Horrific stories of gender-based violence emerge at summit
The first day of the presidential summit on gender-based violence and femicide got off to an emotional start. The summit was announced by President Ramaphosa after the #Totalshutdownmarch where women marched to the union building to handover a memorandum to protest against oppression, gender inequality and gender-based violence.
Women from all walks of life and sectors are in attendance; President Cyril Ramaphosa and Baleka Mbete are there to listen to the stories of women who have been victims of GBV and to help find a solution to the scourge.
Emotions ran high with many panelists telling their stories of abuse and victimization. Those in attendance would erupt ever so often in sympathy at the testimonies being shared. A woman, Martha, who is an inmate, spoke about how she was arrested for the murder of her husband after suffering abuse at his hands even during her pregnancy. Martha admits she never opened a case against her husband but police were often called, she was sentenced for life imprisonment and she spoke about her daughter who was 4- years old at when she was arrested and is now 19.
“Every day she is asking me, mummy when are you coming home”
This story was met with cries of release her! release her! release her now!
Another panelist Phindile, spoke about her gang rape ordeal. Phindile addressed the president, telling him about how she was gang raped by eight young men in Tembisa. She reported the rape. Speaking in Zulu she said the culprits told her they were going to go free.
“The boys told me straight that they won’t get arrested[that] this is something that they were used to.”
In shock she went home, at this moment she mentions that she knew nothing about the law. She mentions that one day in court the magistrate told her that the case had been struck off the roll. “ ..I didn’t know what the magistrate was saying to me, I saw the boys leave. They’re schoolboys, imagine what location school boys look like…They went outside and they said come out we want to show you, I was with other people’s children that had come to support me, I had to protect them until we got to our homes, the police from Tembisa could not protect them they watched us to see what we’d do.”
She then described how she went into a dustbin and fished out cooldrink cans, broke them in half and gave one half to her sister and others to her supporters. “I told them I cannot protect you guys, I want you to kill them, when we get out of here, whichever comes near you kill them…” Phindile and her supporters left the court that day with the help of one policeman who gave them a lift home.
A representative from POWA spoke to her and told her that they’d be able to assist her, the case was taken to the Wynberg Magistrate Court. There was another glitch, which resulted in the case going on for five years. Eventually the group were sentenced but Phindile was not happy about the sentence.
“I was answering lawyers, eight lawyers, telling them how I was raped. I didn’t notice some of the things that were around me while I was being raped I had to remember where the ‘Apollo’ (streetlight) was, whether it was on the left or the right.“These people who go to court and are lawyers of perpetrators they are killing us and you’re allowing them Mr. President to kill us and they are killing us inside the court where we are supposed to be protected. I’m not protected inside the court, I’m not protected outside the court.”
Phindile ended her talk by telling of the numerous operations she had to undergo after the rape, five in total, the first one was to remove plastic that had been inserted into her body during the rape.
She stood up and lifted her dress to show a huge scar on her abdominal region. A visibly distraught President Ramaphosa grabbed Baleka Mbete’s arm for support before placing his head in his hands in despair.
The crowd shouted show them!
"I was not born like this, I received these operations because I live in South Africa and I was raped…I ‘m afraid to go home, in the section where I was raped my mother still lives there, I can’t go home because the system decided to release the boys, when I went to court no one explained to me that 16 years is four years, no on explained to me”.
She asked the president to not parole rapists and that he minimum sentence for rape start at 50 years. The women in the room were distraught and fighting back emotions and others visibly crying. Others speakers opened up about their experiences.
When the morning session drew to a close attendees were chanting for the release of Martha.
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