South Africa: The fight against gender-based violence
Updated: Feb 27
Written by Ferron Pedro
Featured in the publication uManyano lwaBasebenzi
In September 2019, public outrage at the brutal murder of student Uyinene Mrwetyana triggered nationwide protests against the rising tide of gender-based violence in South Africa. Phemelo Motseokae, WASP Tshwane Branch Secretary, reported from the march to the Union Buildings: “Women are now more willing to take action. There was a large presence of young people at the march and they had so much anger and energy with slogans like #AmINext and #IsMySkirtAProblem?”.
The recorded number of women assaulted, raped and murdered in South Africa in 2017/2018 increased by 11% from the previous year to 36 731 cases. In 2016 the World Health Organisation reported that South Africa had the fourth highest female interpersonal violence death rate out of 183 countries listed.
Across the world, women and LGBTQI+ communities are taking to the streets to demand action against gender-based violence. On 25 November, International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, thousands of activists protested in South Africa, Spain, Guatemala, Russia, Sudan, Turkey, Bulgaria, France, Chile, Colombia, El Salvador, Belgium, Switzerland and more. The feminist movement today is international in character with feminists around the world recognising the need for radical social change and using strikes as a weapon.
In 2016 millions of women went on strike to defeat a ban on abortions in Poland. International Women’s Day on 8 March in 2017 and 2018 saw internationally coordinated strikes in many countries. On IWD in 2019, close to seven million people went on strike in Spain. Feminist strikes and mass demonstrations have also swept across Latin America and India. The strength of the movement against women’s oppression has seen the significant presence of women leading mass uprisings in places like Sudan, Lebanon and Chile.
While the #TotalShutDown movement does not yet adequately include broader working class layers, there is an important recognition that shutting down the economy is a fundamental tactic in overcoming gender-based violence. From here, the understanding of how GBV is woven into the fabric of patriarchal class society needs to be developed so that we can organise on a socialist programme and transform society altogether.
Radicalised layers of women, LGBTQI+ communities and young people are recognising the need for collective action to transform society. It is vital that trade unions and civics actively turn to and take part in them, as part of reviving the working class movement for socialism.
Hierarchies are a necessary part of class society like capitalism. To overcome the exploitation of workers; racism and the oppression of women and LGBTQI+ communities, we must abolish capitalism. To abolish capitalism we must unite the working class, female and male, cis and trans, black, white, gay and straight. When we place the ownership of the economy under the control of society as a whole, we will make sure that all people access the necessities of life. This will form the basis of a new social order, free from oppression. To win genuine freedom for all, we need to build a mass movement with revolutionary leadership and socialist programme to challenge the economic system and the capitalist state. Ultimately, the working class majority must seize power and take control of the economy in the service of the needs of all people. That´s how we will create the material conditions for the full liberation of women, LGBTQI+ communities and all the oppressed.