They were just women
By Precious Banda
When I heard of Karabo Mokoena's brutal killing by her lover, I wanted to go to the funeral house to share in the pain of the family, unfortunately I could not make it. I followed the story closely and I will continue going forward. However that same week, we heard in the news that another young woman and more others had been killed too in the hands of men. More than five different reported tragic incidents of women's lives cut short in one week. It dawned on me that more and more women who dont make it to news headlines are dying due to gender based violence and there isnt much that is being done about it. I then decided I was going to join the ANCWL as it visited the family of the slain Lerato Moloi of Naledi, Soweto, one of the many that had been slain that week. I wanted to be part of the pain and outrage with those who were close to her. A march was organised to the Naledi Police Station after the family visit to demand justice for Lerato and to say enough is enough!
On my way to Naledi that week I used a taxi from Bree taxi rank. While sitted in the taxi and on our way, I realised that the killings of women in such gruesome ways had touched me deeply and threatened my being, while women had been dying in the hands of men long before, these latest incidents came with a reawakened consciousness of powerlessness and fear as a woman. It was infact personal. I was so scared, I asked myself what if the driver detours and the next thing we are raped and killed or kidnapped to a place we dont know? The thought sent cold chills in my spine! The death of all women who die in the hands of men is personal because it could be me. Gender based violence and woman abuse is personal, rape and rape culture is personal, patriarchy is personal, capitalism is personal. We were lucky we arrived safely but its not everyday that women are lucky in the different spaces they occupy.
The recent multiple attacks on women, kidnapping, gender based violence, rape, rape culture and deaths of women and girls must not only be condemned, to say we condemn it as Minister Shabangu said is not enough, to say there is a devil and we must pray is also not enough by the Minister. We need tangible responses to this tragedy, we need action and programmes to be put in place that speak to the safety of our women and children. We need radical policies and laws that protect women and the different cases of gender based violence must serve as a basis for such laws. The current laws are very rigid and hard on women. It is difficult to report an abuser or rapist who is not caught in the act and have a successful case, so our laws need to change and become gender sensitive. We also need to itensify gender education from pre - schools to University. These are debates we wish Minister of women must lead and guide the government on.
We must also analyse these incidents for not only the gender issue that they are but also as part of a brutal system of patriarchal capitalism that reduces female bodies to comodities that are exchanged for hefty amounts of money. The body parts of women are used for muti in rituals, vaginal parts, breasts and other body parts are commodoties that form part of different muti concoctions. We need to regulate inyangas and witches on the kind of muti they can produce. The leadership of traditional healers who have indepth knowledge on all these rituals that need body parts need to speak out against the bad inyangas feasting on the body parts of our women and people in general. They need to give us solutions on how to curb these henious acts that undermine life and create a secret market for body parts.
Some of our women are raped and others killed after the act, the men who rape defranchise and subjugate our women, they believe our women have no right to decide who they sleep with and how, they forcefully declare war on the female body and hurt it. Such men of a superior complex are many and they are everywhere, thats why we insist the body of a woman is nolonger safe anywhere and our organisations, communities and government need to do something about it and now! The gender based violence is of male ego and masculinity of men today who fail to comprehend how highly opinionated our women are and they decide to instil physical punishment on women as a way of asserting their so called superiority. Religious and cultural spaces that reinforce male masculinity need to be confronted and a discussion of cultural transformation that isolates the negative patriarchal chauvinist practices must be encouraged.
There is an uninterrupted market of sex work whose women are not there mainly by liking but due to their economic condition and as a means to provide for themselves and families. Worse still are those who are kidnapped and forced into prostitution by their new owners who buy them from their kidnappers. These women work in desperate and difficult conditions as the buyer like capital always has the power in the transaction. The continued debate on prostitution should be on how we create opportunities and skills for those who would want to leave as an exit plan but also on how we regulate the industry for the protection of those who choose to work as sex workers.
Apart from the taxes that can be collected from the sex work industry, our concern will be to improve the working conditions of these women who always fall prey to rape and gender based violence. The aproach that to regulate sex work is to encourage the already unequal capitalist relations in the relationship only deepen the same unequal power relations that make the sex workers more vulnerable. As the SACP and ANC go to their National Congresses this year 2017, this debate on sex workers must find expression among the many police positions that will be discussed. Moreover the Police must have a special task force that monitors sex workers because ordinary police personnel usually abuse and extort from them and even rape them instead of protecting them.
Society in general has failed women with regards to rape culture, when details emerged that Karabo Mokoena was in an abusive relationship with her lover with evident facts, many asked why she had not walked away and why she had not reported the man to the Police? We forgot that we never believe the women that come forward, we forgot that we made Khwezi to go in to exile when she spoke out, we threatened her and made her run for her life. She stayed far away only to come home and die. We are the same people who never criminalised Zwelinzima Vavi for sleeping with his employee in the office and when those facts emerged, no one cared about the young woman who later got fired by COSATU. We forgot that when women speak out we convince ourselves that they are psychos who are mentally unstable. We ignore the fact that gender relations are power relations. As long as rape culture is not confronted and exposed all the time, our women will die in silence. We must blame ourselves for stigmatising those who speak and come out and we must commit to change. The emancipation of our women is the emancipation of the working class as a whole. Lets all commit to play a role in condemning gender based violence and being the transformation we want in our small spaces. May our slain women rest in peace and in their memory we shall continue to fight!
Lerato Moloi and many others died as victims of gender based violence because they were just women. Many continue to be abused and raped because they are just women. Our politicians and political parties are only issuing piecemeal statements without solutions because the victims were and are just women. Social movements and the clergy are not marching in the streets, closing down Cities to SaveSA from rape and gender based violence because the victims are just women. The anger and outrage is not enough from all of us because they were just women, and for being women they will continue to suffer and die in the hands of men. Thats why for just being women we must stand and fight!
Written By " Precious Banda, the National Committee Member of the YCLSA