Trigger warning: Sexual violence
We are at war. We’ve been at war. We are victims of a nationwide epidemic; a femicide like no other. We are victims and survivors. But, we are not all survivors.
How many women, LGBTQ+ and gender non-conforming persons have to die before our country gets the message? Before our government protects us? Before men stop raping us? It’s already been too many… There are survivors who are struggling to even breathe, because their rapists still walk free.
A woman is killed every 4 hours in South Africa. There were over 35 000 sexual offenses last year, including rape, assault. 2930 women were murdered by men. But these are merely the numbers of reported offenses. What about the women who are unable to report their experiences? The women and LGBTQ+ people unable to seek justice? What about the justice system that does nothing to protect its women and children?
Nowhere is safe. Nowhere. Not our workplaces, not our schools, not our universities, not our places of worship, not our homes. We live in constant fear. For ourselves. For our fellow sisters. For our bodies. For our very lives.
Something has got to change. We are calling now for action. We need action.
We need harsher penalties for rapists and abusers. In my opinion, rapists should rot in prison for the scars they leave us to bear, for the wounds they have inflicted upon women. Others are suggesting castration or the death penalty? Regardless, the sentiment is shared. Harsher punishments are necessary.
We need to change the culture that exists within our police force. They cannot be desensitized to the pain of women in South Africa. They need to hear our cries for help and actually protect us. Enough now.
We need to educate our people. We need an education system that teaches against and prevents gender based violence in our schools, in our communities, in our workplaces, and in our universities. Boys will be boys, hey? NO! Boys need to learn that they are not more powerful than women. It has to start from a young age, so that men know that they do not have the right to a woman’s body, to anyone’s body.
Rape culture is entrenched deep within our society. And is fueled by society, everyday. By men making rape jokes, treating women as though we are disposable to them; by men not confronting their friends, by people covering up for their rapist friends and excusing rapists. This is absolutely inexcusable.
The system is upheld when you are complicit, when you don’t do anything.
When you are passive your silence only ends up fueling this violence against us.
Our fight cannot end here, or now. This anger and protest must continue until no more women have to suffer at the hands of men. No more LGBTQ+ and non-conforming people are brutalized at the hands of men. No more children have to die at the hands of men. We must ensure that no one is next!
And you can help. You will not lose anything by saying “what can I do to help?”
The answer is simple!
LISTEN TO US.
STOP MAKING RAPE JOKES.
STOP COVERING UP FOR YOUR RAPIST FRIENDS.
STOP RAPING AND KILLING WOMEN, CHILDREN AND LGBTQ+ PERSONS.
HOLD EACH OTHER ACCOUNTABLE.
HOLD LEADERSHIP ACCOUNTABLE TO THEIR PROMISES OF CHANGE AND OF SAFETY.
DO NOT LET YOUR FRIENDS GET AWAY WITH ANY OFFENSE ON A WOMAN’S BODY.
ENOUGH IS ENOUGH.
Maybe then… we will not have to be at war. Maybe then… we will be safe.
Video by Matt Masson and Amy Codrington
Written by Amy Codrington and Zama Zwane