By Christopher Williamson
This article is exclusive to the Online Edition 6 of VARSITY News.
A call for an end to Gender Based Violence (GBV) has been voiced, yet instead of shouting there was silence. On the 2ndAugust 2019, The Aids Healthcare Foundation in collaboration with the Office for Inclusivity and Change (OIC) hosted a silent protest at the University of Cape Town’s (UCT) Sarah Baartman Hall, members of the UCT community came out in numbers in support of victims of GBV.
According to organizer of the silent protest, Larissa Klazing (AHF), the origin of these protests in South Africa dates back to as early as the ‘1 in 9 Campaign’ which dealt with issues of reporting GBV to the authorities and the authorities’ responses to this. Klazing made a further statement saying that the aim of the event was to show survivors that all of the protestors were walking for justice for those affected by GBV.
Klazing began with addressing the crowd and commended individuals (survivors and supporters) for coming out in numbers.
The event was then officially opened by the Vice Chancellor Prof. Mamokgethi Phakeng who too commended the protestors for coming out in numbers, further stating that the tragedy which is GBV was not only a problem at UCT but worldwide. Phakeng further said that the #JUSTNO campaign started at UCT symbolizes the cultural shift which UCT aims to create, as well as the concept of seeing UCT as a healing space for all.
Individuals were then asked to participate in what was dubbed “Symbolic Silencing”, where a piece of black tape was placed on the mouths of protestors, symbolizing the silencing of victims of GBV.
From 14h00, the crowd began with the Silent March around Upper Campus. After the Silent march the “Die-In” began. Protestors were asked to lay down on Sarah Baartman Plaza to symbolize the body count of individuals who are victims/survivors of GBV, making the statistics more visible. Protestors were then asked to stand up and remove the black tape for each other’s mouths and shout to sky, symbolizing the voices of victims no longer being silenced.
This was followed by a discussion and debriefing in the Hall, where survivors and supporters alike were allowed an opportunity to share their experiences.
The event ended at 16h30 where the Deputy Vice Chancellor of Transformation, Prof. Loretta Feris, addressed the mases and thanked everyone. Feris further stated that “Sexual Violence (including GBV) does not priorities anybody, it can happen to anyone”, and that the protest did not end when protestors left, but that the journey would continue.
After the event, protestors noted that the experience was not only insightful but also encouraging, even though some of what was said was grim. Protestors further noted that the protest left them with the feeling of belonging and comfort.
Some Important Contact Numbers:
Student Wellness Services: (021) 650 1020/17
OIC 24/7 Hotline (sexual assault emergency response): (072) 393 7824
CPS Toll Free: (021) 650 2222