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This Women’s Month there is very little to celebrate as the freedom of movement of women in our country is no longer apartheid but our very own men who are the perpetrators of rape and other gender-based violence writes Gasant Abarder in a new #SliceofGasant.

Abarder, who recently launched his book, Hack with a Grenade, is among the country’s most influential media voices. Catch his weekly column here, exclusive to Cape {town} Etc.

Today marks the 66th anniversary of Women’s Month in South Africa. But can we truly celebrate this day when the women in our country are not yet free? Their freedom of movement in particular is curtailed by the constant threat men pose as predators in our society.

‘Wathint’ abafazi, wathint’ imbokodo’ – you strike a woman, you strike a rock. These words in isiXhosa formed part of a new song an estimated 20 000 South African women chanted at the Union Buildings in Pretoria after their march there on 9 August 1956.

They were from all races, cultures and faiths. The march, recognised as one of the largest mass gatherings of women in South Africa, was organised by the Federation of South African Women. It was led by courageous freedom fighters and activists like Lillian Ngoyi, Helen Joseph, Albertina Sisulu and Sophia Williams-De Bruyn.

The women marched in protest of the introduction of pass laws that would restrict the freedom of movement of black South Africans.

Ironically, despite all of us enjoying the rights and freedoms guaranteed in our constitution, the freedom of movement of women is now more restricted than ever.

A few months ago, an acquaintance stopped her morning running routine because she was threatened with rape every time she passed a taxi rank on her route. She would pass a certain point and the same guy would remark something to her so heinous that I do not care to repeat it in this column. Safe to say, that when she sought advice from me about what to do it left me distraught.

I suggested a sting operation with an undercover police officer following her on her run and catching the predator making the threat in the act. The police officer was a longstanding contact of mine during my reporting days and was determined to catch this monster. Understandably though, my jogger acquaintance was terrified. She rather changed her route or stopped running altogether.

By stark contrast, men who rape can move around quite freely in the knowledge that they will seldom bear the consequences of their heinous actions.

Just a few days ago, EWN reported that 120 suspects had been arrested in connection to illegal mining activities in Krugersdorp following the gang rape of eight women last month. None of the 120 suspects was held in connection with the gang rape. This is part of the reason why South Africa has a worrying rape culture.

The victim is turned into the scapegoat. What was she wearing? Why was she out so late? Did she do anything to provoke her attacker? This is the language we use. She was asking for it, you will unfortunately hear.

And the rape statistics we are given are dangerously inaccurate because we know just how badly sexual offences are underreported. The lack of consequences illustrated in a well-publicised case like the Krugersdorp gang rape shows that the police and this government are not serious about making the women in our country safe.

At the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, President Cyril Ramaphosa warned that any man arrested for rape would not be granted bail. So, why am I reading in the same news feeds that a police constable in the North West, who was out on bail for attempted murder, kidnapping and rape, had been re-arrested for assaulting his girlfriend?

The president doesn’t appear to have the appetite to tackle this endemic scourge in our society the way he and his cabinet dealt with an invisible virus in a sustained campaign that saw much fewer deaths comparatively than in the rest of the world.

Where is this same energy we saw against COVID-19 to deal with rape and rapists? How can we even begin to talk about equality for women in the workplace and in homes, equal pay and asserting women’s rights when it is not safe for them to move around freely in this country?

In 66 years, nothing has changed. The pass laws for black women may have been eradicated. But despite being free our women are even more vulnerable than they have ever been.

Also read:

Day 2: Resources for victims of gender-based violence

Picture: Baileys African History Archive

The post Women’s freedom of movement now more restricted than 9 August 1956 appeared first on CapeTown ETC.

This content was originally published here.

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