A few months ago, while I was driving to work on the M1 highway, a taxi drove along the left side of my car.
It slowed down ever so slightly.
The driver peered out of his window into my car, and began to eye me up and down.
I was wearing a dress that day, and as the law of fashion dictates, pants, a dress or skirt will always rise up when a person is seated, exposing a bit of ankle or legs.
This particular driver was basking in the joy that he could see my legs.
We were in bumper-to-bumper traffic, and I had nowhere else to go.
There I was, in peak hour traffic on my way to work, feeling harassed and exposed in my own car.
I knew, as all women know, that if I had so much as given him the attention of my angry woes, it would have awoken his perverted mind to taunt me even more.
With my heart beating a little faster, and my sweaty palms grabbing hold of the steering wheel a little tighter, the rage inside me grew.
I got to work that morning already feeling defeated.
This is but one of many incidents which I, just like many of the women in this country, have been subjected to by men who believe, without any doubt, that their power and overbearing control can get them anything and anyone that they want.
What makes it even worse is that often our own partners, husbands and boyfriends are the ones to inflict this abuse, sometimes resulting in death.
It is not always strangers who wield the ugly fist of violence. And this scourge has no barriers.
The boxing champ
Boxing champion Leighandre “Baby Lee” Jegels was murdered by her boyfriend on Friday.
He was a police officer. There were tell-tale signs of a relationship that was in trouble and Jegels had reportedly taken out a protection order against him.
She was only 25 and just getting started in her successful boxing career.
She had an unbeaten record of 9-0 with seven knockouts to her name.
But she was no match for bullets.
On Monday, we learnt that missing University of Cape Town student Uyinene Mrwetyana was murdered, allegedly by a Post Office employee who had lured her back to the Post Office with the promise of a parcel she was expecting.
He was arrested on charges of rape and murder, and confessed to the crime.
Mrwetyana was just 19, with hopes of pursuing a career in the film and media space.
Two weeks ago I attended the launch of a book titled Femicide, written by South African Human Rights Commissioner Angie Makwetla.
Her family has lost two members to intimate partner violence, and the book is a sobering account of what the family have had to endure over the years.
With South Africa’s Constitution billed as one of the most progressive in the world, why then do we still read about acts of violence, murder and rape as if it is an everyday occurrence?
Why is the safety and dignity of women and girls a topic discussed at dinner tables and family gatherings, where we are warned not to stay out too late.
It has become the norm, an everyday occurrence, something that has prompted this very piece of writing.
South Africa has been labelled the “rape capital of the world” following a crude estimate by figures obtained by Statistics South Africa and the 2016/17 South African Police Service statistics, which say that out of 100 000 women, 138 are raped in South Africa.
While numbers can only begin to quantify the extent of violence which occurs in our society, it’s the lived experiences and secondary trauma of survivors that bring the scariest stories to life.
President Cyril Ramaphosa heard a few of these in November last year during the Presidential Summit on Gender Based Violence and Femicide in Centurion.
Read: ‘I’m deeply hurt,’ says Ramaphosa, after hearing painful stories of abuse
After he listened to harrowing and shocking testimony delivered by women from various walks of life about their personal accounts of abuse and rape, Ramaphosa said that he was ashamed and “deeply hurt” by what he had heard.
“It is a moment that has filled me with sadness and shame as a man in South Africa,” he said.
In his official Women’s Day address this year, Ramaphosa announced that a gender-based violence steering committee would begin provincial consultations on the national strategy plan to end gender based violence.
Read: Ramaphosa acknowledges gender-based violence on Women’s Day
“The department of justice is in the process of amending the national policy framework on the management of sexual offences. We are reviewing the Domestic Violence Act to strengthen its provisions around domestic homicide and the enforcement of protection orders,” he said.
But is it enough? And is it happening quickly enough?
In March, during a dialogue in Tshwane on gender-based violence, a startling statement was made by Gauteng member of the executive council for community safety, Sizakele Nkosi-Malobane.
Gauteng recorded an unimaginable number of sexual offence cases in 2018 – 10 116.
And this number is only the reported cases, the ones where victims had the courage, either by themselves or with the support of community members and family, to report their abuser to the authorities.
Many victims remain silent out of fear of stigmatisation or sometimes death.
This Sunday City Press ran an editorial expressing the team’s disgust at the attacks on the female body following a picture spread of a lesbian couple.
Editorial: The othering and hatred must stop
You may think that being eye-raped by a taxi driver in peak traffic is nothing compared with what the other women in this article have experienced.
Yet at the core of it is the same thing – disrespect.
And its consequences are monumental.
Women don’t feel safe. We have to think twice about what we wear, where we go and in whose company we are.
How did it get this bad? Where has South African society gone so wrong that many men objectify women to the point that abuse, rape and death can be meted out so easily?
Where is the respect of our bodies and our minds?
We can’t and won’t confine ourselves to the walls of our living spaces for fear of going out and being attacked, but we arm ourselves silently with the notion that we have to be vigilant and aware at all times.
That is the reality that we live in.