Silent protest at UCT

Students held a silent protest against gender-based violence at UCT.
A sea of purple descended on the University of Cape Town (UCT) as students stood in solidarity with survivors of gender-based violence by staging a silent protest on campus.
UCT and the non-profit HIV health-care provider Aids Healthcare Foundation (AHF) used the silent protest on Friday August 2 to take a stand against the silencing and dehumanising effects of gender-based violence while launching the university’s #JustNo campaign.

Protesters with their mouths taped shut donned their purple survivor T-shirts while walking through campus.

“What part of no don’t you understand?”, “Break the silence” and “Stop the war on women’s bodies” read their placards.

UCT vice-chancellor Professor Mamokgethi Phakeng recommitted the institution to combating gender-based violence in all its forms.

She detailed UCT’s services for survivors of sexual assault, which include an online reporting system, access to counselling and emergency healthcare including post-exposure prophylaxis to prevent sexually transmitted diseases and pregnancy.

“We are marching today to say that we want to build a different culture at UCT. We want a culture where our bodies, our sexuality and our identity are respected. A culture where we do not have to be afraid to walk where we want to walk, wear what we want to wear and to be who we really are,” she said.

“We must challenge ourselves collectively to do something differently that enables the change we seek at UCT.”

The march ended with protesters lying down to reflect on the day, followed by the ripping off of the tape on their mouths and a collective scream.

Hilary Thulare, AHF South Africa programme manager, said the protest was against silence in communities and institutions around sexual violence.

“The ‘die-in’ aspect of the march is a living memorial to those who have lost their lives through sexual or gender-based violence,” she said.

Lesego Modutle, from Pinelands, said the protest gave survivors a voice.

“Many times survivors are silenced and have nowhere to go to or no one who believes them. This is the first step to give them that voice and let them release it. We are all together and have all experienced it in some way.”

Kiese Mpasa, from Mowbray, said gender-based violence had been overlooked for far too long.

“Today we scream and shout and let the world know that we are done.”