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What it means to be a Woman in South Africa?

By Anonymous

The first thing that comes to mind when I think about being a woman in this country is GBV. Mainly because gender-based violence is rampant in South Africa, making it one of the most hazardous locations in the world for women. As a Law student, I know that in terms of legal protection of gender rights, the new South African constitution is one of the most progressive in the world. However, rape, sexual assault, and the HIV/AIDS epidemic have all hampered women’s and LGBTI communities’ right to physical freedom and bodily integrity in South Africa, hence I think being a woman in this country is still difficult.

If possible, I would like to remain anonymous; another reason why it’s not easy being a woman in South Africa is because I fear the perpetrator seeing this post or rather, I just fear how we as South African women shame each other – but that’s a topic for another day.

I was sexually assaulted at a very young age, not even by a stranger but a family friend who my family had so much trust in. I honestly never understood what was happening when it all transpired because I had never been involved in any sexual intercourse by then or exposed to any pornographic media. Again, I had never thought that someone I see as a brother would hurt me like he did. Luckily with my story, justice was served but how many young girls, adults or even old women are assaulted but no one believes them? No support or being abused by their partners? Statistics show that in 2019-2020, there was an average increase of 146 sexual offences and 116 rape cases per day. Again, those are only the reported cases. At the age that I am now, I still fear wearing clothes I like because what does society say about the certain clothes women wear? I still don’t understand why when we report any assault case, the first or rather the third question asked is “what were you wearing?”.

To the wise man who once said “time heals”, I would like to disagree because I might have moved on but I haven’t healed. I even prefer being single because which man will want to be patient enough with you – Yes, there are such men but out of 10, how many are there?

I think now it makes sense when I think of “WHAT IT MEANS TO BE A WOMAN IN SOUTH AFRICA”? GBV pops up first. Being a woman in this country means continuously living in fear, having trust issues and always having to prove your capabilities.

However, on the positive side, since it is Women’s Month and this is when we get to reflect on how far we have come, significant progress has been made, and the standing of women in this society has transformed. We have a considerably higher proportion of women in government, Parliament and civil society, and this is great motivation for women to not be afraid of taking any opportunities at hand and reach their full potential. Furthermore, it is important that African women identify themselves, as they are the only ones who have the authority to express their experiences, ways of life, and history.

In conclusion, I would like to believe that good parenthood helps to reduce violence and the health of mothers and children improves when conflicts are addressed more calmly, I could be wrong but we are all allowed to believe, right? I would like to end my piece with this quote, to motivate all the women who will be reading this:

“I felt a lump in my throat when I looked at this large army of women: dignified women, courageous women. I felt so humbled to be part of such bravery.”

Sophia Theresa Williams-de Bruyn

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