I never knew Karabo Mokoena. The night before news of her death reached my timeline, the only thing I knew about her was that she was (another) woman who had gone missing and was missing for a few weeks. The following day, I read that her body was found, she was burned beyond recognition and her boyfriend had confessed to the killing. I did not know her from a bar of soap but news of her brutal killing broke me. My heart was (and still is) heavy. Ever since that morning, I cannot tell if I am more alert now or if these stories of women dying are being given more attention, but since that morning, every single day as a woman in South Africa has become a nightmare. Every day has become a trigger. Every day I travel through the streets of Johannesburg hoping that I do not become another “RT for awareness” statistic. Every day I am more paranoid than I was the previous day. Every man who I have come across, is a threat to my life and safety. You see, Karabo’s story is not an isolated case. Every day, as a woman, I leave home hoping that today is not my turn. Karabo’s story has become our reality, except, we are lucky if we make it home, I suppose. You see, I am not disputing that men do get sexually assaulted, but what I am saying is, as a woman, purely by virtue of having a vagina, we are more vulnerable to sexual assault and domestic violence in a way that men are not. By virtue of having a vagina, it is more likely that we could be murdered in a familiar environment, by a familiar man. Men are our greatest threat and all the men reading this know this. You understand this.
When we are about to walk past a group of men, we are exposed to aggressive behaviour. We quickly think up getaway plans, we quickly think of what to do if anything goes wrong. There is a high chance that we could get cat-called, grabbed and groped, raped, killed. You know this because at some point you have heard the women close to you complain about this. You know this because you get worried when the women close to you are not home and it is dark and they aren’t answering their phones. You know this because we have to be make sure that our drinks are not spiked, that we do not become another date-rape statistic. You know this because it is safer for you as a man, to walk in deserted areas than it is for a woman. You know this because you are overprotective over the women you are close to. You know this because you would not dare want any of your friends to date your sisters. You know this because fear does not grip you as much as it grips us. You know this because since Karabo’s death, you have read more stories of women going missing, getting gang raped, getting killed, abducted and abused more than you have stories about the ANC. You get frustrated at the white man who says “not all of us are like that!” as a means to divert from the topic of white privilege but you do the very same thing when women voice their cries. Quick to divert from OUR lived experiences at YOUR hands with “not all men”.
This is happening because for decades, women have only ever been viewed as the property of men. You feel you are entitled to our bodies. That we are merely sexual and reproductive property. Second class citizens. Inferior. Yours to have and enjoy. Discard when you are satisfied, on to the next pussy. You feel it is your right to force yourselves on us. You think you can “cure” a woman from homosexuality through corrective rape, “correct” what’s “wrong” with her. You do not think she has the right to say no if she is in a relationship with/married to you (because being in a relationship/married means her body is yours to do as you please, right?) You think it is okay to expect a woman to go back to your place after she has accepted drinks from you at the club, because you think she has to give you her body in exchange, because you bought her that drink. You feel it is okay to deceive a woman and make her think you are into her just so that once you have slept with her, you can swiftly move along, another “hit and run”. Like how you will discuss with the guys if she is worth smashing or if you should just pass. How you and your buddies discuss how amazing sex with a pregnant woman is. Like how you easily shame a woman who has no-strings attached sex because “no decent man would want her”, she is a man’s property and needs to save her body for him, right? Like how you will “have sex” with (read: rape) an inebriated woman and later claim “she is loose, ulahlile!” (She gave it up) when we cannot even consent to sex when drunk! A lot of you know you are guilty of one, if not all of the above mentioned. You tell us to beware of men and when we state that men ARE the problem you cry foul. And then you want to tell us we are overreacting, that “one man cannot account for the lot of us good guys”, you want to control how we feel you want to divert the attention from the trashy actions of these beasts to how “amazingly good” you are, you want to tell the world that you are not trash. That mindset, that behaviour, it is TRASH. You ARE TRASH. You ARE ABUSIVE. YOU ARE VIOLENT. You ARE BEASTLY. You successfully continue to show us how pathetically fragile your masculinity is. A woman saying “no” bruises your ego so you prove your strength (read: worthlessness) by harming her and showing her how entitled you feel to her body, her time, her attention, her life.
Femicide, a term used to describe the violent (and almost always intentional) killing of a woman by a man (a current/former intimate partner, someone whose advances she was evading; pretty much a hate crime targeted at women) is something that does not just happen out of the blue, it is preceded by continuous various forms of abuse ranging from emotional abuse, sexual abuse, stalking as well as economical abuse. It takes the smallest and yet significant act of trashiness to lead to a woman being abused and eventually murdered. South Africa has a femicide rate that is 5 times higher than the global average. It is highly likely for a woman to be harmed by someone she knows/is familiar with. Men are most likely to be killed by a stranger or an acquaintance and very rarely by someone they are/were intimate with and it is almost always the case that should it be an intimate partner who kills them, they did so as an act of self-defence. Hence you defensive ones had no other example other than the late Flabba to prove your vile points; “Just as gender can be used to deflect attention away from a man’s violence, so too can race function in this way” – pretty much how the men on all social networks keep saying violence is experienced by both men and women as a means to divert from discussions about the high rates in which WOMEN are dying at the hands of MEN. You need to stop living in denial, stop trying to justify trash and acknowledge that women are dying! A lot of the time, at the hands of men. Do not only acknowledge this when it happens to someone close to you. Stop needing an affiliation to show concern. In addition, when a woman who is able to escape the abuse soon enough speaks out about what she has experienced at the hands of a man, it is so easy for you all to cry “but why didn’t you open a case against him” as though you don’t already know how unhelpful the SAPS is. They drag their feet and only ever help when it is too late. The police shame victims. So when the system fails to protect a woman who has suffered so much and is so scared for her life, it further gives the abuser more ammunition against her and he finishes her off. The police need to prioritise these cases, they need to stop victim shaming but I have lost so much faith in them. It is more harrowing when you read stories of the police being actively involved in these atrocious acts;
-A police officer in Cape Town would beat his wife and his colleagues would wait outside and not do anything. They would only wait for him to finish, they would never intervene.
-A woman who was married to a police officer was turned away by her husband’s supervisor after she had requested that his gun be removed from him. She was told that a crime had not “yet” been committed. She was shot 6 times in the back by her husband.
What will it take for all of this to stop? Do we all need to die first for this to be taken seriously? Do you want us where you once had us, silent and not speaking out? Does us putting up a fight make you so angry that you want to silence us permanently? Are you so afraid of losing your power over us that you have to prove your “masculinity” through violence and abuse? Is violence the only way you know how to express yourselves? Who should we turn to because it is the men closest to us who are hurting us, our partners, brothers, cousins, fathers, neighbours? Patriarchy has already given you so much leeway over us, do you want our lives as well? What more do you want from us?
I am tired.
Love and light to those who are recovering. The survivors.
Love and light to those trying to escape death at the hands of a man.
Love and light to those who are scared for their lives. All of us. Women.
We are all we’ve got.
-Itumeleng Elizabeth Molefe
-Those who never made it to the papers
-Those who made it to the papers but were never named.
-Those whose stories we never read.
-Those whose names have escaped us.
Written, researched and felt by Nikiwe Dlamini
- Vetten., “Whis is killing women in south Africa? The inconvenient truth”. May 14, 2014
- Vetten., (1996) ‘Man shoots wife: Intimate femicide in Gauteng, South Africa” In Crimes and Conflict. No.6 Winter
-Anni Hesselink: https://www.carteblanche.dstv.com/shocking-sa-femicide-statistics/