Call to Action
Johannesburg People's Pride March for 365 Days of No Violence Against All Bodies
29 November 2014, 10 AM
Last year, we, a radical feminist movement of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Intersex, Transgender, Asexual and Queer (LGBTIAQ) people, rejected the gay parade premised on capitalist single-issue politics. The gay parade celebrated the freedoms still only enjoyed largely by an elite minority of affluent, white gays that refused to recognise the structural and material oppressions still suffered by the majority of the LGBTIAQ public in South Africa.
In that landmark protest-celebration on 5 October 2013, over 4000 people standing under the banner of the Johannesburg People’s Pride Movement (JPP) gathered to reclaim and reassert a political Pride that celebrated the few freedoms we enjoy. We named the multiple ways in which our bodies continue to be violated and oppressed. We emphasised that unless all of our bodies are free - we women, we the disabled, we the poor and landless, we sex-workers, we Blacks, we undocumented immigrants, we queers - then none of us can be free.
We recognise that in spite of the constitutional freedoms we can only assert through expensive court actions, our lives are overly-determined by violence. Because we are women, our availability to assault and rape is drastically increased both in the workplace as well as at home. Because we are sex-workers, we are deemed unworthy of the State’s services and protection from violence because we are considered amoral criminals. Because we are disabled, we are invisibilised by an ableist society not interested in our justice. Because we are poor, we are denied a voice and a choice because these are only heard by those with access to the money and the land we were, and continue to be, dispossessed of.
This violence is rooted in white supremacy and patriarchy, and these violent oppressions are rooted in capitalism. While we continue to live in a capitalist state where an elite few own the means of production, we will continue to be divided by this insidious force which manifests itself in ableism, white supremacy and heteropatriarchy. If we are to break the shackles of our oppression, we need to rise up against these forces and collectively dismantle the stranglehold they have on our capacity to be free and live in the just society we deserve.
In the same way that we, the LGBTIAQ public of this city that was built on violence and oppression, boycotted the gay parade and reclaimed our Pride, we have decided to reclaim the 16 Days of Activism and expand it to sustained radical activism to eradicate violence against all of our bodies.
Reject Government’s 16 Days of Activism
When government launched the annual 16 Days of Activism campaign fifteen years ago, we celebrated that the crisis of violence plaguing this country and all its peoples would be addressed head-on with radical interventions. Fifteen years down the line, we not only saw more of the same violence, but a regression into ultra-conservativism from the Ministers right down to the State officials tasked with not only protecting us from violence, but preventing it.
Just last week we witnessed, with shock and amazement, the Minister of Women in the Presidency endorse the position that feminism should be rejected because it is un-African, and that women in South Africa - who bear the brunt of all violence - should subordinate themselves to benevolent patriarchs. We do not want men to protect us from violence, Minister. We want to be free from violence against these men who beat, rape and kill us in our homes.
In Women’s Month this year, we watched aghast when the Department of Arts and Culture, with the support of Cabinet and the Ministry of Women, launched the “Wear A Doek Friday” campaign to celebrate women. We know that in some instances the doek can be symbolic of oppression, but more importantly, telling us what to wear or not to wear in no way addresses the structural challenges women face.”
Routinely, we hear little from Cabinet about long-term and systemic solutions to the thousands of cases of beaten, assaulted, raped and murdered transgender people, women, lesbian women and sex-workers across the length and breadth of this country except when it is perpetrated by big and prominent men with deep and expansive pockets to pay for the wheels of justice to turn faster and in their favour.
- We remember Nokuphila Kumalo, a sex-worker, whose name is known to us only because she was allegedly beaten to death by acclaimed artist Zwelethu Mthethwa.
- We remember Reeva Steenkamp whose story is known only because she was shot to death by her intimate partner and olympian, Oscar Pistorius, who claimed he feared the Black intruder behind that bathroom door.
- We remember Phumeza Modikane who was murdered and decapitated by her husband, the benevolent patriarch she was told to return and submit to.
- We remember the countless bodies, nameless, bodies that live through and die as a result of sustained violence and abuse that is repeatedly reported to and goes ignored by family members and police officers and prosecutors and magistrates.
We are tired of waiting for an annual sixteen-day period, to hear the same platitudes in the grandest PR exercise our government undertakes every year. We say Minister Shabangu, take back your 16 Days because we don’t want it. We call on all progressives, civil society actors, social movements and trade unions to reclaim what is ours - 365 Days of NO Violence against All Bodies, NOW!
Our demands are simple and speak to the root of the crisis of violence in South Africa.
- Minister Shabangu’s immediate disavowal of the statements made in her name at the 16 days of activism roundtable that feminism is incompatible with African-ness. We call on her to explicitly state that what is incompatible with African-ness, is the requirement that women submit to men, and that her Ministry will do all in its power to fight and smash patriarchy in all its forms.
- The empowerment of the Commission on Gender Equality to shape and enforce policy that prevents violence against women and gender non-conforming people.
- The immediate decriminalisation of sex-work which will significantly lessen the vulnerability of sex-workers from violence and harm as well as ease their access to both healthcare services and recourse through the criminal justice system.
- The assertion of the dignity of women and girl-children through the provision of sanitaryware in all public institutions, and especially institutions of learning. We cannot continue to allow these people to suffer the indignity and health-risks associated with improvising with socks, bandages and toilet paper every month.
- The explicit recognition of gender non-conforming people in the national agenda and a serious detailing of what this means in practice.
- Sustained radical action to accompany the grand-statements made by government and State officials during the 16 Days of Activism period. We are tired of the repeated platitudes when the crisis of violence on our bodies deepens year-on-year.
- Safe spaces for women and gender non-conforming people at schools, institutions of further education and training and in our communities. We are tired of living in fear of violence from our teachers, our lecturers, our neighbours and our families.
- Sustained education on LGBTIAQ issues for State officials including healthcare workers, police officers and educators. We are tired of being victimised, ridiculed and barred access to basic services by the very people we rely on to heal, protect and educate us.