GENDER-BASED violence is a crime that is fast destroying the women of South Africa, brutally and indiscriminately ending the lives of young and old, poor and rich, educated or not and from all races and creeds.
Those who survive it are forever scarred physically, emotionally, spiritually and psychologically. Statistics do not begin to tell the real story of this scourge as it is still shrouded in deep silence.
WATCH: Thousands of Durban women clad in black and red took part in #TotalShutdown #TheTotalShutdown!
Some of the demands:
1. No bail for rapists.
2. No parole for rapists.
3. Review cases of women who killed their abusers.
Video: @Karinda_J | @IOL pic.twitter.com/SLyfHbhFlp
Survivors do not speak out much; nor do the people around them. This deafening silence has to be broken if we are to respond appropriately to restore respect, dignity and peace for the vulnerable.
When women of all back-grounds united and marched in 1956 against the repressive apartheid system, the enemy was known, clear and common to all.
And as women of the same description marched on August 1, 2018, the enemy is just as repressive and common.
This time, the enemy shares a home with the woman, is in her bed and is very intimate with her and her children. The enemy is still known.
A mother panics when her daughter does not answer her phone after three rings. Women relatives and family check on each other all day, every day, always fearing the worst.
Gay and transgender people cannot live their lives for fear of “corrective” rape. Women sex workers in particular are dehumanised through sodomy and rape because they are powerless against the male force, sometimes in uniform.
It is a risk to leave girl children in the care of male adults, even for a brief moment. This is a state of siege. Women are constantly on edge, nervous, depressed. That on its own is an unhealthy life, it is emotional and psychological abuse against vulnerable groups simply because of their gender.
Social media has become a platform for perpetrating and normalising violence as “entertainment” which seems to be openly accepted.
Bullying in schools is at epidemic levels, yet there isn’t a clear system in place to deal with it. By the time it graduates to other forms of violence, the damage is immeasurable.
We have begun normalising the daily bullying, abduction, rape, sex slavery and killing of women, the LGBTIQ+ community and gender non-conforming people so quickly that even the SAPS classifies reported cases as “common assault”, ordinary “murder” or “public violence”.
So cases simply join the long and congested backlog of matters awaiting investigation and prosecution because they are not viewed as the serious and urgent matters they are.
Arrested suspects get bail very easily to go back home where they continue to commit these atrocities. Women are literally “here today, gone tomorrow”.
This is not to say that all men are guilty or complacent, but the truth is that the scales are tipped against women.
Our response to violence should necessarily and deliberately include engagement with young boys and men at the centre of the plan. It is about learning appropriate behaviour and unlearning destructive and abusive actions.
Young women have to be educated on gender and power relations to enable them to recognise their vulnerability enough to not enter into situations and behaviour which further compromise them in their attempts to keep up and “fit in” with the latest social trends.
The law has to name gender-based violence for what it really is. Only then can it “protect and serve” appropriately.
A national strategy should be put in place through a collaborative effort by the government and community organisations.
Cases of women incarcerated for crimes where they were clearly defending themselves should be reviewed with a view to giving them parole or releasing them.
The role of faith and the church in spiritual healing is marred by reported and silenced incidents of sexual abuse within the church. Women and LGBTIQ+ people no longer find solace or comfort in a place which used to be safe for vulnerable groups. Open communication, trust, honesty and support within the family unit no longer exist. Those who are supposed to provide all this are the ones who are feared the most.
School and tertiary education curriculums must include violence as a direct response to society’s needs. Service points of health and the law need to function collaboratively so that cases reported at one are referred to the other for the necessary care and attention needed by the case reporter or patient.
Gender equality has to become a political slogan and an ideal that is not far removed from reality.
* Motlhabani is a life coach and was chairperson of the Durban organising committee for the August 1 #TotalShutdown March.
* The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media.