25 November 2016: Khulumani launches its Honouring Khwezi Blog to mark International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women: Putting the spotlight on the pervasive culture of gender-based violence in South Africa and its consequences
The marking of the 16 Days of Activism to end gender-based violence in South Africa has this year assumed a greater poignancy with the untimely passing of Khwezi, on 8 October 2016. As the President’s rape accuser, she was subjected to demonstrations of extreme chauvinism and abuse during the President’s rape trial, both inside the court and on the streets outside. Khwezi did not receive the justice or the protection she deserved.
The silent protest to #RememberKhwezi, launched by four young feminist activists on 6 August 2016 at the Events Centre in the Pretoria Showgrounds as the President addressed the nation following the release of the results of the local government elections, brought the focus powerfully back onto rape in South Africa. It reminded people of the demonstration and privileging of male power and chauvinism that had villainized the young woman who had courageously refused to keep silent following how she experienced being raped by her father’s comrade, despite this not being proven in court. Rape was revealed as the product of the “violent masculinities” of those in power, and a form of violence on female bodies that has become “not just acceptable and justified, but also natural and desirable”. 1
In her reflections on the 6 August 2016 silent protest, Zinhle Manzini, a 2016 Mandela Rhodes Scholar highlighted in her Thoughtleader blog that “responses to the protest by some politicians reminded me about how little these individuals care about women, and that they are more concerned about the president’s public image, rather than critically engaging with what the protest signified” . She mourned how “women still have to consistently legitimate themselves, and how they are nullified to being mere bodies who want to damage men, as though men are innocent beings whom we accuse unjustly.” Mmatshilo Motsei, author of the Kanga and the Kangaroo Court: Reflections on the Rape Trial of Jacob Zuma, asks, “what lessons, if any, have we learnt from Jacob Zuma’s rape trial other than the fact that the abuse of sexual power does not seem to have any serious consequences in South Africa?” 2
The Khulumani 16 Days Blog Series will use each of these 16 days to shine the spotlight on the consequences of the normalisation and trivialisation of the sexual violence perpetrated against women in South African society, a situation which affects 40% of all women in South Africa. It will bring attention to the voices of women associated with Khulumani as they speak out and take action in support of rights-based and gender transformative behaviours in their communities towards the goal of building a safe, inclusive, just and peaceful society in which the social, political and economic equality of the sexes is achieved and women are provided with better possibilities and life chances.
The blogs will present the voices of women and men as allies in the movement to confront and transform the broken system that still protects male abusers, that blames victims, that condones violence against women and that sustains a rape culture in the country that sees women living everyday under threat of sexual violence at the hands of men who have an attitude of sexual entitlement. We will try to share the narratives in ways that do not erase or render the perpetrators invisible and that do not assume that rape is a burden that women have to endure or an act of fate or one perpetrated by a “monster”. 3
Join us as we take seriously the call of the United Nations Secretary General Mr Ban Ki- moon to “Break the silence. When you witness violence against women and girls, do not sit back. Act.” Violence against women is a one of the most pervasive human rights violations in the world, rooted in gender inequality, discrimination and harmful cultural and social norms. Living free of violence is a fundamental human right starting with women’s rights to physical integrity, agency and autonomy.
Together we can end GENDER-BASED VIOLENCE!