Women abuse the forgotten horror of S Africa

#IAMHer and #sheisme were trending in South Africa the same time as the xenophobia attacks

In Summary

• Shocking rate of rape and murder calls for harsher punishment of the culprits

Activists protest against rape
Activists protest against rape
Image: FILE

While everyone else was occupied with the xenophobic attacks in South Africa the past two weeks, other news coming from the country was easily overlooked. As South African men took to the streets, protesting the presence of African immigrants, the women took to the same streets protesting abuse, rape and murder of South African women at the hands of South African men.

According to a report published by Al Jazeera, statistics indicate that a woman is murdered every three hours in South Africa. 

In the last few months in South Africa, numerous women and girls have been reported kidnapped, raped, murdered or all the above. Women became riled up after University of Cape Town student Uyinene Mrwetyana, 19, was found dead after being raped and severely bludgeoned.

Uyinene’s death was followed by that of boxer Leighandre Jegels, 25, who was shot by her ex-boyfriend. On Twitter, women took over the platform with their protests using the hashtags #IAMHer and #sheisme. They sought to share their personal stories as well as show unity that an attack against one woman is an attack against all women. We are all vulnerable. It could happen to any of us at any time.

Until two years ago, I had spent four years studying at a prestigious university in the Western Cape. I walked around with a pepper spray. It was the only ammunition I had. It could have been ineffective, but it was my armour. It is through God’s grace that I never used it. As a woman living in a country where crime on women was rampant, it was necessary to be prepared for combat every time I stepped out of the house. Although cases of abuse are prevalent in South Africa, women all over the world are never truly safe from assault. It happens in homes, workplaces and even in marriages. At any given time, a woman walks in fear of being attacked.

I believe the leniency shown to people who perform acts of terror against women is one of the main factors that make this issue pandemic. The whole world followed the trial of South African runner Oscar Pistorius after he murdered his model girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp in their home. Oscar got off with a measly five-year maximum sentence. Uyinene’s attacker was arrested almost 10 days after the attack, even though the attack happened in the post office where the assailant worked. He has even confessed to the rape and murder of Uyinene, but even as we await his sentencing, we fear that the punishment will not be fitting to the crime.

Meanwhile, in Kenya, there is no news of the arraigned Naftali Kinuthia, a man who brutally killed medical student Ivy Wangechi. Kinuthia has been in custody since April, when he attacked Ivy with an axe in the full glare of the public. Although the incident roused anger from Kenyans, the emotions have died down from the prolonged court proceedings. As it stands, Naftali has been denied bail, but he is yet to be tried and sentenced.

Former television personality Jackie Maribe and her fiancé Jowie are also in court for the alleged murder of Monica Kimani. Although the two were arraigned in 2018, they are yet to be sentenced.