If I had to use one word to describe the past few days on my campus, Stellenbosch University, it would be heartbreak. This week, two of our students were hijacked and brutally attacked on campus. It resulted in one of the students, a woman by the name of Hannah, being killed. The other student managed to escape but ended up in ICU.
Hannah is described by her friends as a loving and friendly person who always had a smile for everyone. Hannah died in vain and her death shook our campus to its very core. The question that has been flooding my mind is: How many more women must die before we start getting serious? The fact that women throughout our country get attacked, raped and killed every single day is being normalised by society. This needs to stop, we can't remain silent anymore.
Security on our campus has been a concern for a long, long time and the ignorance of our university to address this problem is evident. This year alone, there have been various cases of attacks and rapes. We reached the point where one of our students was murdered. Attacks and rapes have become so normal that our university doesn't feel the need to act. The most they do is provide additional security for the week after an attack and as soon as that week is over, the extra security disappears.
Double standards have never been so evident. Last year, my university deployed hundreds of security guards to protect their property during Fees Must Fall. It resulted in many students having anxiety attacks because our campus looked like a military base. Their army-like vehicles could be seen everywhere.
I can't understand how the university regards protecting property as more important than protecting lives. We have very little security on our campus at the moment and students have never felt so unsafe. We feel scared to walk 100 meters to the food shop, even during the day. Many students can't write exams because they are scared to leave their flats.
If we are serious about ending violence against woman, we must act now. If there is one thing I know for certain, it is that the normalisation of violence against women must stop now. We tend to criticise those who speak out against this issue, we call them aggressive and too strong. We call them legitimisers of the perception that there is an inherent culture of inflicting violence against women. We call them overly optimistic because they believe in a world where violence against women should have no place. I have no problem being called all these names as a male because women have been called a lot of names over the ages and they have been subjected to objectification by men. They have fought relentlessly for centuries, just to feel like they matter.
I envision a world where women and men are equal, where my daughter will feel like she truly matters.
Women are no less human than men. They have the same beating hearts as us, they feel the same feelings as us. Who are we, as men, to support a society and a system that still oppresses women to this day? Who are we to deny women their humanity and their human rights? Who are we to criticise those that are attempting to address this burning issue?
As a male who has never faced the injustices that women have faced for so long and that that they still face today, I wish to say something. I can never understand your pain and I will never be able to do so, but I will spend my days fighting for you so that one day you can live a normal life. I know it is a glass ceiling, but I will use every bone in my body to break through that glass ceiling. I will celebrate you and honour you in everything I do. I will keep my arms stretched out to you, until you step over the line where I live a normal life. I am drowning in my desire to take your pain away and I will do everything in my power to enable you to, one day, live a dignified life.
I envision a world where women and men are equal, where my daughter will feel like she truly matters and where she will claim her phenomenal power as a woman. If you want to call me overly optimistic, so be it, but I wish to let you know that you are the oil that lights up the unequal and evil world we live in today.
Ending violence against women is your issue, too, for Hannah could have been your sister, daughter or friend.