I wake up and I feel a bit anxious. Preparing for school has become discomforting over the last year or so… even just leaving the house and walking towards the first taxi I have to take to get me to class…
You see, I’m a young woman in South Africa and acts of violence against women seem to have increased a lot recently. Other women have advised me to always be aware of my surroundings, so as I walk down the street to the taxi rank, I clutch my keys tightly, ready to use them as a weapon at any moment.
“Always watch your drink at events.”… “Send your location to us all so that we know where you were if you disappear.”… “Remember to carry your tazer, sis!”…
Living in fear has become the norm for women in South Africa, and carrying a tazer just seems so, well… OTT. Or is it?
The government has talked about tackling gender-based violence but, from where I’m sitting, this is talk and no action. And it feels like not a day goes by where one doesn’t hear of a woman being attacked.
And social media also doesn’t make me feel any better. Men don’t call out their friends, or any man for that matter…
When I speak to my friends, they tell me that they are scared to go anywhere or even to be around men because, let’s face it, the climate in South Africa isn’t exactly woman friendly. We’ve all become walking targets for men who prey on us. #AmINext is very real. Every day. Any one of us could be the next rape or murder victim, simply for being a woman.
The justice system seems to be enabling men to do as they wish. I think this because whenever a woman goes to a police station to report abuse, she is often treated appallingly. Examples include “I can’t help you because he is your husband/boyfriend/brother”, “Are you drunk?”, “Were you drunk?”, “Dressed like THAT, eh eh, what did you expect?”. Often a male officer is the only one there but even female officers can lack sympathy and sensitivity.
And, even if a protection order is issued, many women die with protection orders in their handbags. And don’t try calling 10 111, I’ve tried and no-one picks up for a looooong time. One could be dead in that time…
According to a poll by Ipsos MORI on behalf of Amnesty International in 2019, gender-based violence is the defining issue for South Africa’s Generation Z, and with International Women’s Day happening today, I’m asking myself if it’s the defining issue for those in authority. I think not.
The perpetrators of gender-based violence and femicide must face justice. While it is heartening to see a positive response from the President to the anguished calls from women to tackle this scourge, there is still a long way to go.
This begins with ensuring that police officers are properly trained to sensitively and objectively investigate incidents of gender-based violence. The government must also ensure that gender-based violence is taken seriously at every level of the justice system, including by challenging discriminatory stereotypes about victims and survivors.
Gender-based violence, corruption and violent crime all run rampant in South Africa and leaders must take strong and decisive action immediately to protect the human rights of all – women, children, men, everyone.
As we (hopefully) live through – I don’t think ‘celebrate’ is the right word – International Women’s Day today, let’s call again on South Africa’s leaders to make 2020 the year where there is meaningful action to address gender-based violence, corruption and violent crime.
I, for one, will be watching fearfully as I walk back down the street home, after school, tightly clutching my keys just in case.
If you are or were a victim of gender-based violence, you can contact:
Lifeline: 0800 150 150
POWA: 011 642 4345/6
TEARS: SMS *134*7355#
Rape Crisis: 021 447 9762
Hi Rainbow chatbot on Facebook: https://www.hirainbow.org/
All the contacts are completely confidential.
Jaclyn Modise is an African who is determined to serve her continent ensuring it prospers. She is currently awaiting graduation in International Communications at Tshwane University of Technology and has been accepted into the Advanced Diploma: Integrated Communications qualification at TUT (2020). Her motto is “La vie est belle” and she is a supporter and former intern at Amnesty International South Africa.