South Africa has shifted following a week of protests against gender-based violence, but it’s up to men to make the real change, to speak to their friends, their sons, their fathers and brothers. Women have done enough. Men need to take action. We’ve given some of our readers and contributors a place to vent and to reflect.
Sibongile Shannon Mthimkulu, law student and activist
We can give as many tips as we can on women safety but the reality is that men have to stand up. Men have to teach each other, they have to teach their sons that NO means no. They have to unlearn that “boys will be boys” and the men in our communitities need to be intentional about letting their rapey friends/colleagues know that not even other men condone their behavior. Until that uncle in the family, that male cousin or that brother is outed instead of shielded in the name of “asifuni ihlazo kulomndeni” this problem won’t end. Until the well respected family man or pastor accused of rape or hitting their wife is held accountable BY OTHER MEN instead of just holding meetings to resolve the matter and sending “thoughts and prayers”, we are yet to stop bleeding. We are yet to stop crying. We are yet to experience a free South Africa as women. 25 years later, the South African woman still cries for freedom – freedom from gender based violence.
Sebabatso Thulo, author and teacher
My heart is breaking for young girls and women. Not even their “No!” can guarantee their safety. It does not guarantee that they will make it home alive. I fear that this conversation will die down by the end of next week and I don’t want it to end, because the thing about the human spirit is if we keep on talking about it, we will come up with a solution. But if we move on too quickly we will come right back to this conversation when the next woman is violated, when the next woman is killed.
Ofentse Lebudi, UFS alumni
I am what you call a ‘full figured’ African woman. Many would refer to my body as ‘Dijo tsa di Kgosi’ (Kingly food), to my demise this sentiment that was once used to adorn women in past generations, holds me captive today. The news of Uyinene Mrwetyana and Jesse Hess woke me up to a familiar taste of ‘oh no, it’s happening again’. While I was studying, there started a series of construction in and around the area that I lived in. As a result, going to campus became hell, a five minute walk of whistles, shouting, yelling and to be blunt, verbal rape and violation was my reality. Who do I turn to? Who can I report this daily onslaught to my person, heart and body to? What do I say? The day the violation reached its peak, a construction worker and his co-workers were walking towards us going home. He yelled out to me, ‘if I could open those thighs, tjerr!’. I did what my heart knew to do, I smiled, shrugged it off. I got to my house, looked at myself in the mirror and cried. A friend of mine said to me after I asked, how she interacts with people the way she does when she doesn’t actually like people. She said, ‘I survive Fentse, I survive’. The only people who can speak to grown men are men.
Kay-Dee Dineo Mashile, books editor at The Journalist
Dear men, please stop killing and violating women. If you are in pain, get help. If you have self control issues, get help. If you have mental health issues, get help. If you feel as though you are socio- or psycho-pathological, get help. Take responsibility for your actions and those of the men around you. If you were trash we’d throw you away and move on. But, unfortunately, you are human beings with full autonomy. Take responsibility for your actions. Men need to decide to stop femicide. Wake up men, wake up and see the disaster that the world, this country, is turning into. If you watch injustice and keep quiet about it, you are as guilty as the perpetrator.
Image courtesy of Twitter.