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National Women’s Day commemorated in a country where women are under constant attack

Neelam Rahim |

2-minute read
10 August 2023 | 14:52 CAT

Image: Pngtree

South Africans commemorated Women’s Day, a celebration of the thousands of women who gathered at the Union Buildings in Pretoria in 1956 to present a petition to the apartheid government opposing the passed laws.

Sixty-seven years later, apartheid has been abolished, and the country can celebrate almost 30 years of democracy. But it does not mean all women are free.

With over 10,000 rapes recorded in the first three months of 2023 and over 900 women killed, one rights activist says there isn’t much to celebrate as South Africa marked its National Women’s Day on Wednesday.

Head of Sustained Dialogues at the Institute for Justice and Reconciliation, Felicity Harrison, told Radio Islam International that many women have begun questioning whether they can celebrate the day.

“While it is important for us to look and see how far we have come, and be able to celebrate those victories that we have made. At the same time, it is important that we don’t celebrate in a way that is superficial as women still face many challenges in our society,” Harrison says.

While democratic South Africa now has a progressive constitution guaranteeing gender equality, an increase in female homicide victims in the first part of this year means it’s not a happy holiday.

“As a gender-based violence activist who’s been working in communities for 30 years, I’ve never seen the level of violence. The violence on women’s bodies has escalated. I almost feel like we’ve got nothing to celebrate,” said Caroline Peters, a women’s rights activist.

Police statistics for the first three months of 2023 showed 10,512 rapes and 969 murders of women. President Cyril Ramaphosa has said South Africa has levels of gender-based violence that “are comparable to countries that are at war,” referring to it as “a pandemic.”

Asked why gender-based violence is a scourge in South Africa, Harrison said an individual approach and the need to recognize how GBV is entrenched in our society, structures, systems and institutions.

“Unless we take intentional measures to change those, we are going to fight losing battles,” Harrison added.

Listen to the full interview on Your World Today with Moulana Shuaib Lasanya.


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