On the 30th December 2011, two young women aged 18 and 19 years respectively – one in a mini-skirt and one in a top that left her bra-straps exposed, were molested by a large group of men.
The incident which was caught on CCTV, resulted in the The African National Congress (ANC) Women’s League, organising a “Mini-skirt March” in Johannesburg in February.
Film of the assault showed a group of between 60 and 70 men gathered in front of the shop the girls had entered. As soon as the girls came out, the men followed them, groping one of the girls and taking photos with their cellphones.
Her friend who tried to assist her was then also abused. The girl who wore the mini-skirt was eventually rescued by police, who escorted her home, whilst the other was saved by a businessman, and was also later escorted home.
The incident, similar to one which took place in 2008, when a 25 year-old woman was stripped, paraded naked, and molested by drivers, was strongly condemned by the Premier, trade unions, and various civil society organisations, which sent out a clear message that such behaviour would not be tolerated.
On the 5th January 2012, the victims laid criminal charges against the men who had been involved – and on the same day, police swooped down on the taxi rank trying to identify the men caught on CCTV footage. It was said the operation would continue until the perpetrators were caught – no arrests have yet been made.
The African National Congress (ANC) Women’s League, which is our ruling party’s female wing, hosted a “Mini-skirt March” in Johannesburg on the 17th February 2012, to show that this ‘slut shaming’ would not be tolerated in South Africa.
They mobilised trade unions, civil society organisations, and even ordinary South Africans, which led to a nation actually taking a stand – after a long silence, on the issue of females facing harassment due to their choice of clothing. Men and women alike gathered, with women chanting that they are proud of their bodies and mini-skirts, which put a matter often ignored in mainstream media under the spotlight.
The Mini-skirt March began at Bree Street taxi rank around 1.30p.m., and went all the way to to the High Court, where Justice Minister Jeff Radebe signed a memorandum of understanding, pledging that the justice system would support efforts to curb violence against women and children.
For the sake of South African women who live in fear that their clothing will get them attacked, it is greatly hoped that the Ministry of Justice will live up to the agreement, and that the debate on the subject continues, in an attempt to change the kind of thinking which led up to the incidents.
If we could achieve this, no such cases would make it to the Justice Department, as no such incidents would occur – something we should hold up as an ideal goal, because until the day that women are able to walk fearlessly through the nation’s streets, no one can truly say that they are free.
A woman's dress code should never be taken as an invitation to rape, molest, or violate her in any way, even if only labelling her, as these all violate not only her human rights, but her constitutional rights, and is a crime under criminal law.