Thousands of women gathered in the heart of Johannesburg led by the ANC Women’s League, the Premier of Gauteng and the Minister of Women and Children.
To some this might have been misinterpreted as a fashion parade or a fruitless exercise.
However the march which took place on February 17 was a stand against patriarchal practices disguised as cultural norms, which seek to undermine the constitutional voice of women.
The march was an initiative by the women’s league in Gauteng after the media reported the horrendous humiliation of young women at the Noord Street taxi rank.
Their only crime was to wear clothing of their choice.
According to the culprits at the taxi rank, this was a tacit invitation to commit sexual assault, as it supposedly signifies disrespect for one’s body and it is deemed uncultured.
These are narrow-minded stereotypes that continue to undermine the gains by women for total emancipation.
This is despite the legal and constitutional interventions made by the ANC-led government to recognise the voice of women and assert their rightful place in society as the equals of men.
The march is one of many interventions the ANCWL needs to embark on to change and uproot these stereotypes in broader society.
Women should reject the notion that men are the catalysts of their emancipation.
Women’s existence and significance in our communities can’t be validated by a man’s voice.
The fact that so many men and women came out to support this cause affirmed that issues affecting women are mainstream issues of national importance.
It should, however, be questioned why other male political and business leaders failed to take part in the march.
Our leaders should not only be preachers of the values enshrined in our Constitution, they should lead from the front.
Domestic violence and abuse remain pertinent issues in South Africa and make a big contribution to crime.
Therefore it is very important for more political and business leaders prioritise these matters.
The ANCWL has started a very important campaign through the miniskirt saga, but it should be further developed as a tool to educate our communities.
Many men at the Noord taxi rank and other places where such bad behaviour is normal are also victims of societal stereotypes which continue to support the exploitation of women.
People should be educated about the role of culture, religion and business practices in institutionalising patriarchy.
We should also condemn patriarchal attitudes when they are expressed by women themselves. Women at times fall victim to their own inferiority complexes; it was strange to hear them saying: “She deserves it.”
A woman is deemed to be less human if she is not validated by a man.
This also happens in institutions such as marriage where there is no equality, but a master-slave relationship is institutionalised through religious and cultural norms.
Let’s hope that this will just be the beginning for the ANCWL and that this campaign will be owned by broader society and not just political formations.
Numsa News No 1, April 2012