Pretoria Girls anti-racism activist Zulaikha Patel to go naked in protest against gender-based violence

28 November 2018 - 13:19
By Nomahlubi Jordaan
Zulaikha Patel was one of the activists at Pretoria High School for Girls  who fought against discriminatory hair policies in 2016.
Image: Gallo Images Zulaikha Patel was one of the activists at Pretoria High School for Girls who fought against discriminatory hair policies in 2016.

Teenage activist Zulaikha Patel will lead a naked protest against gender-based violence on Friday.

Patel became popular when she was the face of the Stop Racism At Pretoria Girls High campaign when she was 13 years old in 2016.

The Pretoria Girls High pupil was at the forefront of a movement against racism at the school as she demanded the right to wear her Afro hairstyle.

Now 16‚ Patel is fighting for a different cause.

She said: "The idea for the protest came about after a girl who was raped‚ committed suicide after a trial in the UK.

Patel also cited a growing social media campaign currently under way‚ with women publishing photos of their underwear after a recent case in Ireland during which a suspect was acquitted. The defence lawyer had cited the woman's underwear‚ saying: "You have to look at the way she was dressed. She was wearing a thong with a lace front."

"We feel that the justice system and society are failing victims of gender-based violence‚ and we are standing in solidarity with the #ThisIsNotConsent campaign‚" Patel said.

"Victims are continuously shamed. We therefore say‚ under no circumstances is rape the victim’s fault."

She said she and the group of young women who will be joining her in the silent demonstration outside the Pretoria Magistrate’s Court on Friday‚ want to make a statement that rape is not anyone’s fault.

"We will not be completely naked. We will be sitting down and holding boards between our legs."

Patel said she was expecting about 20 people to join the protest.

The campaign she led in 2016 was against the school’s hairstyle policy‚ after black pupils said they were instructed to straighten their hair.

A petition was signed by over 4‚500 people‚ calling for government intervention.

A report later that year found that teachers at the school enforced the school's policy without sensitivity.

The policy that the pupils successfully fought against had stated that hair must be brushed‚ neatly tied back if long enough and be kept off the face. No dyeing‚ bleaching‚ colouring or shaving was permitted.

It further stated: "Cornrows‚ natural dreadlocks and singles/braids (with or without extensions) are allowed‚ provided they are a maximum of 10mm in diameter. Singles/braids must be the same length and be the natural colour of the girl’s hair."