As southern Africa grapples with a gender-based violence crisis, chairman Cyril Ramaphosa is convening, on 18 September, the whole parliament for a special session on exactly how to create a culture in which ladies feel not only safe, however enjoy human being rights equal to men. With 52,420 sexual offences report in the critical financial year - and many unreported - numerous thousands of world in south Africa room publicly speak “#EnoughIsEnough.” Churches and faith areas are a vocal, visible component of this call for change. Will the momentum grow? will we stand with the females of south Africa?


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Through the Thursdays in black color campaign, the WCC encourages human being all over the people to speak up against sexual and gender based violence. Photo: Albin Hillert/WCC


18 September 2019

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Thursdays in Black

By Lyn van Rooyen*

“Wathint" abafazi,wathint" imbokodo.”

As south Africa grapples with a gender-based violence crisis, chairman Cyril Ramaphosa is convening, top top 18 September, the whole parliament for a one-of-a-kind session on just how to develop a culture in which ladies feel not only safe, yet enjoy human being rights same to men. With 52,420 sexual offences reported in the last financial year - and many unreported - hundreds of thousands of human being in south Africa space publicly saying “#EnoughIsEnough.” Churches and faith areas are a vocal, visible component of this call for change. Will the momentum grow? will certainly we stand v the women of southern Africa?

On 9 respectable 1956, as many as 20 thousand ladies from everywhere South Africa marched come the Union buildings in Pretoria. Black color women, joined by ladies from every backgrounds, races, and different areas protested the growth of Apartheid "Pass Laws" to women. Lock handed over thousands of petitions and then stood in silence. For 30 minutes nobody moved. And then they started singing "Wathint" abafazi, wathint" imbokodo." they warned climate Prime Minister Strydom the " you strike the women, you strike a rock."

This action of protest and solidarity is so crucial in the history of southern Africa that 9 august is a publicly holiday, and the totality of august is known as "Women"s Month."

The month is filled through events and activities, and also of course, the retail sector capitalises on this. Pink champagne and also perfume, pink balloons and roses, high teas and wine tastings, spa visits and pretty pond . . . We are wished "happy women"s day."

And every day, in Women"s Month and every other month, women space beaten, raped, and also murdered.

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South Africa is often referred to together "the rape resources of the world." back this is in countless ways a nonsensical statement, the reveals a depth truth. Southern Africa"s crime statistics because that 2018-2019 indicate that 52,420 sexual offences were reported in the past financial year, an increase of 4.6%. This method that an mean of 143 sex-related offences is reported every day. Still, we room told that sex-related offences are widely underreported. Part researchers say that this rate can be as lot as ripe times higher. A KPMG study approximated that gender-based violence costs the nation over R28 billion per annum, amounting to 1% that the gross residential product.

Except for a couple of prominent and high-profile cases, the disappearance, rape, murder, and assault of women and children perform not even make the front pages the newspapers.

Civil society and women"s organisations have actually not to be quiet. For many years there have actually been marches and protests but little has changed.

The winds the change

And climate it to be Women"s Month 2019.

- The chopped-up body of a 32-year-old mrs was discovered stuffed in dustbin bags in a neighbour"s flat

- A 36-year-old doctor died after gift shot in the head in front of her three children by her estranged husband

- Boxing champion Leighandre "Baby Lee" Jegels, was shot and killed by she policeman ex-boyfriend

- A young theology student and also her grand were murdered in their home

- A seven-year-old to be kidnapped as her mother walked her into school

- university of Cape city student Uyinene Mrwetyana disappeared. Days later, the story broke – she was raped in her local write-up office by a post-office worker as soon as picking up a parcel. As soon as she resisted, she was bludgeoned to fatality with a article office scale.

And something change in the cumulative psyche that the females of southern Africa. It is as if the heart of 1956 woke up.

Thousands of women started commenting on social media. Ladies saying #MeToo, #AmINext, #SAWomenFightBack, #EnoughIsEnough, #MenAreTrash

Hundreds that students attend a vigil in ~ the college of Cape city for Uyinene. This rippled out to other universities. College students came together in prayer events, protests and meetings. Students started sharing their stories of abuse and of rape society prevalent top top the campuses.

On 5 September, thousands of protesters gathered outside the parliament in Cape Town and outside the convention centre where the people Economic Forum on Africa (#AF19) was taking place. Chairman Cyril Ramaphosa, who was scheduled to speak at #AF19 to be compelled to readjust his schedule and listen to the cries that the protesters. The promised that government would act swiftly and also decisively. Cases of police reaction to this relaxed protest v violence created even more concern about the duty of the police in violence against women and around the negative handling and also poor outcomes of report cases.

Facebook groups proliferated. One women’s-only group (secret to safeguard the stories and identities the victims) prospered in days to 50,000, then to 100,000, 150,000 and also in less than a month to much more than 200,000 members. This group is to fill by story after ~ story – females saying over and over “I have never spoken about this before.”

Petitions were drawn up - calling for action, calling for accountability, calling for an overhaul of the righteousness system, phone call for support for victims, calling because that no bail, no parole for rapist and also perpetrators of femicide, calling for return the the fatality sentence (one pro-death sentence petition received much more than 580,000 signatures in a week).

Growing demand for justice

Schools began responding. Pupils indigenous an all-boys college stood in solidarity in prior of the regional convent v banners and placards promising their support and that they will speak out versus all develops of abuse and violence. The guys of Bracken High school in Alberton, Ekurhuleni, pledged “I will certainly be the male that human being run to, not run from.”

Groups of females started getting together, in upmarket suburbs, ~ above street corners in townships, at rural street crossings: ten women, twenty women, women and children, through placards and with your voices, calling the end for change.

Churches and faith communities came to be vocal and also visible. Countless denominations and also congregations arranged distinct prayer events and also brought out statements lamenting the levels of violence. Belief leaders wrote searching articles difficult how unhealthy theologies and unhealthy masculinities contribute to a instance where women and women"s bodies room disrespected and devalued. A team of fourty female church leaders and theologians from the dutch Reformed Church brought out a strongly-worded statement daunting patriarchy and unhealthy theology together core drivers of abuse versus women. They called patriarchy within the church a “disease the the soul” that directly contradicts the gospel that Jesus.

There is a speak to for a various narrative. People start questioning why us say “a mrs was raped” rather of “someone/a man raped a woman”, why the dress, action or activities of the victims room questioned, fairly than the violence the the perpetrator, why the perpetrator is silent in the narrative, yet the action of the victims, greatly women and children, space in the centre. Even the above “Wathint" abafazi, wathint" imbokodo” is questioned, and men are reminded the women space not rocks, that as soon as struck, ladies bleed and also bruise.

Hitting the economic heart

On Friday 13 September the battle was taken to the love of the financial life that the country. Thousands of world met beginning at 3 to be at the Johannesburg share Exchange in Sandton because that #SandtonShutdown. As among the protest planners said: “We are going come the Johannesburg stock Exchange where the money is. We want to present the federal government that it can not be organization as normal while women room dying.” lock met in ~ that unexplained hour so that they can be in place when people arrived for work and also could disrupt the typical course that business. Plenty of businesses provided female employees leave to join the protest and businesses even shut under to enable employees to take part in the protest. Protesters called out the silence and complicity of company in sexual and gender-based violence and called for a 2% “GBV tax” from companies noted on JSE to support the civil society response. The CEO that the JSE promised a response within a week.

Marches and also protests in assistance were organized by south African expatriates and also supporters in Dublin, London, Paris and many various other parts the the world.

Black dress was central in plenty of of this events and activities. Many human being committed and recommitted to the #ThursdaysinBlack campaign, and also there to be a far-ranging rise in the use of the hashtag on society media. Also when world were not explicitly conscious of the campaign, black and also purple to be the an option of dress of plenty of protesters, and many women in south Africa have actually been put on black consistently over the last couple of weeks as a prize of mourning and also solidarity.

The government had no choice but come respond. Ramaphosa has ongoing to speak out in the last 2 weeks at events and in a church service, admitting that the case is severe and also untenable, phone call on men to adjust their behaviour and to difficulty each other.

South Africa’s Justice and also Correctional solutions Minister Ronald Lamola critical week decried the fail of the righteousness system and said more than 65% of situations related to sexual offences were withdrawn before trial. It was also reported the in the 6 months indigenous April to September 2018, 55 policemen were investigated because that rape. The number of police officers affiliated in femicide, domestic violence and also family killing is also a factor for concern.

In an unexplained move, Ramaphosa summoned the two residences of parliament, the nationwide Assembly and the nationwide Council of Provinces, to an emergency sitting on 18 September to deal with gender-based violence. This is also one that the reasons given why the cancelled his to plan visit to the UN general Assembly. Presidential spokesperson Khusela Diko to be quoted together saying “The chairman has chose to stay in south Africa to attend to the implementation of government’s urgent actions on gender-based violence, the repair of order and also stability in areas affected by public violence and to oversee campaigns to turn about the economy.”

Building a wall of resistance

The responses that government and civil society are encouraging. However, in spite of the many of countless words written, the thousands activities and events, many women echo the indigenous of journalist and also author Marianne Thamm that wrote in ~ the end of Women"s Month the the "Unstoppable horror" and ask the cumulative question "what room we to do with the rage?."

Many are afraid that the movement that thrived over the last month will fade again, favor every hashtag, every 16 work campaign and also every various other flavour-of-the-month.

But there is hope that perhaps this time the is different, maybe this time the momentum will proceed to grow, possibly the walls of silence have been permanently broken large open, probably the heart of the females of 1956 is important alive, possibly the rocks that have been dug from the broken soil will be supplied to construct a wall surface of resistance the cannot be damaged down.

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Civil culture organisations room committed to keep federal government accountable for your promises and also commitments and also to monitor up and also support victims and survivors through the legal and healing process. Lawyers, doctors, psychologists and therapists are giving pro-bono support. Restaurants and business are putting “Come-In” logos on their doors and windows, inviting any type of women emotion unsafe come come in and promising come wait through them for transport and support lock in other ways necessary. Plenty of stories are told that survivors encouraging and supporting every other, of southern Africans crossing limits to help each other and to challenge perpetrators of violence and rape culture.

As they speak out, women space asking daunting questions the the church, of society, of the world: will we speak out against abuse in ~ our countless spaces? will we disclose the means in i m sorry our spiritual texts have been provided to perpetuate patriarchy and unhealthy masculinities and also femininities? will certainly we be brave enough to build a pilgrimage of justice and peace likewise in the difficult and disputed terrain of gender relations? will we stand through the females of south Africa?

Thursdays in Black

Just neighborhood of Women and Men

*Lyn van Rooyen is a communication and organizational consultant based in Johannesburg, southern Africa.