Monday, 29 April 2013

Enough is Enough: A call to end violence against women and children

 On 13 February 2013 the Archbishop Njongonkulu Ndungane, Founder and President of African Monitor and former Anglican Archbishop of Cape Town, joined faith leaders, young people, women’s groups and other concerned citizens for a protest against the alarming rate of violence against women and children in South Africa.  The protest, themed Stand Up & Be Still Silent, was organised by Ms Nomfundo Walaza of Women Demand Dignity who is also the CEO of the Desmond Tutu Peace Trust. The silent protest took place at St Georges Cathedral in Cape Town, just a few miles from the Parliament where President Jacob Zuma was due to address the nation the next day.

Protestors painted a gleam picture for the state of our Nation, noting in their placards that:-

·         South Africa has one of the highest rates of crime in the world, and is labelled the rape capital of the world.

·         Women born in South Africa have more chance of being raped than learning how to read.

·         Rape in SA affects all age groups, from 6 month old babies to 80 year old grandmothers; all race groups; and all income brackets.

·         Someone in SA is raped every four minutes; and 40% of South African women will be raped in their life time.

Translated plainly, these rape statistics imply that during the recent 90 minute AFCON final match between Nigeria and Burkina Faso, about 22 girls and women were raped in South Africa.

At the protest, Archbishop Ndungane expressed deep concern about what he sees as rapid moral decay in South Africa, where collectively leaders are not doing enough to change the tide of violence against women and children.  He noted, “it is unacceptable to slap a woman. It is unacceptable to speak or act in ways that suggest women are inferior to men. It is unacceptable to raise boys and girls in ways that teach either gender to believe that men and boys are superior.”
The Archbishop has long fought for human rights, and especially the rights of vulnerable groups.  While he was still in office he drew attention to how beliefs and attitudes that lead to women and girls being treated as less important than men and boys can be overcome. In his auto-biography Faith in Action he stated, “the Bible must not be wrongly interpreted, as if it justifies physical, verbal or emotional belittling of women. Rather, it teaches that women and men together reflect God’s image, and are equally important in his eyes.” He further highlighted three areas that faith leaders need to address, “theology and the way we understand our faith in relation to gender issues; our practices within our churches; and the wider role we can play in our communities in overcoming this scourge.”  He went further to recognise the oppression so many suffered under apartheid, or through personal circumstances; “God knows the difficulties many now face, especially through unemployment and financial pressures; but we shouldn’t express our pain and frustration against our nearest and dearest.”

Those who joined the protest noted that before the horrifying recent murder and brutal rape of Anene Booysen and others that followed, many people have not been paying attention to violence and rape against women; nor taken seriously the impact of this scourge on society. Valerie March, a 17 year-old who is in grade 12 at St. George’s Grammar School, explained that she has come to take a stand because it is very sad not to feel safe in your own community. Valerie tearfully explained that even though she didn’t know Anene Booysen who was raped and murdered, they are the same age and that “this can obviously happen to me and my friends anytime and anywhere.”
Trent Marescia,  a 17 year-old boy also from St Georges Grammar School, stressed that the rape and violence are regrettably becoming more and more acceptable in the society. Trent dismissed those who blame the way girls and women dress, asking these boys and men if “every time you see a nice car, do you always grab it and drive it even though it doesn’t belong to you?  No ways!! And if you cannot do this to an object why force a human being in something they don’t want?”

Archbishop Ndungane urges particularly men and boys to say enough is enough, and to give dignity back to South Africa’s women and girls, “this should not be only the problem of women or the government, but also that of men, because it affects everybody in our society including the faith leaders as the guardian of moral in our society.”
This article was published by African Monitor.  African Monitor promotes human rights, the protection of vulnerable groups, equality, and non-discrimination.  African Monitor joins the global call to end all forms of violence against women and children.  To read more about African Monitor visit the website at

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