In South Africa, the 9th of August is Women’s Day and the month of August is National Women’s Month. On 9 August 1956, more than 20 000 women marched to the Union Buildings in Pretoria. They protested against the extension of Pass Laws enforced on women in South Africa.
This month should not just be a National Women’s Month but a claim for Women’s Right that has been jeopardized by the increase in gender-based violence and femicide.
It is devastating to document the increase in gender-based violence and femicide, especially during the COVID-19 lockdown. The COVID -19 crisis has exacerbated the problems faced by women in abusive relationships because they become trapped with their abusers. In most cases when women decide to leave the toxic relationship, it results in their death and that is why so many just opt to stay. Gender-based violence, rape and femicide is a crisis that is tearing the country apart.
Just recently, we documented some traumatizing cases of gender-based violence that has been increasing on a daily basis across communities in South Africa:
· A 2-year-old girl was raped at Dr George Mukhari Academic Hospital while placed in isolation for COVID-19.
· Hlengiwe Msimango, a mother of two from Kempton Park, Gauteng, was shot dead by her partner because he had mistaken her for a burglar.
· Phumeza Pepeta, a 45 year old woman from Eastern Cape was shot dead by her ex-husband who had disguised himself as a woman at her father’s funeral in Nelson Mandela Bay on the 26th of July. Phumeza has had a restraining order against her ex-husband since 2018.
· Lesedi Mokgosi a 25-year-old teacher from Magong, North West was raped and murdered on the 29th of June. Lesedi was found with her hands and feet tied and was strangled to death. An arrest has been made.
The justice system is failing to end gender-based violence and the perpetrators are aware that whatever they do, they will get away with it. We call upon the government to take gender-based violence and femicide seriously and to establish measures to prevent, investigate and prosecute cases of violence against women and children in the country. The government should provide well- trained police officers who have zero tolerance for gender-based violence. The government should implement National Strategic Plan and partner with the Civil Society Organizations dealing with gender-based violence and provide them with appropriate tools and enough finance to sustain their work during this crisis. We encourage victims not to suffer in silence and report perpetrators to Law Enforcement Agencies. Civil Society Organisations should be encouraged to continue raising awareness and instil a culture of gender equality and protect human rights of women and promote women’s welfare. We want a society where women, children, and other vulnerable groups to live in a free society, without fear of either being abused or killed.
As we commemorate National Women’s Month, we encourage women to fight back and be reminded that they are warriors that ensured national commemoration of this legacy. Women’s month is an opportunity to reflect on women’s achievements, the struggles they faced and the important role they play in the society. Make no excuses or justification to compromise your worth as a woman. “Wathint Abafazi – wathinti – imbokodo” You strike a woman you strike a rock”. You are the universe, You are the fire and You are limitless!
HURISA is relaunching its hashtag campaign #HerVoice #HerPeace #SheMatters, to increase social cohesion and solidarity against GBV/FEMICIDE
HURISA is planning to host workshops to deepen a culture of respect on women, girls and the elderly to join hands to stop the scourge of gender-based violence and femicide. This will cover awareness raising, capacity building, reporting, monitoring for effective law enforcement to combat suspects responsible for atrocities of women, girls and the aged in our society.
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We express our deepest condolences to the families that lost their beloved due to gender-based violence and femicide in South Africa. We also stand in solidarity for justice to all women and girls survivors of GBV and those facing arbitrary arrests, torture, cruel, inhuman treatment under the hand of law enforcement in South Africa and beyond.