by Fanie Heyns
CAPE TOWN. – One of the grimmest faces of gender-based violence in the Western Cape is the repeated rape of daughters by the boyfriends of their mothers – something that has deeply concerned Labeeba Stanley, an associate of 1000 Women Trust and director of Youth Clouds of Heaven in Kraaifontein.
Her revelations form part of the continual conversations around #HearMeToo initiated by 1000 Women Trust, an organization focusing on providing knowledge, skills and resources to women so that they can address gender-based violence on their own.
Stanley runs a soup kitchen from her home and also mobilise the jobless youths around the hostels to assist with feeding people at the soup kitchen. She also organizes life-skills orientation to several of the people in the area.
The past six months she has given accommodation to three young women who were previously the victims of heinous crimes – rapes by their mothers’ boyfriends.
One young woman was raped five times in Kraaifontein by young men, and she was also raped by her mother’s boyfriend.
A second woman was raped by her mother’s boyfriend who walked her home at a time when her mother was drinking heavily and consequently did not witness the crime. It happened three times.
A third woman suffered the exact same ordeal – raped by her mother’s boyfriend.
All three women were too terrified to report the crimes to their mothers, because their mothers are impoverished and depended on the men to provide food and money for the household.
“It is this poverty that causes terrible rapes and violence. Many parents simply do not care about their daughters,” said Stanley. “My aim is to provide a safe haven to those women and to ensure that their situation is stabilized.
“I also reach out to the community to create gardens so that we can feed the impoverished people,” she says.
Conversations about gender-based violence under the hashtag #HearMeToo is aimed at getting South African women to talk about the real issues they face. It is a call to reflect on the magnitude of a murder-rate against South African women that is three times more than the global average, says Tina Thiart, founding member of 1000 Women Trust.
The focus remains gender-based violence and femicide to society. The horrific statistic has to be changed by law enforcement, Thiart emphasized.
“We also want to liberate women from depending on men for livelihoods,” Thiart added.
“Our focus is economic empowerment for women. If you empower a woman you empower the nation. Which is why I always say when you see poverty it bears a woman’s face because they think of everyone else before thinking of themselves.”
Davine Cloete, a community activist from Lutzville and chairperson of the West Coast Food, Sovereignty and Solidarity Forum, says the magnitude of gender-based violence in the community is alarming.
Since 16 Days of Activism started at the end of 2019, there had been four murders of women in that area, and a body of a fifth women, who went missing two years ago, has just been found in a veld in the region, she said.
During lockdown, many women have reported gender-based violence on social platforms, but when they approached the police, they were told that they had to come back upon the conclusion of lockdown.
“The numbers of women and daughters who have been molested are high, but they are too afraid to report it because the police don’t perform their duties,” Cloete said.
“Some women are interested in applying for an interdict, but the police told them that is not possible during lockdown.
“Our role is to empower women affected by gender-based violence to stand up for themselves and we also provide skills development so that they can find jobs,” Cloete added.
Systemic poverty has deepened the social misery that many households face in the Lutzville-area. Most workers on the farms are only seasonal, while immigrants are sometimes preferred on farms because they provide cheap labour.
Many of the local people consequently rely on social grants. In many households the children are the breadwinners and the parents – who have no work – are manipulated by the children.
Cloete said the molestation of children in their early teens is one of the most alarming crimes in the area.
In one case, that is being investigated, a 12-year old girl was allegedly molested by a man from Malawi.