The rape and murder of Uyinene Mrwetyana, a young, beautiful and vibrant University of Cape Town student on 24 August 2019 caused outrage and disbelief throughout the country. How could an innocent trip to fetch a parcel at a post office end with the brutal rape and murder of a young womxn so full of life and potential? Luyanda Botha was sentenced to three life sentences for rape and murder, and five years for defeating the ends of justice. Botha’s sentence, however, does not bring justice for Uyinene – she suffered, she was brutalised, she was raped and bludgeoned to death for merely picking up a parcel at the post office. The State failed her and many like her.
However, Uyinene’s death was a catalyst for many civil society organisations, activists and ordinary people taking to the streets to demand an end to GBV and femicide, but more importantly we sought strong legislative reforms. Promises have been made by government and it is now in our hands to ensure that they deliver.
We must now more than ever be at the forefront of pushing for legislative reform and accelerate our programmatic work to influence systemic change, and dismantle dominant patriarchal norms and toxic masculinity, which are the very foundation of rape culture and GBV.
We have made significant gains this year across our various programmes. Sonke in partnership with #UniteBehind, embarked on a joint action campaign to highlight the issues of GBV and womxn and children’s safety on public transport. We produced a policy brief, Combatting Gender- Based Violence Through Safer Public Transport. This policy brief was in support of the research report findings and recommendations of the Women and Girls’ Experiences of Gender-Based Violence on Public Transport in Gauteng & the Western Cape Province.
The Towards Harm Reduction Programmes with Sex Worker Clients in South Africa report published this year explores possible harm reduction approaches to a sex worker client intervention in the South African context. It considers the current evidence based on client interventions globally and sets out key recommendations for an effective client intervention programme.
Our Child Rights and Positive Parenting (CRPP) unit worked tirelessly on advocating for paid parental leave, which culminated in a change in labour legislation to allow for 10 days of parental leave.
On the litigation front, we have been vindicated in our application calling for prison reform, as the Western Cape High Court handed down judgment in favour of Sonke, declaring certain provisions of the Correctional Services Act (111 of 1998) unconstitutional.
Our CRPP unit was also instrumental in assisting the court in declaring corporal punishment at home unconstitutional, with the Constitutional Court upholding the decision of the South Gauteng High Court.
Finally, the Covid-19 pandemic and the hard lockdown that followed presented many challenges for Sonke, but we remained agile and resilient to meet the changing contexts both in terms of our operations and our programmatic work. The confinement orders presented risks for womxn and children in abusive relationships. Sonke’s contribution in respect of the Joint Submission on Covid-19 and the Increase of Domestic Violence Against Women was significant in mitigating risks while these confinement orders remain in place.
When I look back on our year, I am reminded of the strength, resilience and commitment of our staff. It is through their dedication that we are able to collectively work towards our drive for gender equality and respect for human rights. I want to thank my colleagues on the Board for all their hard work and commitment. It is through such collaborative effort that we will see the course for gender transformation advancing forward. Special thanks to all our donors for their generosity in providing necessary resources to ensure that this work carries on.