What Floyd moment do we need to contain gender-based violence scourge?

Mbuyiselo Botha Gender Imbizo
Balloons with an image of Tshegofatso Pule were released into the sky during her funeral service in Meadowlands, Soweto. The writer asks if the brutal rapes and killings of women and children that flood television screens every day not deserving of urgency.
Balloons with an image of Tshegofatso Pule were released into the sky during her funeral service in Meadowlands, Soweto. The writer asks if the brutal rapes and killings of women and children that flood television screens every day not deserving of urgency.
Image: Sebabatso Mosamo/Sunday Times

Anele Mdoda made a very interesting statement. The other day she asked: "I wonder who our George Floyd as South African women will be. A brutal death of one woman where even men will hit the streets and say enough. I am sad that a pregnant woman hanging from a tree is not that moment. Maybe it too needs to be caught on camera."

This statement is loaded with a lot of what is wrong with our country. This statement speaks to society's - particularly men's - inability to come together with women, centre and wholly address the plight of women in relation to gender-based violence.

In addition to this, Mdoda's statement made me think of how desensitised we may be when coming to violence against women and children.

I say this because, how has our country not come to a total standstill after the killing of a pregnant woman? How is this country moving on and still functioning? Like Mdoda said, if this case and the multiple brutal killings have not stirred us enough to bring this country to a standstill, I am scared for women and children in SA. I am worried if anything will ever rile us up enough to act.

How many more must be raped? How many more must have their lives prematurely ended? Ended even before they even take their very first breath, as in the case of Pule's unborn baby? If the inability of a baby to live even one day without facing violence is not an indictment on us, I do not know what is.

I think in SA we have had enough brutal "moments" akin to that of George Floyd. I think women have protested, spoken, written, and shone the light enough on their plight in this country. Women have exhausted all avenues.

What they have not been met with, is the same vigour and dedication.

As uncomfortable as it is for me to say this, we have had enough "sacrificial lambs" that served to remind us of the brutality women live with in this country. What women need is for the dedication shown to the alcohol bans and implementing the lockdown measures to be shown to their daily, almost lifelong pandemic as well. They need the same level of enthusiasm.

The Covid-19 pandemic has shown us that our government is capable of delivering what it deems as being critical. With the recent horror killings of women - which are not new - I cannot help but think why has our state not responded to gender-based violence in the same manner? Mobilised resources and all sectors of society towards fighting gender-based violence in this way?

Expecting a response as elaborate and as well resourced as the response to the Covid-19 pandemic is not a stretch. Especially in a country that is often dubbed the rape capital of the world.

The femicide experiencedcalls for a state of emergency of some sort, one that rallies action and resources similar to our response to this pandemic. You may think it is drastic to suggest that we need a similar response.

However, is it not urgent and reason enough to call for urgency when a six-month-old baby is raped? Are the brutal rapes and killings of women and children that flood our television screens every day not deserving of urgency?

In a country where a woman is murdered every three hours, is that not enough to necessitate a well-resourced, integrated, multi-sectorial response?

I think we have long had a pandemic - one that disproportionately affects women. But because of the patriarchal status quo of our society, where women are second-class citizens, we have never looked at femicide as a fight that needs an intense, all hands on deck approach.

During times such as this, people will tend to say "one battle at a time", the current enemy is Covid-19. All our energy should be diverted towards fighting this. However, we cannot afford to do that because women and children do not get a chance to have their abuse "diverted" elsewhere.

They constantly have to face abuse, rape and death. We cannot stop centering the urgency that needs to be actively directed towards fighting gender-based violence.

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