Church shines spotlight on violence against women

Other Manual Translations: português

More than 100 United Methodists dressed in black and blue marched to say “enough is enough” in regards to rape and gender-based violence, which is on the rise in South Africa.

The peaceful protest took place Sept. 14 in Bhizane in the Makukhanye District of the South Africa Conference. The march came on the heels of a Cape Town rally in which thousands of women marched to parliament to protest rising violence against women

According to national crime statistics released by the South African Police Services, sexual offenses increased by 4.6% from April 2018 to March 2019. About 3,000 women were murdered in South Africa in 2018, according to the World Health Organization.

“Rape and gender violence has become a normality within our society that it hardly makes headlines in the national media,” said Bulelwa Ndedwa, a United Methodist deaconess who led the rally. “But recent attacks have shocked everyone in the congregation and community.”

She spoke about a string of murders that have haunted the community over the past two months, including the deaths of four children who were allegedly killed by their father.

Last month, she said, a 14-year-old was raped and killed and her body was dumped in her grandmother’s backyard. “Before we ceased to mourn from the 14-year-old girl, a 19-year-old student at the University of Cape Town was raped and murdered” at a local post office, Ndedwa said. A postal employee has been charged in her death.

She also noted a recent case in which a female boxing champion was gunned down during a car chase. Her boyfriend, a police officer, has been arrested.

“It seems as if human life is not valued in South Africa,” she lamented. “Our society needs to stop violence against women and against its fellow brother or sister.”

Ndedwa said the church has a role to play and must take action to help improve the situation for its female members and all women.

Subscribe to our
e-newsletter

Like what you're reading and want to see more? Sign up for our free daily and weekly digests of important news and events in the life of The United Methodist Church.

Keep me informed!

“Protests and marches like this need to be part of our church calendar in order to create awareness where there will be days to educate our male members. So we need to have a strategic plan that we can implement within our congregations and communities,” she said.  

“Men must know that it is their responsibility to make sure (that) we as women and children are safe in our homes, in our schools, our churches and our communities.”

Ndedwa advised protesters to start talking to children at an early age about how to treat and respect girls and women.

Thabsile Nomvethe was among those marching hand in hand with other United Methodists at the rally.

“I am the mother of a 9-year-old girl who is a survivor of a rape,” the 34-year-old said. “South African women and children have become victims of sexual harassment and our legal system is failing us.”

She said the punishment for offenders isn’t tough enough.

“The legal system in the country is very weak because we see some of these perpetrators being released from jails with bails after some time.

“Unless our government changes something within the legal system of the country and takes these cases very seriously,” nothing will change, she said. “The current scenario is scary and pushes us to live in the state of fear as women in South Africa.”

Nomvethe said the concern is so high that some mothers feel they must hide their daughters to keep them out of danger.

“Even when you send your child to shops or to public places like the post office, it is not safe,” she said. “But the time has come when women must break the silence and speak up. Enough is enough.”

Mkwalo is a communicator for the South Africa Conference.

News media contact: Vicki Brown at (615) 742-5470 or
[email protected]. To read more United Methodist news, subscribe to the free Daily or Weekly Digests.

Sign up for our newsletter!

umnews-subscriptions
Mission and Ministry
The Rev. Joel Q. Bengbeng (center), superintendent of the Ilocos South District in the Northwest Philippines, is among the United Methodist pastors from the Baguio Episcopal Area who say they have experienced harassment due to their social justice work. Photo courtesy of the Rev. Hinivuu Pecaat.

Filipino pastors fear for safety

Church leaders condemn attempts to intimidate pastors involved in social justice work.
Theology and Education
Students and staff practice social distancing in order to reduce the risk of spreading the coronavirus as they wait to enter the dining hall at Africa University in Mutare, Zimbabwe. The cafeteria has changed serving and seating arrangements, and meal times have been extended to three hours so those on campus do not all have to be served at the same time. Photo by the Africa University office of Advancement and Public Affairs.

AU shifts to online classes, some students stay on campus

The United Methodist university is practicing social distancing to curb the spread of the coronavirus.
Mission and Ministry
A visitor to United Methodist Mercy Hospital in Bo, Sierra Leone, washes his hands at a wash station before entering the hospital on March 16. Amid coronavirus concerns, the use of handwashing stations, previously used during the country’s fight against Ebola, has been stepped up in public places, including hospitals, banks and schools. Photo by Phileas Jusu, UM News.

Ebola offers lessons in fighting coronavirus in Sierra Leone

United Methodist hospitals among those gearing up as coronavirus concerns grow in the West African country.