it took a full week
of straitjacketing generations
of genocidal femicidal trauma
for the clay dam wall to explode
and flood me in torrents
of collective grief
a poet with no words
a lifelong activist struck dumb
i choke on love for the dead
thousands of beautiful women and children a year
i puke for my incested cancerous country
and gag grappling for compassion of
perpetrators and the morally blind
in this breathtaking country
so brutally drenched in the blood
of ordinary women and children
i discover anew
that i fail to
my spiritual cadaver
is dragged under by the concrete limbs
of victims perpetrators witnesses
majority blinkered burdens
too busy scrabbling for survival
to fight for justice
as i contemplate the imminent refreshment
of my childhood starvation
my hunger for food agency adventure
leads me to stare the dragon in its ambered eyes
like a mirror of my ever-present shadows
how can I love you to death…?
— Bernedette Muthien (15 feb 2013)
for the billion women martyrs around the world…
The Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) in the Western Cape (province/state), led by Secretary General Tony Ehrenreich, called for and organised a rally to which people of all persuasions, political and faith and otherwise, were invited. Faith leaders, community leaders, and political leaders (mostly ANC – African National Congress) all spoke. Sunday 17 Feb 2013 at 3pm.
Below is my 5 minute contribution:
South Africa’s Medical Research Council says a woman is killed by her male partner every six hours; a woman is raped every four minutes in South Africa. The World Health Organisation and Amnesty International have each published multi-country studies (2005 ff ) which respectively show that violence against women happens in every city and village in the world, on all six continents. A billion women have been violated by men; the population of the entire subcontinent of India.
I’m a rape survivor. It’s nothing personal. It’s not about me or even about the perpetrator, long gone. It’s about the system. The system is Patriarchy, the system of men’s control over women.
Apartheid, slavery and colonialism were all systems of oppression where one group took control over others, and used violence and force to control, exploit, to abuse, to rape and kill.
They used the Bible to justify their oppression – slavery’s in the Bible, the taking of indigenous people’s lands is in the Bible, rape is in the Bible.
Their God of fear and violence and oppression should make way for our indigenous god of love, of compassion, the god who heals and teaches that we should care for each other.
Rape and the killing of women won’t end while we tell women they are subordinate to men. It can only end when women and men are treated equal. Rape will only end when Patriarchy ends.
We call on you, every woman and man and child: End Patriarchy to end rape. Now.
Bernedette Muthien is an activist, a poet, and a scholar. She co-founded and directs an NGO, Engender, which works in the intersectional areas of genders & sexualities, human rights, justice & peace. Her community activism is integrally related to her work with continental and international organisations, and her research necessarily reflects the values of equity, societal transformation and justice. In 2012 she published her first solo poetry anthology, “ova”, with critical acclaim around the world. Her book and more of her poetry can be viewed and purchased directly from the Engender website. She is co-founder of an indigenous scholar-activist network, the KhoeSan Women’s Circle, and convenor of an international listserv of Native scholar-activists, Gender Egalitarian.