Jen Thorpe
Jen Thorpe

Metro police would rather police women’s sexuality than men’s violence

According to their Facebook Page “V-Girls is a global movement of girl activists inspired by I Am an Emotional Creature” — Eve Ensler’s latest collection of monologues for and about girls. The aim of the book, and of the movement is to inspire girls to take agency over their lives, and to encourage them to love that which makes them girls, and to live it with pride.

More than that, the V-Girls movement has a South Africa branch that subscribes to the following important views:

V-Day believes that girls are the future of our movement. Women are the primary resource of our planet. It is imperative to educate and nurture future activists so we can see our vision of a world free from violence against women and girls come true.

When I spoke to Busi Mkhumbuzi — 17-year-old V-Girls Action Leader in SA — she explained that more than just holding to the values of the global movement, V-Girls South Africa has a really important role to play for young women in SA. Linked to the idea that “V-Girls SA is an anti-violence movement which shatters taboos and addresses issues affecting girls in society” they have come together to form ”a network of girl activists and advocates empowering themselves and others to create the change they imagine for the world”.

In order to acknowledge and protest the very high rape statistics in South Africa, which particularly affect young women in SA, V-Girls SA initiated the REFUSER MARCH which was scheduled to take place on October 15 in Braamfontein, Johannesburg. The aim of the Refuser March is “to mobilise women and purposefully empower them through the usage of art to revitalise the activism within us all. It will commemorate women who have transitioned from domestic housewives in the 50s, rebels of the 70s and finally our generation … one which V-Girls believes can put an end to domestic violence, especially in the home”.

So I was saddened this morning to receive news from Busi that the march would need to be delayed.

Why? Because the metro police would rather allow a group of men who are known to be violent to march, than allow a march by young women to take place.

Busi explained this morning that the march by hostel inmates through the centre of town could include up to 5 000 people. The metro police have warned the V-Girls that if they did march, there would be possible assaults against them because of “the group’s prejudices about women”. The fact that the girls will all be wearing short skirts was also mentioned as a reason why they would be “risking attack”. The march has now been moved to October 22, and will be following the same route as planned.

Nevertheless, this is a perfect example of what is wrong with SA. Instead of preventing a group that the metro police themselves know “to be violent” from marching because this group will put young women at risk, metro police instead chose to prevent women from exercising their right to peaceful protest. Instead of saying to men “don’t rape” they say to women “don’t put yourself in the way of rapists”. Instead of saying to women “you are not responsible for violence inflicted against you”, they say “do not entice violence”.

With this decision, the metro police have chosen to regulate and restrict women’s freedom instead of men’s violence.

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    • Judith

      Our ruling patriarchy once again insults all women with their outdated views and complete lack of ethics

    • Mythos

      Slutwalks and other challenges to male violence are not arguments defining a winning strategy.

      As some have identified the problem is way deeper than dress codes.

      Also the policing is pathetic.

      Your headline is the first bit of sense I have seen in this whole issue.

    • http://www.x-za.com Lockstock

      I think there’s a touch of the tin-foil hat in this theory of yours Jennifer.

      Above all, the safety of marchers would be paramount. Especially women (in present day, violence wracked South Africa). It makes sense not to have the usual, undisciplined, rabble rousing filth cross paths with the fairer, more reasonable sex who are making an adult point (as opposed to the toy-toying drunkards who would no doubt see the women as fair game).

      What is actually unfortunate in this whole mess, is how well your original point has been made: South African males simply cannot be trusted to act responsibly and respectfully. Your horrid crime rates and your ANC antics lay as testament to this.

      Your metro police have done stirling work here and made the correct decision, and it galls me to say so.

    • Philip Cole

      Jennifer

      It certainly sounds like V-girls is an important venture that deserves to be supported. Anything that campaigns effectively againts the appalling rates of violence against women in South Africa is to be encouraged. I hope that V-girls are able to reschedule their march and that it will be well supported.

      You do however miss out a crucial piece of information which is the group that made the first application to the police for permission to march. Clearly if it was the V-girls then something has gone very wrong and the relevant people in the police need to be disciplined.

      But if it was the hostel dwellers and they had already been given permission to march then they have precedence. If this is the case then the police’s advice merely sounds like wisdom based on the tragic realities of South Africa and does not imply any moral judgement on the V-girls on their part. Their primary job after all is to maintain law and order.

      Do you know the situation on the application to march?

    • Benny

      An excellent query Mr Cole. I would need to know who applied first to know what to think of this situation.

      And Jen, hostel dwellers/inmates/slave drones are people too. They exist in horrible conditions and lead a very hard life. If you spent ten minutes in one of those hostels you wouldn’t find it surprising that many turn into violent drunks.

      Women won’t be safe until we stop treating men like animals. It’s not fair or PC or nice by any standard to say that but I think its true unfortunately.

    • Iqshan

      Reading your rambling and barely coherent outrage, it sounds as if you’re criticising the metro police for i) allowing the marchers who got the permit to march first to actually go first; ii) exercising a bit of discretion in the interests of public safety since they are rather under-resourced and have as much a duty to prevent violence as they do to stop it; and iii) thinking things through clearly and upholding the constitutional right of the hostel dwellers to protest. They never said the women couldn’t march. They said the men asked first.

      It sounds like the metro cops are using our taxes wisely. On the other hand it sounds like you believe some people have more of a right to protest than others. shame on you

    • M-powered

      I comment on the stated intention of the march – As a probable role model for modern women – a fit and healthy grandmother, first generation women’s libber, sole supporting mother, ground breaker in my field of work, musician and community volunteer – I am in a position to point out that the liberation and art do not protect women from abuse. I am a survivor of domestic violence and a court system that favours bullies.

      Domestic violence happens regardless of the woman’s circumstances, character and intentions. The worst abusers are drawn to calm, self-sufficient women and seek to control them psychologically by whatever means possible. Whether this requires physical violence, degradation, isolation, financial manipulation, enlisting proxies or taking – and in some cases harming – the children makes no difference to the abuser. Whatever satisfies his need at the time is fine for him. Abuse doesn’t happen suddenly, it is insidious, introduced over time by way of subtle ‘brain washing’. We do not see it coming and we are ALL at risk!

      Marches make no difference either, they simply sap up scant police resources and irritate people trying to work, but enjoy it anyway. Your intentions are good. Please watch out for charming men…

    • Shaun

      Just a thought – perhaps the men’s march was scheduled before this one? Still archaic reasoning by the Metro Police though.

    • Adri

      Instead of saying to men “don’t rape” they say to women “don’t put yourself in the way of rapists”. Instead of saying to women “you are not responsible for violence inflicted against you”, they say “do not entice violence”.

      — Suppressing the weak seems to be the mo of our government and civil service.

    • chantelle

      Philip Cole is quite correct. If the male group apllied before the female group, then Metro did the right thing. It might be wise to get all the facts first, before writing an articl like this.

    • MLH

      The circumstances that caused you to write this, Jennifer, make one thing very clear. All women should understand that their safety will never be handed to them on a plate. Although that’s not right, it is the way things are.
      Ideally, women would use their time to ensure the safety of their peers in practical ways, rather than using their time to demand the impossible, expect to stand first in line or clean up the mess after women have been victimised. I know it is the fashionable thing to march, but there are easier ways to promote an organisation and I’m not sure that they would not work better to make the point.
      I do empathise; I don’t criticise. But the world remains a hard place and every generation until the end of time is going to hit this issue. It either needs foolproof ways to avoid it or every man to stand behind you. Despite the goodwill of many men, I doubt you’ll ever catch them all in every generation.
      However, good luck!

    • Busi . V-Girls

      Organization’s like V-Girls exist to pioneer social change in systems which use power to discriminate against women. Girls are not allowed to walk around in short skirts, Girls are not even allowed to feel safe when walking around. Until the violence stops, V-Girls around the world will continue to cry out as a single universal voice for gender egalitarianism.

    • mimi

      @Benny, my 5 year old cousin who was raped would certainly want to know from you Sir, what “signal” or body language did she send to her rapist that led him to believe she thought he is an animal. I think if we learn from you *you seem to have all the answers* to stop “treating men like animals” the violence will stop.

    • http://lennymaysay.wordpress.com Lenny Appadoo

      Whether the hostel dwellers were granted permission first or not, is immaterial. There is a geat deal of evidence which points to our Police “Force” in general as being a bunch of paternalistic slobs; even the women officers behave as atrociously towards fellow women as the men.

      The ANC government allows this trend from the apartheid era to continue because it proves useful in protecting their hegemony.

      Retraining the police “force” to become a genuine police service which understands the meaning of “to protect and serve,” will be quite a struggle. I fear we may have to resort to complete “re-wiring, ” or start from scratch and train completely new recruits.

    • Iqshan

      Lenny…. We have a thing called the ‘Constitution’ in SA. Maybe you’ve heard of it. I hope so. It’s the basis of our law and how we interact. I’ll summarise it for you so you’ll be able to understand the issues since you seem to be battling: everyone mostly has the same rights as everyone else (misogynistic hostel dwellers, excitable school girls, etc). Although we all have the right to freedom of expression, the common law precept of ‘first in line, first in law’, continues to apply. Oh, and the state (of which the metro police are part), have a positive duty to ensure our safety as much as possible.

      The application for the guys came before the girls. You look like someone who enjoys fatty foods. You don’t agree that it’s fair that someone be allowed to jump in the line before you do you? Same applies here.

      Jen… Bad research or favouritism towards the kinds of protesters you prefer? Either way you’re a walking advertisement for journalism and a reminder of why nobody should take bloggers seriously

    • Benny

      @mimi

      If you read my post again, carefully this time, you will see i did not use the word “signal” as you quoted me using, nor did I justify or even theorise as to what a woman could do to provoke a man to rape her.
      Sorry to hear about your cousin.