“Being single is not right” and “kids are important to a woman because they actually give extra training to a woman, to be a mother”.
(- President Jacob Zuma in People of the South television interview with Dali Tambo on Sunday 19 August 2012)
According to the President of the country in which I live, I am not complete unless I have a man and a child or two at my side – I am not capable of being a mother to any child until I have one (or more) of my own – http://mg.co.za/article/2012-08-21-zuma-women-must-have-children
I am one of those women who have chosen to remain unmarried and childless for reasons only I need to know. I am not a “career” woman, I do not “hate” men and children – in fact, I absolutely adore children, I have just chosen not to have any of my own. I have chosen not to be linked to one man with baggage for the rest of my life because I have enough baggage of my own to deal with.
I absolutely adore my sister’s children and see myself as a “second mother” to them so that should the need ever arise, I will be able to take on the role of “mother” to them at a minute’s notice. I still do not want to bring any children into the world of my own.
Is this wrong? Am I really such a monster as the President of my country suggests? Why?
I am very happy with my life as it is right now. I am very happily single and childless. I do not need a man or a child to “complete” my life. I am a fulfilled, happy and COMPLETE person as I am – no extra frills or trimmings required.
As the oldest grandchild (cousin) on my dad’s side of the family, I had enough “training to be a mother” when I helped my grandmother to take care of my cousins left in her care. From the age of 7 years, I was taught how to hold, feed and burp the baby (and then put them to sleep). As I grew older, I was taught how to change the nappy (back in the day when cloth nappies and pins were still used). I was present during potty training and was tasked with “supervising” this activity while grandma ran in and out of the kitchen tending to the cooking pots. In between all this, I had to wash, dry and pack away dishes, sweep the front and back yard etc. All this of course was done after my school work (homework) was done.
I was an only child until the age of 14 years. When my sister finally arrived, my mom was in and out of hospital which meant that I had to play “mother” to my sister while my mom was recovering and in-between all this, I was expected to go to school, come home and do homework, housework and cooking. I was taught how to cook and bake at the age of 13 by my mother. By the age of 14 I was cooking and baking without any assistance from my mother.
How much more training do I need to be a wife and a mother, I ask?
We claim to be a “gender sensitive” country, we claim that men and women have equal status in all aspects of life in our country, we have the most progressive legislation to back up these statements, and yet, in the middle of National Women’s month, our country’s President makes a statement like this?
We already have a problem in our country with senseless rape and other violations of women and children (babies and the aged included) which is totally out of control. We have a problem in this country with teenage pregnancies, our school drop out rates are huge and yet, in spite of all of this, our country’s President makes a statement which some may interpret as giving them permission to “go forth and multiply”.
Relationships in our country, particularly between male and female leave a lot to be desired. Many women (and even some men) feel trapped in marriages or life-long partnerships which they are holding together “for the sake of the children” or because the woman believes or has been made to believe that she will not be able to cope on her own financially. Yet, our President says it is not good for a woman to be alone?
As a woman living in this country right now, I actually think we are better off alone than to be in a life-long relationship with someone – but that is merely my opinion and the view from where I sit.
My greatest desire is to work as a Criminologist one day. In order to realise that dream, I have embarked on a BA Criminology degree through Unisa. My specific interest is in analysing and understanding the behaviour of sexual predators and serial killers. I would like to work as a Profiler and follow in the footsteps of people like Micki Pistorius and others.
Today, part of my dream was realised. How? I had to spend the day in court to observe a court case for one of my assignments. I would have liked to have observed a sexual abuse or domestic violence case but was not able to because of the sensitivity and confidentiality aspect of the victim’s testimony (covered by section 153 of the Criminal Procedure Act). I now had the choice of a civil case or criminal case – decisions, decisions, decisions.
For those who are hooked on court drama series’ like I am (and for those who watch SA soapies), I would like to place on record (this has been confirmed with the State Prosecutor and the Clerk of the Court today)
In the Regional (Magistrate) Court, the Magistrate (presiding officer) is addressed as YOUR WORSHIP
In the High Court, the Judge (presiding officer) is addressed as MY LORD
The term YOUR HONOUR is not used in South African courts. Any South African TV drama or soapie that uses YOUR HONOUR obviously has not done their homework.
Criminal cases are always more exciting than Civil cases so I chose the Criminal Court. I also chose to observe at Wynberg Regional (Magistrates Court) purely because it is one of the busiest courts close to where I live. From the minute I walked through the gates I experienced nothing but warmth and friendliness – from the maintenance/cleaning staff and security right up the ladder to the Magistrate himself.
The State Prosecutor (not on court duty today) who made all the arrangements to get permission for me to observe for the day asked his “right hand person” to take me to the Court and introduce me to everyone. I was told where to sit (right next to the State Prosecutor) and was able to do some informal observation of the interaction between the legal personnel because the first case was delayed. The vehicle transporting the Accused was stuck in traffic on the N2.
During the interlude everyone took turns to chat to me as well and everyone expressed surprise that I was not doing an LLB degree but rather doing a BA Criminology. It appears that nobody present knew that a BA Criminology even existed. In the past, all those wanting to specialise in Criminology, had to complete an LLB Degree i.e. qualify as a Lawyer/Attorney and then do an extra year to specialise as a Criminologist. Unisa has now simplified the process and introduced a pure BA Criminology degree so there is no need to go the LLB route first.
Back to court proceedings – The Clerk of the Court now doubles up as the Stenographer as well. He is completing a BA Communication Science degree (would be equivalent to a Journalism degree). Everything is now electronic so you no longer have a pretty lady sitting behind a very funny looking machine typing away. The machine looks like a huge desk top photocopy machine with two big red lights on top. The machine automatically records what is being said in the room so no typing is actually done in the court room anymore.
I was given permission to observe cases in Court A and managed to observe three cases purely because each case ended up being postponed.
The Magistrate was a man after my own heart as well – very straight forward and to the point. A no nonsense man who does not take s***t from anybody. Being very much an Afrikaaner, most of the proceedings in the court today was in Afrikaans – being my second language, I felt very much at home.
Once all the parties arrived at Court, the first case ended up being postponed because the Accused was not able to pay the Attorney all the money due and is unable to continue paying so the Attorney chose to withdraw from the case because he is not willing to work Pro Bono. This case took approximately 20 minutes from start to end (purely because the Attorney was long-winded). This could have been wrapped up in 5 minutes.
The second case (I thought I had died and gone to heaven, because it was a sexual abuse case). Unfortunately, this case was also postponed because the Accused, once again, did not come to Court. This took approximately 5 minutes from start to end – a matter of the Accused has not arrived AGAIN so this matter has been postponed to . . .
The third case I was able to observe was a hijacking/armed robbery that took place in Ottery recently. The owner of a business in Ottery, Western Cape and the Manager were held up at gun point shortly after the owner returned to the business from the bank with the wages to pay the staff. Four African Black men were being accused of the crime – the victims were two White men. Accused 1 and 4 shared an Attorney and Accused 2 and 3 shared an Attorney. The case ended up being postponed because the Attorney representing Accused 2 and 3 withdrew from the case because he was receiving conflicting instructions from each accused and he decided because he could not chose to represent one rather than the other because it would be unethical, he rather withdrew from the case. The decision was then that Accused 2 and 3 should each get their own Attorney so that there were no ethical issues involved and they were instructed to return to Court on 20th August 2012 with their new Attorneys. Accused 1 and 2 will remain in custody until 20th August 2012. Court was adjourned at around 12:30 and because there were no further cases for this Court for today, it was the end of my court day.
I really had a wonderful time today. Being in court is radically different to the way it is portrayed in the movies and on TV. The movies and TV over dramatizes the court scenes and most of them don’t do their research or don’t do adequate research before going on air.
I’m not sure how many people actually read my blogs but I would like to say thank you to everyone who made this day possible. I will not mention names because you know who you are. It was a real eye-opener. I learnt so much and made a few good contacts.
In an article in the Mail & Guardian on Friday morning (3 August 2012) written by Jane Bennett (Director of the African Gender Institute at the University of Cape Town) the headline reads “The rock has been struck, now what?” the sub text reads: “women’s inequality battles continue every day, yet the state takes notice only on August 9.”
I don’t know about you but when it comes to these national days or months (Women’s Month, 16 Days of Activism of no violence against women and children, Child Protection Week etc) I sigh with weariness at the thought that we are once again going to be subjected to huge stadium events where some government official (Minister or the President himself) will read a long, drawn out speech about how we “condemn violence against women and children” or something like that. We will once again be reminded about how far we’ve come and “look what government has done” in terms of legislation and policies, meanwhile, back at home, my next door neighbour is still being beaten by her husband/life partner, the child down the road is still being abused by his/her parent(s) etc while government officials host a sing-and-dance about how “we condemn violence” at some public venue wasting more tax payers money while non-governmental organisations (NGO’s) like Rape Crisis, Black Sash, Saartjie Baartman Centre, the Big Issue and others are on the verge of closing their doors due to lack of funding.
Our national Lottery (originally set up to fund NGO’s and other projects) always has money for huge political events, but does not have enough money to spread across the Non-Governmental Organisations (NGO’s) or Non Profit Organisations (NPO’s) – makes one think, doesn’t it?
These organisations do a sterling job in trying to heal the social ills of society doing a sterling job in the process with little or no funding from government and have to rely on external and sometimes overseas funding, which is now also running out because these donors are not focussing on their own countries or ploughing funds into Central Africa instead.
We are still faced with the following:-
- Women dying in childbirth
- Most Black (African and Coloured) women remain dependent on domestic work (often casual and not every day of the week) or work in the textile industry for low wages
- Agricultural labour (mostly seasonal and therefore casual/piecemeal work)
- Informal trading – I am seeing more and more women standing at traffic lights selling their wares to get some money to feed families
- Education systems, already challenged as they are in terms of level and quality of education provided, have also become spaces in which girls’ safety is at risk (male teachers raping female pupils in exchange for good academic results. Male pupils raping fellow girl pupils – just for the “fun/hell” of it.
- Women and girls who are lesbians face public assault and often worse, as do any women, especially the young ones who openly defy what is expected of them “as women”.
- Class plays a big role in how we are socialised as women and this, in turn, shapes social inequality, unequal access to resources, well-being and authority.
- Rape of women and children still continues throughout all campaigns, national days and months and in spite of all the “we condemn violence against women and children” speeches.
Then, of course, we still have the proposed Traditional Courts Bill which is still being challenged and put under public scrutiny for not favouring women.
Our Minister of Women, Children and People with Disabilities is planning to launch the Women Empowerment and Gender Equality Bill which apparently is at an advanced stage. This national policy is proposing guidelines for promoting women empowerment and gender equality. The Draft Bill will be tabled before Cabinet during the 2012/13 financial year which will help enforce compliance in both government and the private sector. South Africa has made commitments through the Constitution, various pieces of legislation and international conventions to respect, promote, protect and advance the rights of women and as a country we have an obligation to honour these commitments.
It is now my turn to say “so what?” what difference is this new Bill/piece of legislation now really going to do for us as women? Is it going to stop the abuse and violence happening all around me? What do we really have to celebrate as women?
So if government has all these plans and commitments, how come the violence against women and children is getting worse rather than better? Why do I still feel so unsafe in my own country? Why do I fear for the children growing up now? I have a 7 year old nephew and 4 year old niece – I pray for their safety every day that they can reach adulthood without too much trauma crossing their paths.
Surely, life should not be like this? I am a WOMAN. I deserve to be loved, nurtured and respected – not raped, maimed and disfigured.
I deserve to be treated with dignity – don’t you think so too?
Also see: Facebook group: Women Demand Dignity and