Let’s start protecting our women and children 24/7

Women protest outside the JSE in an attempt to have #sandtonshutdown, as part of country wide protest lead by women against gender based violence, 13 September 2019. Picture: Tracy Lee Stark

Maybe it’s time to start protecting our women and children with the same zeal with which we boast about how many cigarettes and liquor busts we’ve made.

I normally have an ability to contain my fears and never let them be visible to others. I hide them so well that those who do not know my innermost fear of men in South Africa would say I walk the street with no fear – despite the rising number of women butchered and maimed.

In short, on the mean streets of my own country, mine is a demeanour of calm and composure but, even in my own home, fear cripples me.

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On Sunday, I remembered I had to make a withdrawal at the ATM as I was passing a shopping complex. It’s emptiness at around 6pm in the times of social distancing and curfews was nothing short of eerie.

There is a virus in the air and its containment is of grave importance. With the number of casualties constantly on the rise, we  remain a nation best described as critical, but stable.

While police and the army are tasked with keeping citizens indoors as far as possible, on the front line are medics whose core function is to save lives.

The other sectors of the economy remain skeletal and their core functioning is dependent on technology that we were never really  ready to fully embrace.

E-learning is now the new normal, so it’s time for parents and schoolchildren to acquaint themselves with it.

While the catcalling made me uncomfortable at the mall, the few people with me in these empty spaces gave me some relief. We have seen the police patting themselves on the back for intercepting cigarette and alcohol smugglers. I have seen government gazetting legislation on liquor sales so quickly it made my head spin.

But what I fail to see is the very police and government acting with the same zeal to make the streets safer for women – the very backbone of the essential workforce.

The same women who walk in the quiet streets on their way to their work places are an easy target for robberies and follow-home crimes.

Covid-19 remains a chance for the government to do better.

The conversation we need to start  having is how have we arrived at a point where women walk around with targets on their backs?

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