By Meggan McCarthy
Volunteers of the Gender Action Project (GAP) and the One in Nine campaign handcuffed themselves outside the Grahamstown High Court on Friday 8 August 2008, as part of a 12 hour protest in solidarity with the women rape survivors appearing in court.
The theme for this year’s protest was “justice delayed is justice denied”, highlighting the concerning conviction rate of only 5% in rape cases, and the seemingly interminable delays in the judicial process. GAP demanded a speedier, more effective criminal justice system that strives towards efficient processing of rape cases. The One in Nine campaign is named after the statistic that only one out of every nine women raped actually report their cases to the police.
Nicolene McLean, Chairperson and Founder of GAP, said that this the 2008 protest was “a push for a more effective justice system, so women don’t have to hold the memory [of the rape] fresh in their minds; we need a better criminal justice system”.
Jacob Phamodi, a GAP member, said that the “chaining” represented how “women are slaves to justice” and the subsequent unchaining “symbolises what we want to happen-we want them to be free of the way in which the criminal justice system treats them.” Last year, a similar campaign was run for One in Nine, and a petition was handed over to the Director of Public Prosecutors (DPP) – who failed to respond. Phamodi said that the protesters hoped to get a response from the DPP this year.
Deborah Robertson, a GAP member who volunteered to be handcuffed outside the court, said that she received mixed responses from people, with most ignoring her. She commended those who voiced their support for protest. “When you see that we’re here, you have to acknowledge us.” The petition, which amassed 340 signatures, and also included 16 specific demands for a better criminal justice system – was handed to the DPP representative, who refused to comment on the protest.
Members of the South African Students Congress (SASCO) and the Lesotho Society then marched to the court, singing and protesting for women’s rights. Camalita Naicker, SASCO’s gender and transformation officer said that SASCO was set to organise a march focusing on gender issues and thus decided to join with GAP in highlighting gender inequality.
SRC President, Xolani Nyali, said that the SRC fully supports the campaign and that “our justice system seems to be in chaos, and by continuous postponement [of the trial], this leads to an individual’s rights getting trampled on.”
Nicole Sobotker, a GAP member, said that she was pleased with the energy and commitment of the supporters and that she thought that the protest was a success.
Members of the various societies formed a human chain and lined up outside the court to show their solidarity with rape survivors. The protest ended with a symbolic “freeing” of the chained volunteers.