The AIDS Legal Network (ALN) in a joint campaign with twelve other local civil organisations took to the streets of Mitchells Plain to march against gender violence on Wednesday. The march began in Tafelsig and moved through Beacon Valley, two areas Mitchells Plain plagued by violence against women.
According to ALN’s national executive director Dr Johanna Kehler, the organisation conducted a research study in Mitchells Plain some two years ago which looked into violence and women’s rights abuse based on their HIV status.
“For the last two years we have engaged with the community through awareness drives as well as working in close relations with the local police and clinics. However the change women want to see in the area is not materialising and therefore, we have come out, in Mitchells Plain to call on local government to stand up and work with us as oppose to working against us,” Kehler explained.
Kehler said the women were demanding access to justice, especially in the cases of domestic violence, sexual violence and HIV-related crime.
“Too often the police do not respond to calls, and as a result too many perpetrators walk free and the abuse continues.”
The organisation was also demanding access to “non-judgmental” health service.
“Women no longer accept being ‘forced’ to test for HIV, and they no longer accept healthcare workers disclosing their HIV status in front of other patients. Women demand integrated services and no longer accept being exposed to judgement and attitude through separate queues and coloured folders.”
“Healthcare workers should not tell patients what is best for them, but rather provide the patient with the necessary information to take an informed decision,” added Dr Kehler.
About 100 people from Mitchells Plain and surrounding areas showed up at the march. Among the chanting crowd of demonstrators were learners from local schools, calling on women to break away from violent partners and seek the protection and help they deserve. One such student was Jodie Okkers from Oval North High who said that her reason for skipping school and attending the march is because she felt the cause deserved immediate attention from the relevant authorities.
“Here in Mitchells Plain, so many people are exposed to violence and it has become a norm in our society. I know of many women who stay in abusive relationships simply because they think that there is no other way out. I want to tell those women that this march is for them, they have the right to feel safe and live freely without being victimised,” Okkers said.
Another Oval North learner, Chanel September highlighted the need for police protection not only for women in Mitchells Plain but for all the vulnerable subjected to violence and abuse, especially as a result of their HIV status.
The march drew to a close outside the Mitchells Plain Town Centre, where demonstrators gathered to listen to the list of demands the organisations have jointly issued to authorities. Of the demands listed is; the demand to be free of violence and abuse, free from judgement and discrimination in homes and communities, the group further states that it demands access to safe and responsible health service-no more denial of treatment if an individual misses an appointment at clinics and the groups further called for an end to the refusal of contraceptives at clinics.
“We are here to stand up against violence, crime and abuse. All the children from the new generation is dying before the old generation. Something needs to be done here before we lose our future,” said Gairoenisa Van De Schyff, a resident of Mitchells Plain
“I am hoping to see the mothers come out and speak out, it is they who can positively provide the impact, along with police and other organisations that the vulnerable in our community are in need of.” VOC (Ra’eesah Isaacs)