How does participating in the 16 Days of Activism campaign add any value in a time of hopelessness and complacency?
By Traci Hurling
According to the SAPS Crime Statistics for the second financial quarter 2023/23, ten women were murdered every day from July to September of this year. Within those three months, there were over 1 500 attempted murders perpetrated against women. Nearly 11 00 rape cases were reported in just three months. Over 14 000 cases were reported of assault with intent to do grievous bodily harm against female victims. Keep in mind these amounts only reflect the reported cases. How many cases have gone unreported? I want to emphasise that the victims of the crimes listed above are more than statistics and numbers, they are real people who have suffered under the epidemic of femicide South Africa faces. I listed these numbers in hopes that it allows people to comprehend just how bad the situation is. 881 women murdered in just three months is almost impossible to conceptualise to me. The SAPS report states that most of these dreadful incidents took place in the residences of either the victims or the offenders, showing the prevalence of gross violence perpetrated in domestic environments. Most cases reporting violence perpetrated against victims involved an intimate partner as the offender.
It is incredibly disheartening to open social media and see missing persons posts of women circulating every day, Rest in Peace posts about women murdered as a result of gender-based violence, and just reading the atrocities of what happens to our women and children on a daily basis. The fact that we use social media to stay informed speaks volumes, as mainstream media simply cannot keep up with the number of incidents happening every day. Mainstream media also tends to only report on victims from more privileged communities, as these cases tend to be sensationalised, leaving the cases of poorer, often black and brown women to be reported by communities and peer-run platforms.
Earlier this month WomenforChange published a post about a case involving seven boys aged 10 to 13 who gang-raped three 10-year-old girls on school grounds in the Eastern Cape. The case was not reported by any mainstream media outlets, despite the Eastern Cape Department of Education confirming a case was opening and that there is an ongoing investigation. More concerning questions surround how young the offenders are. What does this say about our society? Where did these boys learn this behaviour? How are we raising our children? How could this happen at school? These are questions that have plagued my mind since reading about this tragedy.
During 16 Days of Activism, it is important to reflect on where we as a nation are going wrong. The 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence is an annual international campaign that begins on 25 November, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, and runs until 10 December, International Human Rights Day. Just a few hours into the start of the campaign on Saturday 25 November, a woman in Cape Town was murdered in Hillview, and a few hours after that, a woman murdered in Delft. So what good does participating in the 16 Days of Activism campaign actually achieve on the ground?
Knowledge really is power, and a major part of activism includes spreading awareness and educating others on the major issues plaguing our society. Most people know that we have high rates of gender-based violence and femicide, but many do not know just how bad it is. As I stated earlier, it can be dangerous to present victims as statistics, but I believe these statistics help people conceptualise just how grave the situation is. Education on this issue should particularly be directed at the men in our country, as gender-based violence appears to be a topic they easily avoid and claim that it’s ‘not all men’. This is merely a cop-out and an excuse to remain complacent in the system of violent patriarchy from which they benefit.
I believe it is our collective duty to use these 16 Days (preferably all days, but particularly these 16 Days of Activism) to spread awareness of the gravity of gender-based violence and femicide rates in the country. Read the articles and posts that come up on your social media, no matter how difficult. Share the posts of missing women and children. These stories need to be heard and though it may not seem to make a significant difference in the moment, educating ourselves and one another is the first step of a social revolution. Our Constitution is founded on the value of ubuntu, a value that encompasses humanity, unity and community. We owe it to ourselves and to one another to not turn a blind eye on difficult issues, but rather educate ourselves and stand in solidarity so that we may one day have the masses needed to demand and effect change.