.
“We were blocked from the door, which I did not like. We were treated like criminals,” she said. Organiser and TV and head of TV, Yabantu head Lwazi Dlamini said they would take the fight forward. “They have not shown remorse to what they are doing or tried to remedy their actions. We are going to offer them another chance…
“If they insult our women and children, they are insulting us. So they are already instigating violence against us. If they are instigating violence against us, we will instigate violence against them. What we need is respect for our culture, women and children,” Dlamini said. Botle Letsebe, the public education and engagement officer for the Commission for the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Cultural, Religious and Linguistic Communities, said the commission supported the maidens.
“There is nothing wrong that you are doing here today. You are protecting and promoting your culture. “We cannot have anyone determine and dictate who we are as South Africans,” she said, encouraging the maidens to lodge complaints with the commission. Google said in a statement to The Star: “None of TV Yabantu’s videos on its YouTube channel are blocked or restricted.
"YouTube policy allows for appropriate cultural nudity to be shown. Where videos have been incorrectly age-restricted, the restrictions are removed once the content is flagged and reviewed. “YouTube’s advertising policies do not allow for videos containing nudity to be monetised – meaning advertising may not be shown on any channel containing bare breasts/genitalia, even if it is okay by content guidelines. "This is a standard condition of use of the platform.”