UKZN: Scores ‘die’ in solidarity

2013-04-20 00:00

THE sounds of silence echoed around the Pietermaritzburg campus of the University of KwaZulu-Natal yesterday, but the message was loud and clear: no more rape.

Hundreds of students participated in the annual Silent Protest, which aims to draw public attention to the horrors of rape while demanding better services for rape survivors.

Wearing tape over their mouths, the protesters remained silent for most of the day to represent the silencing of rape survivors and the death of rape victims. This year is the first time that UKZN is participating in the event, which was launched seven years ago by the students at Rhodes University in Grahamstown.

A student who had been silent about being raped broke down when purple T-shirts were being handed out to remind the protesters about the impact and importance of the event.

Seeing the woman weeping opened old wounds for rape survivor Lesego Buyeye.

“We all got very emotional. I was seven when I was raped. I didn’t speak about it for six years. When I finally told my mother and grandmother, they said they knew and they hoped I had forgotten about it. I felt betrayed, but when I got older I realised they also did not know how to speak out about the situation.”

Government crime statistics reveal that 65 000 sexual assaults were reported in South Africa last year. Only 6,5% of cases are successfully prosecuted and fewer than 0,5% of perpetrators will serve any jail time.

“Three people died in the Boston Marathon bombing and the whole world is in uproar; thousands of women are raped and killed in South Africa every year and it goes unnoticed,” said event organiser Thenjiwe Mswane.

Two of her friends were raped and murdered, one on the day of her graduation.

Mswane was overwhelmed by the support the protest received. “It’s strengthening to know that we are making a difference; more people are coming out and speaking up. It’s time we stop the war on women’s bodies,” Mswane said.

Jess Foord, motivational speaker and gang rape survivor, was impressed with UKZN’s participation in the protest.

“Honestly, this is amazing. It’s great to see so many people come out and support this. Too often we hear about rape and dismiss it, but a rape happens every 17 seconds. It’s getting closer to home; the next rape could happen to your mother, sister or daughter … We need to stop it before it happens.”

Foord joined the students in a “die-in” in which they lay down on the ground in silence for 45 minutes to express solidarity with all rape victims.


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