Women and children are particularly at risk of violent sexual assault in the workplace, in places of rest and relaxation and, bitterly, at home
TODAY is the start of the much-vaunted 16 Days of Activism for No Violence Against Women and Children campaign. It’s a tragedy that we even have it; it is a national disgrace that our need this year is even greater than before.
The truth is that women and children are particularly at risk of violent sexual assault in the workplace, in places of rest and relaxation and, bitterly, at home.
We have laws, very good laws, to combat this. The Domestic Violence Act outlaws domestic violence and provides for restraining orders against threatening individuals. But still the bruises continue, limbs are broken, filled body bags are placed in the morgue fridges.
The answers lie before us. There’s a combination: the victims are too scared of coming forward, they face the double jeopardy of having to relive the details of the crime before an often hostile and adversarial court process; there’s the pressure of having to turn on and betray the family to bring the guilty to book.
Then there is the politics of patriarchy, of men being breadwinners and providers and women having to submit or starve, in some cases literally.
Then there are police officers and prosecutors who should know different, who should care, who should go the extra mile, but lose dockets or treat victims with disdain.
Then there’s we, the community, who turn away when we hear screams from our neighbours’ yards, or turn the TV volume up, who don’t call the police, who don’t go to court to testify to give officers and prosecutors who do care the evidence to secure a conviction.
This is why this year’s 16 Days campaign is so important, so vital, so relevant.
We say: real men don’t hit women. And they don’t rape or kill either.
Let’s make the next 16 days a time for real change – and make this the country our founding fathers hoped it would be.
We must remember Uyinene Mrwetyana, 19, killed on August 24 in Cape Town. And Samoline Solomons, 35, slain on November 10 in Upington. And Leighandre Jegels, 25, shot dead in East London on August 30. These are just some of the recent victims of femicide. They are the tip of the iceberg.
On the first day of the 16 Days campaign, we say: stop this cruel madness now.