South Africans ring St Mary's bell, blow whistle on rape

08 March 2013 - 17:22 By Aarti. J. Narsee
Church bell. File photo.
Church bell. File photo.
Image: Gallo Images/Thinkstock

As the church bell rang at midday at St. Mary’s Cathedral, the sound of ear piercing whistles dominated the busy Johannesburg city centre.

March 08 marks International Women’s Day. To commemorate this day members of the public and organisations in SA joined others in Dehli, Rio de Janeiro and New York to “Ring the Bell”, a campaign originally launched in India.

Desmond Lesejane, Deputy Director at SONKE Gender Justice Network, said that the purpose of this global initiative is to stand in solidarity and take concrete action on violence against women.

“Don’t keep quiet, ring the bell, make noise, expose people and get people to talk about violence against women,” said Lesejane.

People from various organisations, such as the Traditional Healers Organisation, stood with placards, such as “South African men say not in my name. End rape now!”

Dorothy Swarabale, a mother and grandmother said that she is both angry and scared for her grandchildren. “Taking part in this is important because men are beating us and now we are fighting back,” said Swarabale, who is a volunteer at Rothle SONKE.

Amongst the crowd there were some men as well. “We should break this thing of men saying our power is more important than other human beings. Instead of hurting we should protect,” said Thabang Gosiame.

Lesejane said that initiatives like this attempt to change the norms that people believe in. “Women should not be seen as objects but as human beings.”

The loud whistles caused many onlookers to take a moment out of their day to watch. Patience Tsautse said that as a woman she does not feel free to go where she wants to.

Tsautse sends a message to all men, “I would like to tell men out there that if you are a man, you are going to be a father one day and you should think of how you would feel if this happened to your daughter.”

“Women are not being saved, their lives are at cost,” said Lesanje. One of the challenges is the lack of funding and resourcing from government, as many projects dealing with children and women violence are underfunded.

This is the first time that the “Ring the Bell” initiative is being held in SA.