Anene Booysen's rape and brutal murder became a tipping point in South Africa, a society where the rape of women and children continues unabated on a daily basis rendering this country the rape capital of the world.
The tragedy not only made international headlines but for once there was an apparent unity among government, civil society, non-governmental and faith-based organisations, that enough is enough. Even some local mainstream media institutions took a tough stance by side lining regular content to campaign against rape and pledge solidarity with victims of gender-based violence (GBV).
It seems very bittersweet and all too pertinent that on Thursday, 14 February 2013, in unity with the One Billion Rising Campaign (OBR), people from 172 countries across the world, including South Africa will rise up and say, ‘Enough is Enough! The violence has to end now!’
Eve Ensler, a well-renowned gender activist and founder of V-Day and the Vagina Monologues, started OBR in September 2012. The campaign hoped to garner at least one billion supporters across the globe to rise up in collective strength to highlight the plight of women and to help end violence against women and girls.However, unless such strategies are sustained and cemented in all spheres of society to effectively address the plight of women, we shall live in perpetual fear of the monsters that inhumanly persist in peddling the cycle of rape and murder.
The onus is on all of us to realise that the time for talking is long over. It is time to act in solidarity and remembrance of all women, children and men that have been victims of rape, sodomy and murder. It is time to enact our promises, pledges and programmes.
This country's history is testimony to our capacity to rise above adversary; our willpower and unity made us a marvel to the entire world. Our society was inspired and propelled into action as we watched young Nkosi Johnson take the centre stage in the fight against HIV and AIDS. Soon after, we saw South Africa's HIV statistics decline according to the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS(UNAIDS). South Africans need to rise up again to ensure that Booysen's rape and murder, and that of so many others that plunge into a spiral of silence are not in vain.
Booysen' s heinous fate became a tipping point for distraught families across the nation and beyond, whose loved ones have suffered the same violence; "Lest we forget our many other children and women in Bredasdorp who have been raped and killed, as we pay our final respect to Anene Booysen", a mourner said at the funeral on Saturday, 9 February 2013. All rape survivors and others who have spoken out since the tragedy need our help and their families need our support.
A Collective Citizens Group in South Africa has coordinated efforts around the OBR campaign throughout the country leading up to Valentine's Day on 14 February to create awareness about the campaign and to invite everyone to be a part of the global movement. On 14 February, Sonke Gender Justice held a dawn ceremony on Table Mountain in Cape Town and in Johannesburg, Sonke together with Rosebank College and other activists, will march to the main event, held at Constitutional Hill to commemorate Booysen.
I call upon all men and boys to unequivocally declare solidarity and boldly denounce rape and GBV. We must stop making excuses and deal with the causes of rape in our society. Fathers need to talk to their sons. These young men need to know that manhood is not borne through violence and oppression of women.
The responsibility lies with all of us as mothers and fathers to be pioneers of gender equality and to encourage a culture of mutual respect starting in the home. Let us ensure that Booysen's memory lives on and serves as a reminder that the violence in our society must be holistically addressed. Let her death be a turning point in the fight against GBV. Together we can build a society free from gender inequality and oppression.
- Javu Baloyi is the Spokesperson of the Commission for Gender Equality. He writes in his personal capacity. This article first appeared on the Gender Links website.