Opinion

A frightening time to be a woman in South Africa

A frightening time to be a woman in South Africa
"We're a country with no rainbow, only rain. And that rain is red and warm and bruised between her thighs". 

These words by Zoe Human kept going around and around in my head as more and more horror stories about young girls and women being abducted, raped and murdered surfaced over the past few days.

The other recurring thought I had was that I am afraid. 

Afraid for my daughters who are 8 and 19 years old. Afraid for my 70-year-old mother who suffers from the early stages of Alzheimer's but still goes to the shops and takes public transport almost daily. 

Afraid for my colleagues who start work at 6 am and others who finish work late at night. Afraid for my cousins and my friends who are just going about the business of being daughters, mothers, girlfriends and wives.

I am afraid. Because we have all become walking targets for men who prey on us. Any one of us could be the next rape or murder victim; simply because we are women.

These men have no identifying marks. They don't have "animal" or "predator" tattooed on their foreheads. 

They don't wear a scarlet letter. They are somebody's son, brother, colleague, boyfriend or husband. They look like normal, loving human beings. They go to work, spend time with their families and tuck their children into bed. And they are trusted.

Somebody knows about the violence lying under the surface of their civilised veneer. Somebody is covering for them when questions are asked about alibis. Somebody is washing their bloody clothes. Somebody is helping them by remaining silent.

Somebody needs to stop enabling them.

There has been a great deal of anger and despair on social media over the past few days. Many people blame the government for the war that is being waged on women. But it is not the government that is out there abducting, raping and murdering. Men are doing this. And those men are the ones at whom we should be directing our anger. 

I want my daughters to visit friends, go to the park, go shopping and take in a movie in safety. I don't want to be tracking their every move and checking in on Whatsapp every hour. I want every young woman to realise her dream.

For this to happen though, we need to end the violence stalking them. It's not just about better policing or a more effective judicial system. It's about a society that stands up and says "enough is enough". We need to take ownership of the problem by standing up against these predators.

Don't look away when you know a woman is in danger, or that a man has hurt a female who trusted him. 

Let's start by not ignoring the signs when our son is violent towards their girlfriend. She didn't "deserve" to be beaten. Don't walk away when your friend's husband manhandles her. It's not a "married people's problem". "Boys will be boys" is not an excuse for degrading girls or sexually harassing them. There is no such thing as being "entitled" to misuse or abuse a woman.

Don't look away because it's easier to not get involved.

Take the sexual predator's power away by speaking out. Do it for Uyinene Mrwetyana who was murdered when she went to the Post Office, for 14-year-old Janika Mallo who was raped and had her head bashed in. Do it for Lynette Volschenk and Jesse Hess who were murdered in their homes.

But most of all, do it for yourself, your mother, your daughter and your friend. 

Don't look away.