On Friday, the AIDS Healthcare Foundation held a silent protest in Durban to protest rape and gender-based violence in South Africa. The protest, which aimed to â€œbreak the silenceâ€ on rape in the country was organised in collaboration with the Durban University of Technology and supported by the sex workersâ€™ rights group SWEAT. LIZEKA MADUNA asked protestors why they decided to join the protest.
Despite nearly a decade of silent protests the stigma surrounding rape is the same: rape victimisation continues, the fear continues, violence continues and the silence remains. The silent protest today marks solidarity with women who canâ€™t speak out because they are afraid of being killed. To me, this protest means courage and support for all women. This is the 9th time I have participated in the silent protest and I have courage and faith that some day there will be a fundamental change in society.
To me, the silent protest is about all women irrespective of their backgrounds; it is where we as South African society come out in numbers to say â€œNo!â€ to rape or gender-based violence. Globally, there is an epidemic of rape and some perpetrators end up getting away with it because of the fear within us as women.Most people donâ€™t get prosecuted for rape. As a young South African woman, I believe that it shouldnâ€™t take an incident of rape or abuse for campaigns like this to be launched. It should be an everyday thing, we should preach the word of â€œbreak the silenceâ€ worldwide in order to protect ourselves from the animals who think that it is within their powers to use our bodies as they please.
One in nine people are raped every day. We need to bring things to light; it is time we say, “South African people bring back humanity”. As a young South African male, I am participating in this protest to show the world that gender-based violence and rape donâ€™t only affect the victims but they affect us all and we should speak out about them. The more silent we become, the more the damage. Rape doesnâ€™t only occur on the streets but students on campuses also fall victim and they donâ€™t report it because of fear, especially if the person abusing them is superior to them in terms of power and is helping them financially.
The silent protest marks solidarity with women, including sex workers. Sexual violence is unacceptable and we demand access to post exposure prophylaxis (PEP) which should be issued to anyone who has been raped to protect them from being infected with AIDS, particularly since sex workers are more likely to fall victims of sexual violence. I hope this is the beginning of a movement, especially for students to stand up against violence and break the silence within the institution and South Africa as a whole.
The silent protest supports women who have gone through rape and other forms of gender-based violence. Societal injustices wonâ€™t be corrected overnight but with great support for women who go through gender-based violence daily, I still have faith that we as South Africans will be able to fight social ills such as rape. We are ready to break the silence within our communities. As a country, we need to fight the epidemic of rape and HIV/AIDS because if we remain silent about it, the whole nation is going to fall apart. I hope this protest educates South Africans about the importance of providing effective support systems for women instead of stigmatising them.