The atrocious attack, rape and murder of 19 year old student, Uyinene Mryetwana on 24 August 2019, was the tipping point and women throughout South Africa stood together and asked, #AMINEXT.
More hideous attacks on women and children followed in the awful weeks that followed with 19-year old theology student, Jessica Hess, and her 85 year old grandfather murdered in their flat on 30th August and on 3 September, four children were killed by their father in response to his estranged wife initiating of divorce proceedings.
The response and outpouring of heartbreak, anguish, grief, anger and desperation grew, throughout the country, on university campuses, on social media. A Facebook, a group called South African Women Fight Back, was started and quickly grew to over 200 000 members in less than two weeks and continues to grow, overwhelming the administrators and leading to a tidal wave of women sharing their painful experiences at the hands of men. Soon women on this group began a list of the names of all of those who have been victims of gender based violence. SA People Online took up the cudgel and published this list, which continues to be updated, as more of the names of victims (and survivors) are shared
This group encouraged co-ordinated and encouraged protests around the country to be held on 14 September 2019. The gatherings were to raise the issue of gender based violence (GBV) and to pay respect to those women who have lost their lives or survived this GBV, as well as the lost and nameless.
And so a call from local activists Sheena Ruth of St Francis Bay and Nozuko Ntshota of Sea Vista among otherscalled on residents of St Francis Bay, Sea Vista and Cape St Francis to join hands at 11:00am at the circle at the entrance to St Francis Bay on the 14th September. And hundreds of local women, and a good few men, from St Francis Bay, Sea Vista and Cape St Francis all gathered at the entrance circle to St Francis Bay to show their support for the movement against Gender Based Violence.
Speaker after speaker condemned those me who abused, beat, raped and murdered woman and children as the crowd shouted their agreement for harsher jail sentences and no bail for perpetrators.
Most serious about the violence against women and children is the justice system itself. Many are dismissed and so often those that do result in a conviction, the sentence is no more than a slap on the wrist. Could it be that many of the magistrates presiding over these cases are in often male and thus don’t quite understand the emotional violation the woman or child suffers? Maybe a solution would be that only female magistrates / judges preside in GBV related cases and that they be given the latitude to hand down the harsh sentences that our President spoke of when addressing parliament on this subject.
A truly moving event that we can only hope the call will , if not stop Gender Based Violence (GBV) at least reduce the incidents and see those that ignore the call don orange overalls for life.
In Xhosa culture, apparently when it rains before or during an important event, it is seen as a blessing – icamagu livumile – the spirits agree. It rained on Friday night before the gathering of those who attended, all united across language, cultural, racial, sexual orientation, religious, political and spatial boundaries of our village.
Article edited in part from an article submitted by Sheena Ruth, of of the activists responsible for organising the event