The #TotalShutDown marches, under the slogan “My body – not your crime scene”, are aimed at raising awareness about rape, femicide and abuse faced by women, children and the LGBTI community.
Wednesday’s national demonstrations saw women taking part in all nine provinces across South Africa, as well as in neighbouring countries, Namibia and Botswana.
Organisers of the Total Shutdown Campaign said that the women planned to march to Parliament, the Supreme Court of Appeal, the Union Buildings and other provincial and regional structures to hand over a memorandum demanding that government take actions to deal with gender-based violence and make the country safe.
Loyiso Saliso, one of the #TotalShutdown organisers, said that the marches were for women to break their silence in one voice because “there are many women who’ve been suffering in silence.”
The nationwide march is said to recall the August 9, 1956, Federation of South African Women’s (FEDSAW) march where 20 000 women marched to the Union Buildings.
Federation of South African Women Protests, Pretoria 1956. Picture: South African History Archives
Despite today marking the beginning of Women’s Month, the organisers said that South African women have very little to celebrate.
South Africa’s femicide rate is said to be five times more than the global rate.
A report by Africa Check revealed that the global figure for femicide in 2015 was 2.4 per 100,000 women, while South Africa’s rate was a chilling four times higher at 9.6 per 100,000 women.
In 2017, 49 445 sexual offences were recorded, with 51 895 sexual offence complaints laid in the previous year, according to SAPS crime statistics.
The demonstrations on Wednesday garnered international attention with gender activists and groups from around the world showing their support, going as far afield as Australia.
Global movement, Action Aid, pledged its support saying that it stands in solidarity with the women of South Africa.