They may only be 16, but even South African youngsters are calling for urgent and stricter action to be taken against gender-based violence.
The young women, youth and queers, all dressed in black and red, gathered at the Union Buildings at the weekend to air their views.
Organised by the Stellenbosch University Anti-Gender Based Violence Movement, their message was that enough was enough, and that it was time for all levels of government to account for what had been done to put a stop to gender-based violence.
Tshwane organiser Thandeka Mahlangu, 16, said as the youth they saw the need to come personally and put pressure on the government to act swiftly against the perpetrators of gender-based violence immediately.
Thandeka said even though President Cyril Ramaphosa and his government had made promises, these were false hopes.
The first change she said that was desperately needed was for the education system to include gender-based violence, starting with consent.
“Gender-based violence needs to be taught thoroughly and not as a simple add-on. Young boys in schools also need to be taught what consent is.
“It goes much deeper and starts with gender roles at home; how women still view the man or boy child; things such as family insisting brothers clean the cars and dogs while I am supposed to do the dishes or washing.”
Thembelihle Sgudla, also 16 years old said things would not change if society continued to romanticise violence even in its simplest ways.
“We’re still taught from preschool that when a boy hits you it’s because he likes you. It’s everywhere in our culture from books, the TV shows, and the music we listen to and how it portrays women and violence.”
Thembelihle said what was most painful to watch was how boys continued to make crude remarks and rape jokes and were often only moved when it happened to someone close to them. “We are tired of living in fear every day. I’m tired of being promised rights I can’t feel. Violence and rape culture is normalised and it’s devastating that our childhood has to be spent asking people to just respect our rights,” said 19-year-old Grace Nkadi from the Anti-GBV Movement at Stellenbosch University.
Nkadi said the women’s group from the university decided even though they were not on campus, to continue with the awareness campaign encouraging students to gather in their respective towns and cities.
She said similar symbolic gatherings were being held in Cape Town, Port Elizabeth, Stellenbosch and Joburg.
Apart from accountability from government and a change in the education system, the youngsters demanded the sex offenders list to be made public and for gender sensitivity training for police officials.
They also wanted more protection for victims of gender-based violence, particularly for queer and trans women, and for disciplinary procedures to deal with police who mishandle related cases.