Fear and Outrage Over Gender-Based Violence Spreads Throughout South Africa
By. Alexis Giunta & Lithalelanga Vena
PORT ELIZABETH — Just as “Women’s Month” ends, several protests against gender-based violence have emerged. Many are starting to protest due to the rapid increase of violence against women. After learning that two women, University of Cape Town student, Uyinene Mrwetyana, and South African boxer, Leighandre Jegels were murdered, protests against gender-based violence have grown in size. With recent news of these two particular cases surfacing, individuals and political groups are demanding justice for women in South Africa.
According to “The South African”, Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, states that, “at least 30 women were killed during August which is celebrated as “Women’s month” in South Africa,”. “The South African” reports that several members of parliament, such as Nkhensani Bilankulu, urge the government to call gender-based violence in South Africa a “state of emergency”.
Nakita Karsan, a Nelson Mandela University post-graduate LLB student contributes her opinion, “…women are taught to be more submissive, and even if we aren’t taught it, we see it happening,” she said.
President Ramaphosa has expressed his thoughts on the issues regarding violence against women in South Africa. According to IOL news, on Tuesday, President Ramaphosa stated, “The murder of these two young women; one at the hands of a stranger and the other killed by a man who was reportedly her boyfriend, remain a stark reminder that the women of South Africa are not safe, either in their homes or in the streets,”.
President Ramaphosa hopes to push for stronger policy to protect women from violence as well as life sentences for men who rape/murder women. Muzomuhle Ntuli, a Nelson Mandela University politics student criticizes Ramaphosa, “I think [Ramaphosa] lacked a concrete plan,” he said. “…[Ramaphosa] didn’t mention things like female civil servants assisting women who have been violated,” he added. Regardless of President Ramaphosa’s statements, people continue to protest in front of the parliament and universities nationwide.
Women in South Africa express they do not feel safe in their homes nor their communities. Tabitha Smith of Rhodes University shares, “Even walking in your neighbourhood where you grew up, it’s not the safest of things,” she said. “It causes a lot of anxiety, I must say,” she added. Smith requested to be quoted under an alias.
On September 2nd, a week after searching for Uyinene Mrwetyana, it was discovered that she was raped and murdered by a 42-year-old postal worker. Mrwetyana was lured into the post office, as she was told to come back when the power would be back on. She was then raped, murdered, and disregarded in Khayelitsha, a township in Cape Town. The perpetrator is now being charged with rape and murder. Mrwetyana was 19-years-old.
Boxing champion, Leighandre Jegels, was shot by her estranged boyfriend, whom she had a protection order against. Tragically, Jegels later died in the hospital from her wounds. Jegels’ mother was also shot. As she was walking to the gym with her mother in East London, Jegels was confronted by her boyfriend. It is speculated that the shooting was caused by a “dispute” between the couple.
The World Health Organization reports that, “…a South African study found that 42% of females aged 13–23 years reported ever experiencing physical dating violence,”.
Protests have been surrounding universities such as University of Cape Town, Rhodes University, and Nelson Mandela University. The younger generation in particular have been speaking out against gender-based violence the most. Hashtags such as #AmINext and #MenAreTrash have been trending on social media platforms such as Twitter. There has been a wave of accusations and testimonies being shared across South African platforms. South African university students are demanding justice for victims like Uyinene Mrwetyana.
According to News24, “During the Police Portfolio Committee crime stats briefing in Parliament, it was revealed that between April and December 2016, 30,069 cases of rape were reported. While down from the previous period, it amounts to approximately 110 reported cases of rape per day,”.
Eva Nganga, a sports management student at Nelson Mandela University, speaks out about the issue, “It [gender-based violence] is definitely a problem,” she said.
“And I think it is because the consequences are not severe enough, as well as the complaints are not taken seriously,” she added.
As many members of parliament push towards further awareness and prevention of gender-based violence, the country remains outraged over the sudden and senseless acts of violence done against South African women.
“Violence against women is not only a human rights violation, it is also a brutal manifestation of wider discrimination against women, which is to be understood against the background of subordination of women within the patriarchal system that still exists in South Africa,”
-Navi Pillay, South African jurist who served as the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights 2008–2014