A universal silence against rape culture

OVER 500 students from the University of Cape Town (UCT) marched in complete silence, standing in solidarity for survivors of rape and gender-based violence (GBV), in the third and final Silent Protest held during the month of August, Women’s Month.

Started in 2007 at Rhodes University, in Grahamstown, the Silent Protest is an anti-rape, sexual violence and victim blaming protest held throughout South Africa. This year, the protests took place at Rhodes University, Durban University of Technology (DUT) and UCT with a collective turn out of over 5 000 students, high school pupils and members of the general public.

““Very few people realize the power of silence; it was a world renowned activist, Dr. Martin Luther King Junior, who said, ‘In the End, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends’. Those words should speak to everyone’s subconscious,” said Larissa Klazinga, the regional policy and advocacy manager for the AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF).

“One of our objectives is to draw attention to the issues of gender based violence and the fact that it permeates all levels of society, irrespective of race, creed or colour. Nobody has the right to disrespect another’s body!” Klazinga said.

While the protest was about breaking the silence of rape culture within South Africa, the protest did also advocate for more public knowledge and the ease of access to Post-Exposure Prophylaxis (PEP), especially for rape survivors.

“PEP is a short-term anti-retroviral (ARV) treatment that reduces the likelihood of HIV infection after exposure to HIV-infected blood or a sexual assault with an HIV-positive person. It is vitally important that this medication be taken within 72-hours in order to reduce the chances of getting infected with HIV. It’s available at all clinics and every survivor has a right to access it, no doctor or nurse may deny this medication to those who needs it,” said Klazinga.

This, the second Silent Protest to be held at UCT, started off at the Jameson Hall at the Upper Campus and made its way through the University to the Bremner Building.

“UCT fully supports the Silent Protest in conveying the message that rape culture, gender-based violence and victim shaming is utterly unacceptable. Every woman and man has a right to not have to look over their shoulder, living in fear of being raped or abused” said UCT vice-chancellor Dr Max Price.

A book, titled Rape Unresolved: Policing Sexual Offences in South Africa written by Dee Smythe, professor in the Department of Public Law at UCT looks into the shockingly low conviction rates in South Africa.

“We have great laws in South Africa, however the practicing of these laws leaves a lot to be desired and the quicker we fix the practicing of the laws, the quicker we can win the war against sexual violence,” said Smythe.

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