It is difficult for me to write this amidst the uproar and outrage South Africa has plunged into. My body does not feel the same and my mind has been roaming around all the places where we are not safe. That concludes to everywhere in this country. We are enraged, we are terrified, we are disgusted and we are tired. The state of femicide, gender-based violence and sexual brutality has just reached its peak. And we cannot carry on as usual, not when our lives are at stake. The recent rape and murder of 19 year old UCT student Uyinene Mrwetyana has been explosive to not only to the city but the country has felt our wrath. She was raped and bludgeoned with a scale by a post office employee in broad daylight in the southern suburbs.
Gender-based violence has been the dark reality womxn and the LGBTIQ++ community have to face on a daily basis. Sexual violence has not only rapidly increased in the past year but Uyinene’s brutal murder reminded us of how scarce our agency is in society and violence is on the surge. But this is not the best we can do as a collective to address this pandemic, patriarchy remains implicit and loud for us to know and feel. It is omnipresent and misogyny has just manifested into a sprawling mausoleum of our dignity, our bodies and our lives.
We have time and time again voiced and shouted our demands and concerns to a number of different institutions and authorities yet what we receive is a mourning period, a speech and a closing statement to continue life as usual. The system has never favoured survivors and we continue to beg for justice yet we are entitled to equality and accountability. But has gendered crime ever been accounted in this country? Womxn continue to be brutalized on an everyday count. And this has nothing to do with how womxn behave, but how perpetrators choose to abuse and torture us.
While survivors and and womxn affected by this epidemic have spoken out in volumes, we receive no substantial support from men from the last few days. While there are still those who are offended by the ‘Men are trash’ slogan, their own complicity in gendered violence goes unnoticed. If you still continue to distance yourself from a movement that lashes out rape culture, then you are the problem that has entrenched this crisis to gain momentum. If men continue to defend their positions and rescue their pride. ‘Not all men’ does not solve the state of emergency we have, it just reiterates how you are well equipped to thrive in your power and affordability to overlook gender-based violence. But are unconscious to take a stand. Not taking a side, is supporting the crime. And we have had too many instances where we stand powerless and numb while this opportune system yet again takes advantage of our social conditioning into remaining silent.
We must wake up to not be passive on womxn’s experiences on violence. ‘She was raped, she was murdered, she was assaulted’, are all passive expressions of real-life crimes. ‘He raped her, men assault womxn’, are more appropriate to phrasing gendered violence. Womxn have coped out for far too long. Now the tide has risen…and we are not going back home to our abusers, our universities where rapists are paraded in glory or to our workplaces where the corporate culture has erased sexual assault.
South Africa has ashamed its citizens. We want answers, we want accountability. We want change. We have lived with unbearable trauma but now we need to ask this nation, are you ready to respond to us?
Sumona Bose is a MPhil candidate in Justice and Transformation at the University of Cape Town. She also did undergraduate studies in Political Studies and International Relations and has a Honours in International Relations.