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“[T]oo often when we do not undertake specific actions to draw attention to the issues that affect women, what happens is that men and the experiences.

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Presentation on theme: "“[T]oo often when we do not undertake specific actions to draw attention to the issues that affect women, what happens is that men and the experiences."— Presentation transcript:

1 “[T]oo often when we do not undertake specific actions to draw attention to the issues that affect women, what happens is that men and the experiences of men become the yardstick by which judgements [sic] are made.” - Cheryl de la Rey, TRC Report, Vol. 4, Ch. 10 1

2 In the first months of the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission, many women came forward to testify. The women spoke overwhelmingly about their sons, husbands, and brothers. Very few women spoke about their own suffering, which was severe. As a result, the early testimony before the TRC painted an inaccurate picture of the experience of women under apartheid.

3 Consider this data from the first 5 weeks: 2 There were 204 testimonies: –60% of witnesses were women. –>75% of female and 88% of male witnesses testified only about abuses to men. –In 25% of cases, women spoke of their sons. –In 11% of case, women spoke about their spouses. –In 8% of cases, women spoke about their brothers. –In 4% of cases, men spoke about their sons. –There were no cases where men testified about either their wives or sisters.

4 Special Hearings on Women In May 1996, Beth Goldblatt and Sheila Meintjes submitted a proposal to the TRC calling for special women’s hearings. The proposal argued that the structure of the TRC shut women out and discouraged their testimony. The TRC responded to the Goldblatt & Meintjes proposal by holding special women’s hearings in Johannesburg, Cape Town, and Durban.

5 Goldblatt & Meintjes: Recommended Accommodations 3 Let women speak on behalf of others. Allow group testimony. Hold hearings in camera. Allow women to testify before all female panels, since many will feel uncomfortable telling their stories to men. Train commissioners on gender issues. Coach women on giving testimony and dealing with the spotlight.

6 Region where Serokolo’s mother lived. From: http://www.accommodate.co.za/Gauteng.asp

7 The Use of Gender in Interrogation Interrogators told women activists that they had failed as women. Interrogators taunted that women joined the resistance because they were bad mothers or wives, or because they were prostitutes who enjoyed male company. One woman was asked: "What do you think your husband thinks about you? This is the reason why all the men are getting divorced.” 4

8 The Use of Gender in Interrogation Many women, conscious of their unorthodox behavior, were vulnerable to these attacks. –One woman said they were very effective “in a context where [you sit in a cell] with nothing other than the emotions that they’ve scratched open. You’re thirty and you’re single, therefore there’s something wrong with you as a woman, and that’s why you get involved with politics.” 5

9 The Use of Gender in Interrogation Many women, conscious of their unorthodox behavior, were vulnerable to these attacks. –Another said the practice of detracting “from your own activism …was perhaps worse than torture, was worse than the physical assault….[W]hen even what you have stood for is reduced to prostitution, unpaid prostitution.” 6

10 “Although pain has no gender, sexual difference became important in the torture chamber.” - Jean Franco: "Gender, Death and Resistance: Facing the Ethical Vacuum," 1992. 7

11 Is it possible that the very definition of “gross violation of human rights” in the Promotion of Unity and National Reconciliation Act contributed to the alienation of women during the TRC hearings? “‘Gross violation of human rights’ means the violation of human rights through – (a) the killing, abduction, torture or severe ill treatment of any person; or (b) any attempt, conspiracy, incitement, instigation, command or procurement to commit an act referred to in paragraph (a).” 8

12 Some of the most pernicious aspects of apartheid (which often disproportionately affected women) fell outside the scope of this definition: 9 –The structural violence of apartheid. –The migrant labor system: It ripped apart families, and left women in rural communities to manage the household alone. It created urban environments where the primary work available to women was prostitution. –Apartheid’s legacy of “poverty, whose main victims are women.” 10

13 The components of “gross violation of human rights” failed to capture disparate impact on women. Consider the following: –Forcing women to urinate in public or while standing up. –Denying women sanitary pads and forcing them to stand during menstruation. –Denying women privacy while giving birth. –Denying them sufficient nutrients during the prenatal period. –Threatening forced abortions. –Rape. Where should these violations fit in?

14 Forgiveness The purpose of the TRC was to prepare South Africa for its future, by allowing the nation to fully confront its past. Because the violations that brought women to the witness stand often were not the crimes for which perpetrators sought amnesty, perhaps women, as a group, were not able to derive the full benefit of truth and reconciliation. 11 Is forgiveness possible under these circumstances?

15 Zubeida Jaffer 1980: Detained because of her exposé in the Cape Times on mass killings in the Cape Flats, where police had murdered hundreds of women and children. –The police asserted that her article was full of lies, but they were really concerned with her professional and political affiliations. –They thought she had useful information because she was a journalist. –They also wanted information about the ANC, but she was not an ANC member at that time.

16 Zubeida Jaffer The police used aggressive interrogation techniques during her detention. –They forced her to stand for hours and kept her awake for days. She was drugged, beaten, and threatened with rape. –They detained her father and manipulated her guilt about his detention to weaken her resolve. She signed a statement incriminating students involved with the ANC, and she provided the name of a wanted journalist.

17 Zubeida Jaffer The fact that she buckled under police pressure haunted her for many years. –“[I]t completely humiliated me, it … made me feel like - like I was worthless that I - I had gone against everything that I stood for, that I believed in, that I thought my profession stood for.” 12

18 Breaking the Silence: Rape Rape was considered a “gross violation of human rights,” falling within the parameters of the Act that created the TRC. Rape was designated as “severe ill- treatment,” regardless of circumstances. Even gang rape was not considered torture.

19 Breaking the Silence: Rape By July 1997, only 9 women who testified had admitted to being raped. 13 Overall, there were 446 statements of sexual abuse, including testimony at the women’s hearings 40% of witnesses in sexual abuse cases that specified the victim’s sex were women. 140 cases explicitly mentioned rape. 14 Despite the women’s hearings, many believe these numbers still grossly underestimate the actual incidence of rape.

20 Rape: The Victims’ Shame 15 While the TRC hoped to restore dignity through its process, rape victims were more likely to feel a loss of dignity, because of negative public perceptions of rape. –Their suffering was demeaned because sexual assault, including rape, was considered commonplace. –Rape was viewed as reflecting negatively on the victim and her family.

21 Rape: Who is to Blame? Commonly held assumptions that rape is the woman’s fault were politicized during this partisan struggle. “If women said that they were raped, they were regarded as having sold out to the system in one way or another.” 16 –If the assailant was an enemy, then rape might be viewed as evidence of a political statement or alliance; –If the perpetrator was a comrade, then coming forward could be taken as a betrayal of the movement.

22 Rape and the Liberation Movements General Masondo of the ANC said the law of supply and demand governed the fate of women in the camps, where the ratio of women to men was 22:1000. 17 One woman was told by a comrade: “[I]t’s going to get to the point that I am going to rape you. And it’s going to be very easy… and I know there is no way that you are going to stand in front of all these people and say I raped you.” 18

23 Rape and the Liberation Movements 19 In its submission to the TRC, the ANC was less than candid on the subject of rape. The submission admitted that male members had committed "gender-specific offences" against women. Then Deputy-President Thabo Mbeki stated that offenders had been punished. The submission gave no details about the offenses or the punishment. Commissioner Hlengiwe Mkhize concluded that "the submission fail(ed) women".

24 Rape and the Liberation Movements 20 Women raped within the movement were especially hesitant to come forward. Those who had achieved high-ranking government positions feared that people would not respect them if news of their rape became public. Others feared retribution from their rapists, some of whom hold high political positions in the ANC-run government.

25 Other Forms of Sexual Assault Forced to undress in front of men Body searches Vaginal examinations Applying electric shocks to breasts and genitalia Forced intercourse with other prisoners Pushing foreign objects into women’s vaginas, including rats in one instance

26 Punishing Women’s Strength It has been said that strong women received harsher punishments, because they did not behave as men expected. –“[W]hen a woman refused…to be cowed down, then that unleashed the wrath of the torturers, because in their own discourse a woman, a black ‘meid’…had no right to have the strength to withstand their torture.” 21 –Rape was used as a mechanism for disciplining women and keeping them in their place. 22

27 Rape and Amnesty 23 No individuals sought amnesty for rape. This may be because in order to qualify for amnesty, an act had to have a political motive and it had to be performed without malice. Can rape be a political act? Is it possible to rape without malice? Should amnesty be granted in rape cases?

28 Zubeida Jaffer After being released from her 1980 detention, Jaffer left the Cape Times. Her time in prison had heightened her awareness of the need for change and reform. She became a full-time activist, working with the clothing workers’ union. In 1985, her involvement with the union and the ANC led to her being arrested and detained a second time.

29 Zubeida Jaffer 1985: She was more directly involved in the resistance movement by this time, so she had more information to give. But she was strengthened by her previous experience in detention, and she was more protective of the movement because of her place within it.

30 Zubeida Jaffer When she didn’t cooperate, the police threatened to kill her unborn child. –They threatened to put so much psychological pressure on her that she would miscarry. –Later, they threatened abortion using a chemical to “burn the baby from [her] body.” –Still she refused to cooperate: “I decided not to give them the information because…I didn't want my child to grow up with that burden…. [T]hinking that - that her mother gave this information so that she could live…that’s a heavy burden for a child to carry.” 24

31 Shirley Gunn Member of Umkhonto We Sizwe (MK), the armed wing of the ANC. Detained in 1990, in connection with the 1988 bombing of Khotso House. Currently serving as Chairperson of the Western Branch of the Khulumani Victim’s Support Group

32 Khotso House Gunn was framed by the Security Police for the 1988 bombing of Khotso House, headquarters for the South African Council of Churches, located in Johannesburg. TRC hearings revealed that the Security Police had orchestrated the bombing, because they believed Khotso House was a meeting place for the ANC. The TRC awarded amnesty to the perpetrators.

33 The Weapon of Motherhood 25 Captors exploited the mother-child bond during their interrogation of detainees. Motherhood became a powerful weapon used by assailants. While being separated from a child was traumatic on its own, captors also implicitly and explicitly threatened the well being of children.

34 The Weapon of Motherhood 26 In one case, a woman, who had been separated from her three year old child, recounted her fear that her toddler would be orphaned if she were murdered in detention. During an intense interrogation, her captors brought in someone else’s three year old to manipulate her maternal concern for the welfare of her child.

35 Psychological Trauma 27 The TRC’s definition of torture included mental and psychological torture. Women were more likely to highlight the psychological impact of their abuse. The TRC reports have suggested that we can learn more about the psychological impact of apartheid and detention on men by studying women’s testimony about their psychological experiences.

36 Red Song Red Song, by Vusi Mahlasela. Lyrics from the poem with the same title, by Keorapetse “Willie” Kgositsile “So who are they who say no more love poems now? I want to sing a song of love for that woman who jumped a fence, is pregnant and still gave birth to a healthy child.”

37 Phila Ndwandwe Left her life as a dental student at the University of Durban-Westville to join the resistance. Became an MK Commander. Her code name was Zandile. At the time of her abduction, she was responsible for all MK operations in Natal. Went into exile in Swaziland in 1986 after being arrested in South Africa. Gave birth to a son, Thabani, in 1987.

38 Phila Ndwandwe Lured from Swaziland and abducted by members of the Port Natal Security Branch in October 1988. They wanted to recruit her as an askari and killed her when she refused to cooperate. For many years, rumors circulated that she had agreed to become an askari. Her death was not confirmed until information about her murder came to light during the TRC hearings.

39 Phila Ndwandwe The TRC hearings revealed that she had been tortured and held naked for 10 days before the police gave up on recruiting her as an askari and shot her in the head. The TRC hearing also revealed the location where she had been buried. Her remains were exhumed and returned to her family. The men who abducted and killed Phila Ndwandwe were granted amnesty in 2001.

40 Region where Ndwandwe lived From: http://www.lib.utexas. edu/maps/africa/safri ca_provinces_95.jpg Swaziland KwaZulu/Natal

41 Women in Armed Resistance 28 Women were not a major presence in armed resistance during the 1960s and 1970s. However, by the 1990s, 14% of the Permanent Force of the South African Defence Force (SADF) and about 20% of MK forces were women.

42 Women in Armed Resistance 29 This growth has been attributed in part to the increase in student activism. Women as students were seen to play an active role in public life. Some have argued that women’s role in the public sphere of education allowed them increased access to another important public forum: the liberation movement.

43 Women in Armed Resistance South African women, such as Phila Ndwandwe, played active roles in liberation groups like the ANC's MK. At the same time, women also carved out their own space of resistance, as evidenced by a long history of women’s liberation organizations.

44 A Brief Look at Women’s Resistance The first women's political group was the Bantu Women's League, founded in 1913 by Charlotte Maxeke in a year when women were actively resisting pass laws. ANC Women's League: The ANC was formed a year before the Bantu Women's League, but it didn’t allow women to vote in elections. Women could not participate in ANC elections until 1943. In 1948, the ANC Women's League was formed.

45 A Brief Look at Women’s Resistance Federation of South African Women, (est. 1954): –Purpose: (1) toppling apartheid and (2) fighting for women's concerns. –The founding charter declares: "There is only one society, and it is made up of both women and men. As women we share the problems and anxieties of our men, and join hands with them to remove social evils and obstacles to progress."

46 A Brief Look at Women’s Resistance Black Sash (est. 1955): From a humble start at a small tea party, it became a leading women's organization with prominent members like Winnie Mandela. Black Women's Federation (est.1975): 210 delegates attending founding conference. Other organizations include United Women's Organisation (est. 1981); Black Women Unite (est. 1981); Natal Organisation of Women (est. 1983).

47 “Many, who have listened to this testimony for the past two years, will…believe…the story of our past has now been completely told. It has not - violence against women is one of the hidden sides to the story of our past. While certain women bravely recorded their experiences, many others have not been able to come before the TRC. This has implications not only for our understanding of our history but also for current attempts to heal our society.” Beth Goldblatt and Sheila Meintjes, Dealing with the Aftermath 30

48 “[T]he definition of gross violation of human rights adopted by the Commission resulted in a blindness to the types of abuse predominantly experienced by women. In this respect, the full report of the Commission and the evidence presented to it can be compared to reports on South African poverty, which make it very clear that while women are not the only sufferers, they bear the brunt of the suffering.” TRC Report, Vol. 4, Ch. 10 31

49 “When you have packed your bags as a TRC, there is this work that’s still to be done.” Sheila Masote, at the Special Hearing in Johannesburg, on the continuing and pressing need for greater gender equality in South Africa. 32


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