Almost one year ago, tens of thousands of women and men protested against the ongoing brutal attacks and murders of women and children across South Africa.
We called for reform when we took to the streets and to social media calling for sharper action to be taken against the perpetrators of such crimes, some strangers and in many cases men familiar to the victims.
In this very month alone, South Africa has seen another sharp increase in gender-based violence as lockdown restrictions have eased.
It is undeniable that there’s been an increase in domestic violence in many homes, since the start of the nationwide lockdown was implemented in March 2020.
Our hearts sank and tightened when President Cyril Ramaphosa, during his address to the nation on Wednesday, the 17th of June 2020, named those who had lost their lives to gender-based violence in the past few weeks alone.
From unborn babies, toddlers, to grandmother’s unable to defend themselves, he said no fewer than 21 women and children who died to this pervasive violence directed at women and children.
We heard of Naledi Phangindawo, 26, in Mossel Bay, Altecia Kortje, 27, and her 7 year old daughter, Raynecia, from Belhar, Nompumelelo Tshaka, 45, in Mthatha, Sibongiseni Gabada, 34, from Khayelitsha, Nwabisa Mgwandela, 31, in Johannesburg and Lindelwa Peni, 43, from East London.
The murder of 8 month pregnant Tshegofatso Pule, 28, from Soweto shows that even unborn babies can fall victim to and die at the hands of violent men in this country, before even taking their first breath.
There are too many names to mention and more whom we do not know of. Women are no longer safe in the streets nor inside their own homes. Perpetrators are very often known to communities and it is now time to speak up against acts of brutality targeting women and children. Gender-based violence don’t just affect women, it affects all those around. We need neighbours to no longer keep silent when hearing the screams nearby, because it’s not coming from inside their own homes. It’s time to be the voice for those who are not strong enough to raise theirs. We need strong allies in our men. We need men to openly have conversations in the spaces they occupy and to start interrogating unhealthy patriarchal practices within them. The change starts with you and spills over to those around you.
Support interventions and shelters remain open during the lockdown and we urge women and children to seek places of safety.
***Gender based violence Hotline: 0800 428 428