By Linda Pona
As we celebrate Freedom Day, which signifies the end of human rights violations in South Africa, I take the time to reflect on what it truly means to be free. More importantly, I take time to think about this Freedom from the perspective of a young Black female in South Africa today.
I am grateful that I am not discriminated against because of the colour of my skin and my gender. I can move around the country freely without carrying a pass, as the Pass Law of 1952 dictated. These are but some of many freedoms I can enjoy today that were denied to many pre-democracy.
Although we have come a long way as a country to ensure that fundamental human rights are exercised, women’s rights are violated by gender-based violence and femicide (GBVF).
This week Grocott’s Mail reported that a 35-year-old traditional healer and pastor is accused of raping a young female. Last year, Grocott’s said that a three-year-old was raped and murdered while sleeping in her home and what should have been a safe place. One of the most tragic cases of GBVF is that of Uyinene Mrwetyana, who was brutally raped and murdered simply because she was female.
Statistics reveal that one in five women who have a partner experience physical violence from that partner. These statistics further show that the Eastern Cape has the highest partner violence. This begs the question of how, 29 years after our first democratic election, we have not paid more attention to this pandemic of violence against women and children, denying them their universal rights to life, Freedom from torture and degrading treatment, Freedom from discrimination and the right to safety and security.
Although I have the right to walk around freely in my neighbourhood in South Africa, I do not feel safe, and the previous cases of GBVF and statistics show that this is the case for many women in South Africa. South Africa’s laws, such as the Domestic Violence Act 116 of 1998, are supposed to protect us against violence, yet in reality, it is not happening, and something needs to be done about this scourge of GBV. President Cyril Ramaphosa has pleaded against GVB, its perpetrators and the communities who protect them, yet no action is taking place from the government to end GBV.
We are meant to be free, but I do not believe we can ever be free until we rid our society of GBVF. A Daily Maverick article shows us that “Freedom is not a passive state, it’s an active state; Freedom is not a privilege, it’s an obligation; Freedom is not an end but a means to an end. Freedom is not just something we demand only of the government, but also something we must actively create within and around ourselves.”
So to men especially, as you exercise your right to Freedom, do not deny us our Freedom from torture, degrading treatment, and, more importantly, the right to life.