'Rape is never the victim's fault - Clothing is not consent'

“Rape is never the victim's fault. Clothing is not consent.”

That is the message teenage activist Zulaikha Patel wants to share during the 16 Days of Activism campaign against women and child abuse in SA.

Patel was part of a silent demonstration outside the Pretoria Magistrate's Court on Friday.

Two years ago‚ as a 13-year-old‚ she was involved in a stand-off with security guards while protesting against the Pretoria Girls' High schools policy on Afro hairstyles.

The group of protesters‚ most of whom wore shorts and T-shirts‚ stood at the corner of Francis Baard and Sophie de Bruyn streets in Pretoria on Friday‚ holding up placards.

"Cheryl Zondi"‚ "Khwezi"‚ "Rape is never the victim's fault"‚ "Men and boys; what is wrong with us?" said some of the placards.

"We are here to make a statement‚ to say that clothing is not consent and that rape is never the victim's fault‚" said Patel.

"We feel activism against gender-based violence should not be 16 days but should be 365 days because rape and gender-based violence don't happen at a certain time in the year‚" she said.

"We need to come together to fight this cancer in our society. We need to unite as men and women. We need men to go out and speak out in their male circles against rape‚" she said.

Patel said rape should not be "sugar coated" and perpetrators should not be protected.

"Our future plans include educating people and we want to do so now during the 16 days of activism. We want society to stop policing women's bodies to the gaze of patriarchy."

She hoped that motorists driving past and seeing their messages would take them seriously and spread the word about gender-based violence.

Tiego Khoza‚ the only man who joined the protest‚ said he was there to motivate men and to challenge them to become a voice against gender-based violence.

"I'm here to show people that there are men who are concerned about the abuse of women. My message for men is that we should respect women.

"When we have young boys we should teach them to respect women and treat women as their equals and not treat them as people who are their subordinates‚ there to cook and please them in bed."

Khoza said the justice system needed to defend and protect women.

"[The justice system] shouldn't protect the perpetrators‚ like they are doing in the Dros case. His identity is hidden from the public‚ on what basis?"

He said the group chose to protest outside the court because most cases of rape were heard there. "We are here because cases are brought here and we are going where it happens the most."

Klara Dreyer‚ a Pretoria resident who walked past the protesters‚ commended the protesters. "They are not obstructing traffic or screaming at anyone. They are just stating their opinion and I think that's important."

She said she was a strong believer that the clothes worn by women should not determine how they were treated by men.

"I think you should be able to wear what you want. I don't think that's supposed to make a person think I can treat you this way or do this to you‚" Dreyer said.

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