Where can 'womxn' feel safe when every space slaps them with hostility? Every day, every hour we see countless notices and placards via social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook of womxn who have gone missing or are abducted – with some found alive, like 13-year-old Johannesburg-based teen Kitso Mothibe and at times too late as with the case of Karabo Mokoena. Since January, 19 children have been murdered, and that is in the Western Cape alone – shockingly (or rather not as statistics would show) by people they knew or were familiar with. What then do these senseless attacks say unto the continued sustainability of the South African society?
What does this then say about the relationship dynamics between a daughter and father, girlfriend and boyfriend? What does this skewed nature in the relationship dynamics say about the fabric of society which is meant to function like the seams of a tapestry? Biology states that for any ecosystem to thrive and be sustainable, all the species within it should co-exist in a manner that is mutually symbiotic otherwise the entire ecosystem risks extinction.
I ask again, where can womxn feel safe when every space greets them with hostility? I purposefully use the term women to desegregate the notion of belonging to, that the term "women" denotes. Womxn don't belong to us as men! We do not own them! They are not our possessions to do with as we please! If we cannot understand this simple and straightforward truth, we will always respond from a perspective of trying to protect our egos. Take for instance the response of how when the #MenAreTrash hashtag started on Twitter, many retorted with "If you're saying all men are trash does that include my dad?" or "I support this but I don't agree with the #MenAreTrash because not all men are bad" or worse, "How can we be trash and yet womxn still want us?".
These come from a point of willful ignorance and an unwillingness to listen and understand the what the hashtag stood for. This type of mindset is why within the South African context, we find womxn like Khwezi, who as far back as 2005 as a victim had the burden of proof when it came to her rape trial. Her sexual lifestyle was the microscope under which the merits of the occurrence or non-occurrence of her rape were based. This continues to this day and is why many perpetrators get away with rape and many victims feel betrayed by the justice system because even society itself, is willing to give the man the benefit of the doubt – due to the social standing they may have or any of the other ludicrous reasons that have been put forward; and yet will question a womxn's sexual lifestyle before doing the same.
Further to this, was the #TaxiRapesaga whereby womxn were in instances being forced into taxis whilst passengers were being raped. The taxi system is patriarchal in nature in comparison to Uber where there are womxn drivers. It is then no surprise that some taxi associations were quick in wanting to sweep the matters under the carpet or deflect responsibility. What then of the poor working class citizens who use public transport, particular taxis as their main mode of transport? How are womxn meant to make a living if they cannot enjoy the privilege of free movement?
The #NotInmyName march that took place in Pretoria last month, whereby men from all walks of life came together to march against the rise in, and the gruesome and violent nature of crimes against womxn and children. To make a statement that they wouldn't sit down and do nothing whilst such continued unabated. Whilst I understood the noble intention behind it, I wanted to know what then after all the marching? Are these men, in their personal spaces among family, friends, colleagues, neighbours and their greater communities doing their best to ensure that these spaces are friendly and conducive to womxn by talking to one another and keeping the actions of each other in check by calling out improper conduct against womxn and children?
The youngest of the youngest cannot even begin to be remotely safe in their own homes, in learning spaces, in religious spaces and other public spaces, or any other space for that matter.
Watching the funeral proceedings of three-year-old Courtney Pieters and 14-month-old Lindokuhle Kota and seeing the tremendous and unimaginable pain in which their loved ones found themselves in, had me in such agony. I found myself at a crossroads, where have we gone wrong as a society? Do we still have a moral compass as a society, particularly as men? Is this truly the future we envision for ourselves as a society - where even the youngest of the youngest cannot even begin to be remotely safe in their own homes, in learning spaces, in religious spaces and other public spaces, or any other space for that matter?
Political parties, the Presidency, Civil Society all came out condemning the scourge of femicide, even establishing initiatives such as the #SafeTaxis campaign. Through all of this, not a word was heard from Minister Susan Shabangu and her Department of Women and Children, the very institution that should have led the charge from the onset. The department sheepishly issued a statement after its silence was bemoaned on social media platforms. The minister did, however, attend and speak at Karabo's funeral, although this was more an act of political posturing than anything.
Who do womxn turn to when they have a government that is despondent and not in touch with their struggles in terms of policy-making and implementation thereof? Who do they turn to when the police are not responsive and further chase them away when they report instances of gender-based violence? Who do they turn to when society shames them and is quick to give the perpetrator the benefit of the doubt? Who do they turn to when #MenAreTrash?