Under the banner “Not in my name, forward with women and down with women abuse,” hundreds of protesters walked from Church Square in the heart of Pretoria on Saturday.
They were drawing attention to the rising violence against women in South Africa. A woman dressed in white and carrying a suitcase led the march through the streets to Union Buildings. She represented all women who were ever abused or suffered under the cruelty of men, organizers said.
Leading the march was a woman in white symbolizing all those who had experienced violence.
According to official South African figures, a woman is killed by someone she knows every eight hours and one woman in five has been subjected to at least one act of violent aggression in her life.
March participants said not enough was being done to stop the violence.
“The time to take collective responsibility for our shameful action is now,” said Kholofelo Masha, one of the rally’s organizers.
Masha said men had stayed quiet on the issue for too long.
“You hear a lady screaming next door, you decide to sleep when you know there is a problem,” he said. “No man should beat a woman or rape a woman.
“We men are taking a stand today,” Masha said. “Women must know that they can count on us.”
The protest followed an increase in the number of reports of women being raped and murdered
Individual cases have drawn international attention to domestic violence in South Africa. Reeva Steenkamp was killed by her partner Oscar Pistorius, the Paralympic athlete on Valentine’s Day in 2013.
Last week, President Jacob Zuma visited the parents of a 3-year-old girl who was raped and killed.
“We as the citizens of this country must say enough is enough,” Zuma said. “This is one of the saddest incidents I’ve come across. It’s a crisis in the country, the manner in which women and children are being killed.”
The ruling African National Congress party has called the violence “senseless and barbaric” while the opposition Democratic Alliance party has called for a national debate on the problem, condemning what it called a “failure to make South Africa safe for all.”