Women all over the country came together, dressed in black and red on 1 August 2018 in support of #TheTotalShutDown movement by participating in the Intersectional Women’s March against gender-based violence (GBV) to Parliament in Cape Town, the Union Buildings in Pretoria, and to the Supreme Court in Bloemfontein. According to Onica Makwakwa, national liaison for the march, “women have nothing to celebrate this Women's Month when we are dying at the rate that we are”. The position that this is a march for women by women is explained by Mpiwa Mangwiro, Regional Campaigns Specialist for Sonke Gender Justice in this clip where she says that, “the march is really about women claiming their agency to take a stand against a daily reality that is really unbearable”.
Periodically murder cases and those of extreme violence against women and children capture the nation and result in renewed calls for action, but in reality, most cases do not make the front pages. The outrage dies down…until next time. The statistics make for grim reading. Between April and December 2016, 1,713 were women were murdered in South Africa and in 2017, on average 109 rapes per day were reported to police. The 2016 SA Demographic and Health Survey showed that one in five (21%) women has experienced physical violence by a partner; and that 10% of women aged 18-24 experienced physical violence from a partner in the prior 12 months. Divorced or separated women (40%) were more likely to experience physical violence.
According to the WHO for Africa Check, the estimated global rate of femicide for 2015 was 2.4 per 100,000 women. South Africa’s rate for the same year was 9.6 per 100,000 women. This would mean that South Africa’s rate is 4 times that of the global average when considering the latest estimates.
South African women asked with this march that the outrage be turned into action. While most marches across the country closed with moments of silence for victims by midday, the group at the Union Buildings held out until late in the evening to hand over a memorandum of demands to the President. The memorandum is ‘an initial set of 24 demands that represent each year that the state has failed to ensure our [women, non-conforming women and intersectional women] constitutionally entrenched right to be free from all forms of violence since the establishment of our constitutional democracy’.
Where to from here? According to reports, the work will continue with the possibility of establishing a non-profit to monitor the list of demands and the timeframes.
To get involved/volunteer, you can join the #TheTotalShutdown group on Facebook where you can access all the WhatsApp groups in the different communities. You can also find the group on Twitter @WomenProtestSA
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