[Marxism] Reality tempers South African women's hopes
Huibin Amelia Chew
hachew at gmail.com
Wed Aug 9 23:30:40 MDT 2006
Reality tempers SA women's hopes
Wednesday 09 August 2006 2:04 PM GMT
Thousands of women have marked the 50th anniversary of a famed
anti-apartheid demonstration, but the celebrations have been soured by
the reality that poverty, Aids and crime have replaced political
oppression as the scourge of South Africa.
Festivities took place throughout the country on Wednesday in honour of
the 20,000 women who risked the wrath of the law in 1956 by marching on
government headquarters to protest against the hated pass laws, which
restricted the movement of non-whites.
Sophia Williams de Bruyn, one of the organisers of the original march,
said that "we regard August 9 as a celebration of victory over
"It was the overwhelming spirit of Africa that cried out," she told a
large crowd gathered at the Union Buildings in the capital, Pretoria.
The day of the historical march is now honoured as National Women's Day,
which is also a public holiday for all South Africans.
'Struck a rock'
The demonstrators 50 years ago marched to give JG Strijdom, the
then-prime minister, a memorandum saying that homes would be broken up
and children left defenceless if women were arrested under pass laws.
Their song, "Now you have touched the women, Strijdom! You have struck a
rock. You have dislodged a boulder! You will be crushed," became an
anthem for women's movements across the country.
There have been big strides in women's rights at the political level
since the advent of democracy in 1994.
South Africa has a woman deputy president, Phumzile Mlambo-Ncguka, and
12 women in the 28-member cabinet.
But economically, much remains to be done.
An estimated 75% of black women under 30 are jobless, according to the
Congress of South African Trade Unions.
In 2002 women held only 14% of top management positions - although the
proportion held by black women was only 2%.
Thabo Mbeki, the president, who welcomed the marchers at the Union
Building, said: "The fruits of our liberation have not reached many of
He said government would step up its efforts.
"Together as a nation, we must uphold the perspective that none of us is
free unless the women of our country are free. Free from racial and
gender discrimination, free from poverty, free from fear and violence,"
Mbeki said. South Africa has the world's highest reported rates of rape
and domestic violence.
In 2004, there were 114 reported rapes per 100,000 people, compared with
a rate of 32 rapes per 100,000 in the US.
A study last year by the Medical Research Council found that a woman was
killed every six hours by an intimate partner in South Africa, the
highest reported anywhere in the world.
Also, women have been hardest hit by the Aids virus that is ravaging
South African society.
More than 30% of pregnant women are infected with the HIV virus,
according to official figures.
This compares with a rate of 19% for all adults.
The government has repeatedly been criticised for not doing enough to
slow the rate of infections and provide treatment in the country with
the highest number of people with the disease.
Adelaide Tambo, the 77-year-old widow of anti-apartheid hero Oliver
Tambo, made an impassioned speech on behalf of all women of her
generation, saying many were caring for their grandchildren because
their children had died of Aids.
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The naiveté of Americans who can't believe their 'heroes' are
committing such atrocities is ridiculous. Who ever heard of an
occupying army committing rape?? You raped the country, why not the
14. Imagine your 14-year-old sister...daughter...her 5-year-old sister
were also killed... I don't believe the troops should be tried in
American courts... they should be handed over to the people in the
area and only then will justice be properly served.
It fills me with rage... The pity I once had for foreign troops in
Iraq is gone...eradicated by the atrocities in Abu Ghraib, the deaths
in Haditha and the latest news... I look at them in their armored
vehicles and to be honest- I can't bring myself to care whether they
are 19 or 39...if they make it back home alive...about [those] they
left behind… it's difficult to see beyond the horrors... how many more
they'll kill before they go home. How many more young Iraqi girls will
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