It was absolutely fitting that four brave young women, politically motivated or otherwise, made the decision during Women’s Month to stand with their backs turned to President Jacob Zuma and dared us to remember Khwezi.
They stood in front of society’s leaders, in the glaring eye of the media, and nearly 52 million unbelieving eyes to remind us of the 1-in-9 campaign and what it stood for. On Saturday, South Africa was forced to acknowledge there existed a woman who was vilified for standing in the dock as a victim.
Guilty or not, I remember a time when it seemed better to be the accused than the accuser.
Conspiracy theories were rife. Someone in the halls of Wits University, when we were studying politics, even suggested that former president Thabo Mbeki had cooked the whole thing up. People weren’t ready to accept that a presidential hopeful could have violated a helpless woman. It was just beyond belief. But for now, let’s discuss the Khwezis who can’t name and shame their violators because of the fear of the judgment society would inflict on them.
Imagine walking into a police station and having to explain to an already irritated police officer that those paying his salary, whose photos are framed and hung at the entrance of the charge offices, are your violators. Can you imagine how difficult it must be to recount your story, hoping pity would be shown to you and that you would be believed and defended?
Having grown up in a township, I can tell you the possibility of rape is a reality for most women there, drunk or not; short dresses or not; flirtatious or not. Then you must still qualify your story to those who judge you on what they think they know, and not on what really happened. Who are you to judge the accuser and determine innocence that is yet to be proven?
When all is said and done, there are too many faceless Khwezis. Too many women don’t report crimes against them and live in fear that they will be judged for fighting back. So, please remember all the Khwezis – not just the prominent ones.