March to take back the streets
Thousands of women - supported by men and religious leaders - braved a torrential downpour on Friday night and marched through the centre of Durban to claim back the streets for women and children to walk about freely.
The protestors marched to the eThekwini Community Church in support of the 16 days of Activism for no Violence against Women and Children.
A group of men, under the banner of Men for Change, joined the march held under the banner of the ANC Women's League (ANCWL).
It was initiated and led by four KwaZulu-Natal MECs - Weziwe Thusi of arts, culture and tourism, Neliswa Nkonyeni of health, Ina Cronje of education and Lydia Johnson of public works.
The group sang religious songs while they carried lit candles to highlight the abuse of women and children. Women said they were reclaiming the night and freedom on the streets under the theme, "Strengthen the fight against the abuse of women and children".
Women prayed for the victims of rape and abuse.
Addressing the marchers at the church service, Thusi said the rights of women and children were fundamental human rights entrenched in, and protected by, the Constitution.
"Women should not feel threatened, even at night. They should walk freely on our streets without fear that they might be raped or abused," she said.
She said women also contributed to the freedom that people enjoyed today. "And we do not want to be kept hostage in our homes by the thugs. Government has regulated many laws and those laws must bite all criminals who abuse women and children."
Johnson echoed Thusi's sentiments, saying women should know that they are equal with men. She said women should not be volunteers of the abuse. "Women cannot be abused and become volunteers of the abuse. We call on society not to look away but act against the abuse of women and children," she said.
Nkonyeni said everyone in society had a role to play in stopping the abuse. She said gender-based violence, in all its different guises, was incompatible with the dignity and worth of the human being and must be eliminated.