Do not go out at night, do not walk outside by yourself at night, dress appropriately to avoid being assaulted, do not go to secluded places by yourself – especially at night, be wary of strange men who fit a certain criterion. These are the few guidelines women in South Africa have been told on a loop, before we even begin to understand the extent of the danger that lurks within our country, writes NADINE DIRKS.
Uyinene Mrwetyana, a 19-year-old, first-year film and media studies student at the University of Cape Town’s recent vicious sexual assault and brutal murder is a startling reminder that we are not safe. That danger lurks even when the handy guidelines we’re taught like a sing-song is applied will not keep us safe from predators. Uyinene was in a public space, in the middle of the day, at a post office where her last few moments must have been the most terrifying experience anyone could imagine. Post office workers – were once seen as public servants whose duty it was to serve their communities are now no longer seen as such – everyone is a potential rapist and murderer.
There are no longer shadows in which these predators hide and wait for unsuspecting, lone women, at night, in a secluded area to pounce on. There are no longer spaces for us to make us feel safe and less likely to become the next face on social media whose body will turn up later brutalised and bare.
In South Africa, where movements such as Total Shutdown, Rise Up Against Gender Based Violence, Men are Trash have trended over the last few years – we have to ask the questions: what is so monumentally wrong with our society where men continue these cycles of torment on women? What more can be done to ensure the safety of women? And possibly, more annoyingly – why is it that many men seem to be vocal about their disdain towards a collective call out of “men are trash” as they do not feel it applies to them, yet many remain silent when heinous crimes are committed by men? Where are these non-trash men with movements, mobilising, awareness and most importantly – not being complicit through the rape culture jokes made in their presence?
Uyinene Mrwetyana, Karabo Mokoena, Anene Booysen, Lekita Moore, Noxolo Xakeka and thousands of others deserve more than the fates they ultimately met at the hands of men who are not fit to be apart of society due to the immense harm they perpetuate.
These women, and some even girls, deserved autonomy and dignity, to live their lives as they saw fit. To say no when they chose, to leave unhappy relationships without the threat of violence, to be queer, to go out with friends and have fun and return home with nothing more than memories and a hangover, and to collect our parcels from the post office without fearing for our lives.
Rest in Peace and Power, Sisters. We cannot rest as a nation until the lives of women are not seen as disposable in South Africa.
Nadine Dirks is a communications and advocacy associate. She is also a social justice, and sexual reproductive health and rights advocate – with a focus on Black Consciousness.
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policies of The Daily Vox.
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