Thousands of South African women took to the streets on Thursday of last week to protest at the government’s failure to deal with rising violence against women.
Many carried placards reading, “Enough is enough,” and, “My body is not your crime scene.”
The day before women had protested outside the World Economic Forum in Johannesburg. Police used water cannons and stun grenades against them.
August was the most deadly month for violent crimes against women the country has ever seen.
On average at least 137 sexual offences are committed per day in South Africa, mainly against women, according to official figures.
The latest protests highlighted cases such as the death of Uyinene Mrwetyana, a student murdered by a Post Office employee who allegedly raped and bludgeoned her to death with a weighing scale.
There are repeated calls for the return of the death penalty and more police.
But there were at least 55 rape complaints against police officers in just six months last year.
South African socialist Claire Ceruti writes, “The magnificent women’s protests were a raging fire of hope in a dark time.
“Expecting the death penalty to solve rape and the murder of women makes it seem as if the problem is just a few bad men who can be picked out of society and then we would be safe.
“In reality, the war against women is the result of a systematic social degradation of women—which shapes all men and women to some extent—combined with the intense degradation of life under capitalism today.
“Together, these create the conditions that can turn quite ordinary men dangerous, and we will not be safe until this changes.
“Even in the middle of the rape crisis, much of the anti-rape rhetoric still invites men to imagine women as somehow the property of men—‘Imagine if it was your sister or mother’ and ‘Real men must protect women’.
“We do of course want men who stand shoulder to shoulder with us, but we don’t want our safety to be chained to a man—especially when so much violence is done to women by intimate partners.
“What we need is for all women to be treated as humans in our own right, with full control over our own bodies.
“To protect ourselves as women, we need to attack this whole set up root and branch.
“That doesn’t mean we should wait, dying in numbers, for the complete transformation of society. This is the fight to transform society.
“It’s a fight not only to change attitudes but to transform the material conditions and social relations that nourish these attitudes.
“First and foremost, it is crucial to continue organising, as women, and to continue the path of disruptive actions which don’t care for the false respectability of politely influencing policy on paper. We need change, not nice words.”