Durban University of Technology’s HIV/AIDS Centre, University of KwaZulu-Natal, Mangosuthu University of Technology and the Aids Healthcare Foundation (AHF) joined hands for their 3rd annual silent protest.
The march, which aimed to raise awareness on the alarming epidemic of gender based violence in the country, took off at DUT’s Fred Crookes Sports Centre on Wednesday morning. It saw a large number of students coming together to share their untold stories and also lend an ear to those who are survivors of gender based violence.
BREAK THE SILENCE, STOP THE WAR ON WOMEN’S BODIES and WE BELIEVE YOU, were some of the messages displayed on the placards carried by the students. AHF’s Larissa Klazinga said they want to send a clear message that the survivors shall not be silenced.
“Through this protest, we are telling the victims to make the silence visible; they should break that silence and find a space where they can talk about gender based violence and be believed. They should also know that they have a right to Post Exposure Prophylaxis (PEP) if they’ve been raped and they can access it free of charge at any public health care centre,” said Klazinga.
The silent protest also sought to demonstrate how society has turned a blind eye and deaf ear on issues of abuse. Usage of tape on the mouth symbolised the difficulties the victims face, due to death threats from the perpetrators.
Klazinga highlighted that many women struggle to find courage to report cases of abuse due to the fact that police often turn them away. As AHF they want to tell women that they believe them through the social media hashtag, #WeBelieveYou.
Buhle Nzama (23) who is a gang rape survivor said: “It has not been easy for me to talk about how I feel and what I went through when a group of men attacked and raped me. Even worse, the guys who raped me are still on the loose. They had promised that if I said a word to anyone – they would not hesitate to kill me. Silent protest has given me courage to talk about it without any fear”.
Putting aside their political differences, student parties came together to sing a song of unity against gender based violence. Fees Must Fall activist, Bonginkosi Khanyile said that through togetherness the acts of violence must be stopped. “Not in our name shall men rape and continue to abuse women!” said Khanyile.
With the silent protest bringing to attention a link between gender based violence and the spread of HIV/AIDS, Londiwe Ntshangase from Siyayinqoba said they joined the campaign to give strength to those affected by abuse – by means of educational programmes. “Most of our neighbours are silently abused, thus we encourage them to be strong and act on it and also talk about it,” said Ntshangase.
The silent march began at the DUT Steve Biko campus and made its way through West Street, to the Durban City Hall where demonstrations of a die-in were performed. It then concluded with protesters un-taping their mouths as a symbol of breaking the silence on gender based violence.