Miniskirts paralyse Johannesburg

2012-02-17 20:18
Miniskirt marchers are seen during a demo against women abuse outside in Johannesburg. (Werner Beukes, Sapa)

Miniskirt marchers are seen during a demo against women abuse outside in Johannesburg. (Werner Beukes, Sapa)

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Johannesburg - Parts of central Johannesburg came to a halt on Friday afternoon over miniskirts.

The ANC Women's League led a march to the South Gauteng High Court against sexual harassment and gender-based violence after two women were hassled at a taxi rank.

Justice Minister Jeff Radebe signed a memorandum of understanding at the court, pledging that the justice system would support efforts to curb violence against women and children.

The ANCWL decided to hold the march to highlight its indignation over the treatment of two young women who were chased by a group of men at Noord Street taxi rank in December.

The men groped and shouted at the women because of their clothing - one wore a miniskirt and the other had her bra strap showing.

Radebe said those who told women what to wear were not freedom fighters.

Struggle for freedom

"The struggle for freedom has always been the struggle for human rights, the struggle for women's empowerment."

He said he came out in support "because I like miniskirts", amid laughter and loud applause from the crowd.

Gauteng Premier Nomvula Mokonyane said no one could enjoy human rights while women and children lived in fear of potential abuse.

The taxi industry in particular needed to join the fight against sexual harassment.

"It is their duty to respect human rights... taxi drivers, taxi commuters: no one should allow violence against women and children," she said.

"As women, we are proud of our bodies, we are proud of our miniskirts."

Minister of Women Lulu Xingwana said the march was in support of the women's movement and gay rights.

"No one has the right to [commit] corrective rape. Rape is rape."

Xingwana threatened that the Noord Street taxi rank would be closed if the situation did not improve.

"Real men don't rape women, real men love and respect women," she said.

She said the women's league would work to free the streets of South Africa of sexual harassment, city by city.

Second march planned

Another march would be held in Sunnyside, Pretoria, on the evening of March 8 to spread the message.

ANCWL president Angie Motshekga thanked all those who came to support the cause.

"Women have the right to dress how they want to dress, forward with miniskirts!"

The miniskirt march began at Bree Street taxi rank at about 13:30 under the watchful gaze of a heavy police contingent.

Mokonyane, Xingwana and one of the Noord Street victims led the march.

Xingwana wore a skirt, but it was not a mini.

The crowd sang "when you strike a woman, you have struck a rock" and chanted "Viva miniskirts, Viva".

The women's league was joined by the Congress of SA Trade Unions and Women and Men Against Child Abuse for the march.

The Commission for Gender Equality also pledged support for the sexual harassment awareness event.

Proudly shook their bottoms

Women and several men wore miniskirts for the march, and proudly shook their bottoms for the assembled news cameras.

As they sang and danced, they waved ANC flags and banners, such as "I am proud of my miniskirt", and "Freedom for miniskirts in our lifetime".

People watched and shouted their support from the high apartment blocks in the city centre.

A marcher who carried her son for the length of the route said she had brought him to teach him from a young age the importance of respecting women.

Men who watched the procession had mixed reactions. Most said they supported the initiative and chanted along with the crowd "Viva Nkosikasi [women], Viva!".

"Everybody has rights to wear whatever they want," said one.

One man said he was not convinced the miniskirt march was the best way to tackle the issue.

"We like to see the young women in the minis, but the old ones - Ag, shame!"
Read more on:    ancwl  |  nomvula mokonyane  |  lulu xingwana  |  jeff radebe  |  angie motshekga  |  johannesburg

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