A DUT Dialogue on gender-based violence brought to the fore deep concerns over personal security in the current situation. Women spoke of their fears, and those of their friends, of going to and from campus. A woman spoke of an experience of being followed and intimidated in the street. Men spoke of the buses from residences to campus being empty of women.
At present rumours of abductions of women are circulating on social media, following a noted case in which a young woman’s body was found burnt in Johannesburg, and her partner charged with the crime. This led to a controversial hashtag on social media; #menaretrash. In the dialogue some men expressed outrage over the hashtag, while women insisted that the key issue is abuse, not a hashtag.
A particular point of conflict within the dialogue was the issue of women’s behaviour. Two men argued that a key element in sexual violence against women is women’s clothing that triggers men to rape. This drew a heated response, one being that this argument itself demeans men by portraying them as rapists-in-waiting, who spring into action when triggered.
Various points for action were identified; one being to find ways in which women who feel insecure in public spaces should be able to approach other people for assistance without the fear of being exploited; others included how women in the role of mothers should address their son’s socialisation and how men speak to other men about these issues.