The 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence (GBV) is a worldwide campaign aimed at confronting any form of human rights violation, regardless of socio-economic conditions, race, religion, and sexuality. The South African Transport and Allied Workers Union (SATAWU) takes note that the victims of gender-based violence, include, but not limited to, women, children, people living with disabilities, the elderly and members of the LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bi-sexual, Tran-sexual and Queer).
Mainstream discourse in defence of patriarchy has made GBV appear as a new phenomenon. However, the history of African “civilisation” under colonial rule, created a dichotomous structure and hierarchy, to distinguish humans from non-humans and men from women. Furthermore, the history of African development under this political economy was based on the following misfortunes: rape, depression, and social closure, physical and psychological trauma. Patriarchy as a form of oppression remains embedded in the structure of South Africa’s social and political economy. In nearly all spheres of society, women continue to be marginalised. SATAWU maintains the need to abolish all social and economic relations that are shaped and controlled by a minority of capitalists, which are predominantly white males.
When critically analysing gendered-relations from an African perspective, we then realise that existing class distinctions interconnect with numerous social ills. These gendered relations have also contributed to the scourge of HIV/AIDS, which ravage many townships and rural communities in South Africa. Amid these developments, women, in particular, bear the brunt of multiple ailments caused by poverty, unemployment, inequalities and a collapsed primary health care system. Many in-roads have been made over the years to reduce the rate of HIV/AIDS transmission through access to Anti-Retroviral medication, as well as advances in preventative treatment and on-going trials for a vaccine. These improvements in medical science need to be equated with advances in the social sciences insofar as finding remedies that will disentangle the nexus of patriarchy. It is in this context that SATAWU commemorates, World AIDS Day without forgetting and/or neglecting the complex web of contradictions associated with health, gender and racial discrimination.
Still, on the question of discrimination, SATAWU will likewise be supporting the struggle advanced by people living with disabilities. Though not all disabilities are visible, we must strive to create more inclusive workplaces, society and economy. Trade unions, civil society organisations and progressive political and social movements must be the voice of the voiceless, eyes of the blind, ears of the deaf, and spinal cord of the paraplegic. However, this does not necessitate that the “able-bodied” will be at the forefront of the struggle for people living with disabilities. This will perpetuate existing forms of oppression, prejudice and discrimination. The disabled, have the capacity, ideological, organisational, and political will to transform existing structural inequalities. In summary, we must respect that people with disabilities are leaders in their own right. SATAWU calls on all its members to pay tribute to, and support all people living with disabilities, in their fight for equality.
As race and class intersect, particularly in the South African case, coupled with its history of internal colonisation, we need to acknowledge that the lived experiences of women are varied. The racial structure of apartheid continues to persist in the same proportion as diverse forms of oppression confronting black women in particular. The struggles of black women located in various social and economic gradations/hierarchies also need to be placed under the theoretical lens. It needs to be acknowledged that other racial categories, in particular, the experiences of Coloured and Indian women, must be brought to the fore. The discourse on the oppression of women needs to be as complex as possible so to ensure that all persisting problems and contradictions (class, political and ideological) are addressed accordingly.
The COVID-19 pandemic and lockdown regulations re-ignited another wave of gender-based violence. This does not necessitate that violence against women and children is periodic. Furthermore, we are appalled by the rise against gender-based violence in institutions of hope and healing. As such, we accept, with a pinch of salt, the decline of gender-based violence cases, as presented by the Minister of Police, on 13 November 2020. The reason being, women face challenges of human trafficking, femicide and rape.
SATAWU demands both an effective and responsive police and judiciary system necessary for mitigating the spectre of gender-based violence. Similarly, we call for the immediate ratification of Convention 190 for the elimination of violence and harassment in the world of work. The union will also support COSATU in its efforts for the promulgation of a legislative framework/policy that will govern the implementation of GBVF-NSP (Gender-Based Violence and Femicide Strategic Plan).
The rapid and widespread government response to the coronavirus pandemic demonstrates that through political will, social and economic transformation, gender-based violence can be eradicated. Finally, we call on all our members to observe and take part in the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence.
Issued by: South African Transport & Allied Workers Union
For more information, contact
SATAWU General Secretary: Jack Mazibuko: 082 660 4793
SATAWU Deputy General Secretary: Anele Kiet: 071 021 1903
SATAWU Head of Gender: Nokuthula Sifunda: 079 022 9286