‘I have a fear of being raped one day’

2013-04-23 10:00

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'In my first week in Durban, I had a bad experience. I was approached by this guy who just asked for my phone.

“I was walking with a male friend. He ran away. He was too scared to help. That’s the general perception here. These thugs are very dangerous.

“If you try to fight them, you’ll get hurt because they carry knives. People are scared that they will be marked by these thugs, who will cause problems for them in the future.

“That was my introduction to this city.”

Meet Maureen Memela (31).

She is a hairdresser who has lived in central Durban since last February.

She supports her 91-year-old grandmother, who lives with a caregiver in Memela’s home town of Port Shepstone.

“I have never had an incident where I have nearly been raped, but I can tell you that it is something that is a constant threat.

“As a woman working in such a rough part of town, I have a fear of being raped one day.

“Because of the nature of my job, I do a lot of walking around, buying hair extensions wanted by clients that we might not have at our salon. It is very dangerous.

“Women are harassed here by the street kids. They will even feel your breasts, trying to feel whether you have money or cellphones, since they know women hide them there.

“You can’t take five steps without them stopping you to look for money. If you give them R5, they tell you that bread is R7. If you refuse to give it to them, they will either insult you or threaten you with words like, ‘Don’t be sorry when I do what I will do’.”

Memela closes her salon early, often because she doesn’t want to be the last to leave work.

“I live about 15 minutes away from my work place. But if I’m walking alone, I take a taxi. But even that doesn’t help.

“Taxi drivers and conductors have resorted to wearing uniforms just because criminals act as if they will lead you to the taxi and then strip you dry.”

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