March 8 – International Women’s Day


Today is International Women’s Day, but in South Africa – where Women’s Day is celebrated later in the year, with a public holiday on the 9th of August – there’s not much to tell, in terms of related events.

Come August 9th, however, there will be plenty to tell: this year, it marks the 50th anniversary of the women’s march to Pretoria, which was organised in protest against an apartheid measure that subjected non-white women to the notorious pass laws.

Meanwhile, the loudest story currently being told about the status of women in South Africa, perhaps, is that of the ongoing Jacob Zuma rape trial. Zuma, SA’s former Deputy President, is defending a charge of rape laid by an HIV-positive AIDS activist who had formerly counted him as a mentor. He has acknowledged that they had sex on the night in question, and that it was unprotected.

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Sections of Zuma’s support group have burnt the accuser’s picture in the streets outside the court, verbally abused her as she has entered and exited, and generally behaved like yahoos. The theatrics place Zuma’s accuser in a role familiar to victims of abuse worldwide: that of the guilty party.