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#TotalShutdown: South African women march against gender-based violence

With National Women’s Day approaching and August being Women’s Month, the women of South Africa have chosen an auspicious time to take to the streets to protest gender-based violence and to agitate for change in how this violence is dealt with.



The #TotalShutdown marches that took place in various cities in South Africa were organised by WomenProtestSA. Described as an ‘intersectional women’s march’, the rallying cry was: “My body, not your crime scene.” According to their website, WomenProtestSA called for women and gender non-conforming people to join the protest or refrain from work and engaging in economic activity. The site also detailed that marches were set to take place in eight provinces, as well as in other African countries such as Botswana, Lesotho and Namibia.

Marchers were to head to South Africa’s parliament in Cape Town, the Supreme Court of Appeal in Bloemfontein, and other provincial and regional structures and hand over a memorandum of demands to the government. The memorandum detailed action steps that the government could take to tackle “gender-based violence and make the country safe”.


Read: Women Lives Matter: “Uganda One Million Women March” – protesting against kidnappings and murders of women

South African media is flooded with stories of gruesomely murdered, kidnapped or abused women, children and gender non-conforming people. From Karabo Mokoena, who was murdered in 2017 by her ex-boyfriend, Sandile Mantsoe, to Zolile Khumalo, who was allegedly shot and killed by her boyfriend, Thabani Mzolo, in May 2018, and 20-year-old Siam Lee, who went missing after being picked up by a man in a car with an unknown registration plate.

The global figure for femicide in 2015 was 2,4 per 100 000 women, while South Africa’s rate was four times higher, at 9,6 per 100 000 women, making it five times more than the global rate.

“We are marching because we are saying enough is enough; we are tired of living in fear. It is high time that the government takes women seriously and views this as a state of emergency because we are tired of being abused by men,” activist Sithandekile Sibanda told Africa News.

“We are not safe on the streets, we are not safe in the taxis, we are tired of men violating us, men talking to us as if we were their sexual objects. It is time for change. It is time for a new South Africa; a South Africa where women are safe and free to go around and do what they want without fear,” she said.