Archive | February, 2013

Where Are The Voices Against Hate Crime? By Cheryl Roberts

26 Feb

In the wake of several attacks, killings and abuse of non-heterosexual and gay people, human rights and LGBTI activists have become more than alarmed, are refusing to remain silent and are fighting back against the perpetrators of hate and those who advocate for rights of non-heterosexual people to be removed from South Africa’s democratic constitution.

The hate-related attacks are aimed largely at black people, mostly women, living in townships. It would appear, that because one does not hear of non-blacks being attacked or abused, they do not suffer this discrimination and victim assault.

One too many deaths have occurred because of hate crime. Senseless time, energy and money is wasted on court trials, justice campaigns and funerals when these hate killings shouldn’t have occurred in the first place.

Hate mentality must be removed from the hearts, thoughts and minds of people. Heterosexism is not the only sexuality which should exist: freedom of sexual orientation is guaranteed in the SA constitution.

What is alarming is that this appears to be a ‘black woman’s thing’. When these attacks and killings happen in the townships, non-support from non-black people at the memorial services, funerals or court trials, is visible. It seemingly appears that the black women are forced to stand on their own, against hate crime. However, when the black women are needed in the city for protests and marches organized by other activist structures, then they are called on to support. Surely it’s a human injustice to bring in black support for your own activist initiatives, but you are not there to give support and respect to the black women, when they need all our support.

I attended as many court proceedings of the Zoliswa Nkonyana trial in Khayelitsha and have attended several events hosted by Free Gender in the townships, yet I can count on my one hand how many non-blacks attended and gave support. And the main culprits who don’t give support are the middle class, academics, professionals, NGO careerists and full-time, salaried social justice employees. I do admit that several convey messages of support via social media, but they are not there, not present when and where they should be.

But where are all the social justice activists, the anti-homophobic heterosexual people who believe in sexual freedom, the non-heterosexual people, who should be supporting each other? Women are being attacked and killed because of hate, they are living in fear, afraid to walk in the hood, fearful of even being at home, or socializing in the location.

Surely we can’t leave black women on their own to fight against hate crime? Surely we can stand together, roar with one powerful and mighty voice and call upon government and society to stop hate attacks and hate language against those who choose non-heterosexism.

What this shows is that whilst we are women, we are not supportive of all women’s social justice initiatives. How can the anti-hate campaign be strengthened and roar louder if it’s just the township-based black women on their own. And when we honestly admit to this failure and criticism, do we fully understand the pivotal role played by human and social justice activists like Funeka Soldaat who co-ordinates a campaign with no financial assistance, no foreign funding, who doesn’t pay herself a salary, yet manages to give a powerful voice to anti-hate attacks, assault and crime.

It’s amazing what campaign and activist success Funeka Soldaat accomplishes with little and few resources. And she ain’t a one woman show, claiming Free Gender to be her personal entity. Funeka has developed and encouraged young women leaders to lead and drive justice campaigns. Free Gender doesn’t have salaried employees, yet they accomplish much more than some organizations with funding budgets and paid employees.

I raise these issues because we can’t be quiet about them anymore and because we need to tell people they are being opportunistic for wanting to derive from the gains accrued from social justice activism, yet they are not visible in support.Image

 

‘Women Must Love Themselves’ By Cheryl Roberts

22 Feb


Managing our lives is not easy but as we go through the university of life. We must get better with time and develop our beautiful selves to be all that we want to be. Stagnation has no benefit for our lives. Don’t just GO through life, but GROW through it, continuously evolving and transforming to be the best you can be, not for other people, but for yourself

Some reflections (my personal opinions) on the imperative and need for women to love themselves:
. Women must never stop falling in love with themselves and forever love their beings
. Women who never stop falling in love with themselves, will eventually realize that loving oneself is the most honest love they should ever encounter in their lifetime
. You can’t have pride in yourself if you don’t love yourself; you can and should have both love and pride in your being

. Every woman should be awakened to love by and from another, but her imperative must be the love for herself, that she will find in herself

. When women stop believing that it’s their right to be loved by a man, perhaps they will start believing in themselves and their ability to create their own love, instead of waiting to be loved by men to be fulfilled and complete
. It’s a hustle, but you have to constantly be creating the woman you want to be, through your eyes, whilst others around you, want to box you in and define you, according to society’s perceptions and stereotypes
. Not losing ourselves for love and existing for another person’s fulfillment, at the expense of ourselves, remains one of the constant battles when we are loving
. Create yourself through your own eyes, not how other people want to see you
. When women realise love for their own body, they would and should be on the journey to self-realisation and self-love from within themselves
. Self-love is the most authentic and honest love you will ever receive in your lifetime
(some of these quotes/opinions/reflections will be published in my soon to be published publication ‘Love. Pause. Life’ by Cheryl Roberts)

“Discrimination Of Abused Black Sportswomen” By Cheryl Roberts

19 Feb

When South Africa’s black women footballers are attacked and abused by violence and hate, few people sympathise, some show empathy. But now, in our midst is a white male sports champion, whose killing of a woman has rocked our society.

It’s a fact that black sportswomen get a raw deal in the sports network! When black women footballers are attacked, hated on, abused, murdered, South African society murmurs here and there about hate crime and homophobia being wrong. A few headlines may say ‘lesbian killed in hate crime’.

When women footballers are bludgeoned and murdered, sport is quiet and says nothing, despite their members being attacked and abused. Sport pushes the headlines away as if the lesbian women footballers are not a part of the sports realm.

In our South African society, its seemingly okay for sportswomen, particularly black women footballers, to be attacked, assaulted and killed but when a sportsman, who happens to be white, male, heterosexual, sports champion, does the attacking and killing of a woman, then its portrayed as shocking news ‘which couldn’t have been done by the nice sports champion we know’.

Because the sportsman is a champion and global sports star, some public opinion and some media representatives would have us believing that a world champion sportsman is incapable of killing a woman in an abusive manner.

And what about the sportswomen, the women footballers who have been viciously murdered and abused? Shouldn’t these attacks not have happened to our sportswomen?

Get this! Abusive men are everywhere in society: in families, schools, at work, in communities, in neighbourhoods and also in sport.

It is difficult being a woman in sport as you go through the sports pyramid system to reach international participation, but it’s a VERY different journey if you are a black woman in sport.

Black sportswomen have been largely ignored by commercial sponsors and advertisers and receive minimal media applause, celebration and publicity. Now that pressure has been placed on media to improve gender profiling of sports people, this has changed a little, but not enough.

At this moment, from seemingly out of nowhere, South Africa’s Paralympian champion Oscar Pistorius’ killing of his girlfriend reveals the ugly facets of discrimination which black sportswomen face and the justice rights which they are denied.

As I write this blog, Freegender, a social justice activist organizations is distributing pamphlets in the community surrounds of Khayalitisha looking for a rapist believed to be freely roaming the streets. This rapist brutally attacked and raped a woman footballer, who survived to tell her story of victim abuse and to identify her attacker.

Admittedly, the killing of a woman by a global sports hero has rocked world news. I, myself am intrigued by it. I’m also guilty of being the public jury. From where I am and receiving the news via various media sources, I have proclaimed Oscar Pistorius GUILTY, after being told by the media, he fired four shots at a woman.

The many sportswomen who have been brutally attacked, raped, assaulted and murdered have not been supported by people as their deaths should have warranted. These football players, amongst them being, Eudy Simelane, Zoliswa Nkonyane, Luleka Makiwane, Sihle Sikoje, were members of organsied sports structures, who participated in sport from club to international level. When the assaults and attacks against the women footballers’ bodies occurred, it was noted as being about ‘lesbians and homophobic attacks’. The media writes it out as if it’s a lesbian thing and not as a sportswoman’s horrendous murder.

Sport treats it as a non-entity, unimportant to the sports realm which concentrates solely on athlete development in sports events and sports competition.

And the women ignored are black, gender non-conforming and non-heterosexual, living in the township. They are women who love sport, especially football, and who have not allowed a gender conforming, heterosexual dominant society to define them accordingly. They have shaped their own identity and image according to who they are and want to be.

South African sport, to the best of my information, has not taken a stance against the assaults and attacks which sportswomen have faced.

South African sport has been ridiculously silent. But this doesn’t mean they accept these attacks on women’s bodies or that they agree with them. But what it does indicate is that South African sport just doesn’t care or couldn’t be bothered.

And then one of our most loved, respected and admired sports champions commits a killing which rattles the South African nation. South African sport remained quiet when black sportswomen were attacked, their bodies violated and their beings left for dead. Now they have one of their greatest sportsmen facing a murder charge.

There’s great admiration when we have pride in our sportsmen on the sports stage, especially their incredible sports prowess, but there’s no ways we can have respect for a sportsman’s abuse and violence towards women and it’s not a matter of what they do in their personal time being their private. A sportsman’s violent abuse of a woman, whatever his global status, should not be tolerated in society.

Yes, Oscar Pistorius has still got to be proven guilty, but I’m amazed at some public opinion and thought that a sportsman of his global sports prowess couldn’t have done this vicious shooting without snapping or the gun doing it on its own. So do all men snap when they brutally abuse women, when they rape and murder them through violence. Get this! Sportsmen, like other men, have also abused and do abuse women!

No Preferential Treatment For Abusive Sportsmen By Cheryl Roberts

15 Feb

 

ImageIf it’s not our sportswomen being abused and murdered, then it’s our sportsmen doing the abusing and murdering.

As shocking as the news is of Oscar Pistorius killing his girlfriend, people must not think that sportsmen do not contribute to statistics on violence against women. The reality is that sportsmen have abused and murdered women. There exists a plethora of sportsmen who are abusers.

And, amongst these statistics are many South African sportsmen, some of whom are guilty of abusing sports girls when they coached them, of abusing their wives/girlfriends and even of murdering them, some have raped women, whilst others have molested and abused girls and women within sport and in their personal spaces outside of sport.

It’s sad to think that it might take a woman’s death, engineered by a Paralympian champion shooting her down with four gun shots, to wake up South African sport and to galvanise into action, a national programme of action spearheaded by sport with the objective of eliminating abusive behaviour of sportsmen who violate women’s bodies and commit violence against women.

Within its ranks, sport has a litany of abuse against women, committed by sportsmen, particularly high profile, champion sportsmen. Despite sportsmen being abusive, sport has not profiled and put the spotlight on abuse and violence against women. But then again what do we expect when sport’s leadership and officialdom are dominated by men. After all, violence and abuse is committed by men, very few of them admitting their weaknesses and deficiencies.

Sport must understand that sportsmen are not separated from society. What they do on the sports stage may make them seemingly invincible and extraordinary at times. But when they commit violence against women, then their sports prowess does not exempt them from being treated accordingly as an abusive man.

There is this feeling or assumption that high profile sportsmen are treated differently when they commit violence against women; their sports adulation status protecting them from being seen as the abusers, thugs and rapists that they are.

We have heard of young male rugby, football and cricket players raping women, we know of high profile sportsmen murdering their partners, we have been publicly informed of sportsmen violently abusing women. Yet sport pushes this away, like it doesn’t concern sport.

Sportsmen who commit violent crimes against women, who are abusive towards women, who rape and assault women, must not be given preferential treatment by society, the media or legal system just because they are high profile or world champion sportsmen.

Any man, no matter what he’s achievements in life becomes an abuser when he is abusive towards any woman. And these abusive men, including sportsmen, must be condemned for their abuse.

Whilst representatives of society’s power and interest groups, may impose their view of a violent and abusive incident against a woman, we as society must not allow a victim of abuse to be treated as if she’s ‘nothing’ or has ‘no status’.

This opinion of mine is in reaction to the killing of a girlfriend, who is Veera Steenkamp, by her boyfriend, who happens to be Oscar Pistorius, one of the world’s great Paralympians and which has expectedly shocked the world.

Hopefully, it has not only also shocked sport, the organised structures around and within which sport is played and consumed, to understand and acknowledge that abuse, assault and violence against women is committed by sportsmen. Hopefully, this horrific death involving one of South Africa’s famous sportsmen will also split open the silence of sport on violence against women.

As much as we consume sport, we should not be desperate to have any sportsman as a hero because he is a champion. Performances of sportsmen on the sports stage is one thing, but their behaviour outside of sports participation must not be exempted from public condemnation when they abuse women. Applauding a sportsman for his sports prowess is admirable, but never can his wrongdoings be excluded because of his sports adulation status.

And what this means is that sportsmen who abuse, assault and rape women, who murder women, who violate women’s bodies, must be given the same whipping and face legal action, as any other person in society.

Sport is not just about playing the game, about winning titles and medals. It’s about the social positioning of people in society and everything associated with living in society. With so much abuse around it, no longer can sport remain quiet and be silent. Several instances of abuse have surfaced within world sport and in South African sport; yet sports officials have remained quiet, hoping it won’t enter the sports realm.

Abuse of women by sportsmen is very much evident within sport and this must be challenged and eliminated.

Get This! Women Don’t Want To Be Abused! By Cheryl Roberts

13 Feb

ImageNo woman or girl wants her body violated!

No woman wants to live in fear of being sexually and physically abused and assaulted. Women have had enough of men attacking women’s bodies!

 

Don’t salute, adore, respect and admire women, and then every other day and night you oppress, hurt and abuse them.

Just because I’m a woman does not mean I must allow myself, my existence and my life to be defined by definitions imposed by a heterosexual, patriarchal, male-dominating society.

 

It’s not about the clothes the woman or girl wears,

It’s not about how she carries or portrays herself,

It’s not about the place she’s in,

But it is about you, mongrel men,

keeping your violent hands and penis off a girl and woman’s body

because women don’t have to protect themselves……..

Its about the men who must not rape

 

Our South African society and nation has many deficiencies and boasts several strengths and good, and as much as we love our South Africa, we must never ever allow any South African structure, media, organisation, school, person, government to degrade, dehumanise, violate and humiliate the bodies of women and girls, because this degradation is where it starts for men and boys to abuse women’s bodies.

Women’s Sport Is Attractive And Entertaining, But Our Sportswomen Must Be Supported! By Cheryl Roberts

8 Feb

ImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageDespite reaching international level, achieving Olympic and world titles, our sportswomen have to continue battling against numerous odds, to perform on the world sports stage. I say this because our sportswomen participate in sport in chains, struggling to find their potential and attain world class level with the small amounts of support here and there.

Government, business and corporates know the inequalities and imbalances exist, after all, it is the apparatus of government and business, that has over the decades created and, further contributes, to sport’s gender inequality.

Almost three years after hosting a very successful men’s football world cup, which cost our country billions, South Africa’s sportswomen should have been accorded much more attention, focus and spotlight, because the men have been getting all the country’s support, assistance and attention in the years leading up to the football world.

For too long women are participating in sport and achieving world class standards, including continental and world titles but are doing so with very little support. And for too long, women are not being taken seriously when they raise the impediments to their participation in sport.

It’s about time that no more complaining was done, because this is seemingly heard only during the first few days of August and then is shifted under some table where it’s not heard for a long time.

For too long women have been receiving the crumbs and some handouts here and there. Much too much money goes into development of men and boys in sport.

It’s about time that government intervention, particularly via the national portfolio committee on sport, is implemented. It is always the men’s interest in sport that is looked after. The RSA’s portfolio committee on sport has never had a hearing into the negatives, grievances and challenges which curtail, impede and serve as obstacles to women’s advancement in sport.

There is very much sports talent and potential amongst girls and women, but how are we going to know our sports talent if we don’t give them the best support? Just as we discover men’s and boys sports potential, because of the support given, so too, must that support be given to women and girls in sport.

Saluting Freegender’s Walk For Justice By Cheryl Roberts

4 Feb

 

 

ImageImageImageImageOn Saturday, 2 February, I joined a walk for justice. I was there to give support to a social justice campaign against abuse, rape, homophobia, hate. I wanted to be there demanding justice for sportswomen who are victims of abuse and rape.

When one of the youngest participants in the ‘Walk For Justice’, a 10 year old girl footballer (name withheld because she is a minor) was so overcome with grief and sadness, that she broke down along the walk and cried uncontrollably saying ‘I miss Sihle’ (Sihle was a teenage footballer with Winnies football club and became another of Cape Town’s several victims of hate), I knew yet again, not only of the power of grassroots activism but also of the imperative existence of community organizations like ‘Freegender’, who is the voice that roaring and being heard.

I love walking; most of my walks are done daily alongside the Atlantic ocean and the Sea Point promenade where I stay. I had never done this walk before; the one organised by Freegender, with a start in Phillippi East and proceeding to Guguletu. This walk was a call for justice, to hand over a memorandum to Guguletu police station, demanding the arrest of a male rapist and abuser who has been seen out and about in various communities, yet not having been arrested and convicted of his horrific attack on Millicent whose sexuality is lesbian.

On Saturday morning, when I arrived in Luzoko, Phillipi East, the walk was already underway. I joined it after 7am, along Symphony Way, with mixed feelings. I was happy the walk had begun but disappointed in the small number of protesters. I wanted to see thousands of people walking for justice. After all, Freegender had worked hard to pull off this successful protest action. I had also created a ‘Sparkling Women’ supporters event on Facebook; the reason being to create awareness. I didn’t expect thousands to respond to the call for justice, but I wanted to see the reaction. And I desperately wanted thousands of people taking to the streets, demanding justice.

The walk progressed, and I began to see the immediate success of ‘Walk For Justice’. As part of the action, pamphlets were handed out to people walking on the streets: pamphlets pointing out the rapist, thus alerting people to the rapist and reasons for this protest action.

Along the route, cars hooted in support as they saw the walkers/marchers, people came out of their homes and spaza/ container shops to see what was going on, children responded from their playing areas and gave a listen to the singing of the marchers.

Also along this route of about 10km’s, through the streets of Phillippi, Crossroads, Nyanga and Guguletu, people spontaneously joined in whilst the message was shouted out that no longer was abuse and rape of women and lesbians being tolerated. Police action and justice was demanded!

Rooted in the community that is Khayalitsha is Freegender, a fearless, vibrant and fiery community organisation which provides a vital space and interaction for non-conforming and lesbian women. Founded by human rights and LGBTI activist, Funeka Soldaat, Freegender is the safe haven community structure for women who love women. Freegender is not a rich NGO, neither is it funded by foreign donors.

In fact, the NPO that is Freegender has no money and funders. Freegender operates and exists on the passion of the women who make up Freegender. Yet, this community structure gets much more activism done and roars louder than several government events and projects and NGO’s and NPO’s who are funded and have salaried, fulltime employees.

The members of Freegender know they are on their own; they are not waiting for any organization or person from outside to come and save them. Neither are they crying they are victims who can’t help themselves. Freegender are roaring; saying who they are and what type of society they want to live in.

Although a little apprehensive about the route and long walk, there was no way I was backing out. I did tell Funeka during the week that I was definitely in the march for justice but that I mustn’t go and hit golf balls, then wake up with an inflamed knee which would prohibit my movement.

I enjoyed the walk. Snapped several photo’s from my blackberry, watched from the street as I walked ahead and saw justice being demanded. I marveled at the young social justice activists using their voice, and respected the tireless, wiser and older activists who had walked for freedom years ago. And I smiled at the children who clapped their hands and raised their fist in support of the walk.

But most of all, I applauded with pride, the youth players and members of Winnies Ladies football club. They were walking for justice for one of their players, Millicent who was in the walk for justice.

These girl and women footballers didn’t need to be in the march; they could have been playing football, the sport they love. But Winnies Ladies football club is not any other women’s football team. Based in Guguletu, and formed over twenty years ago by the visionary Winnie Qhuma, who never had a chance to play sport, and her husband Jeffrey, Winnies FC has, over the years, had several of their players becoming victims of homophobia, hate, rape and assault. Zoliswa Nkonyane became internationally known seven years ago in death, when the trial of her homophobic murderers went around the world as news.

As I watched the youth football players of Winnies, including the 10 year old player, who told me along the walk how she loved football, was captain of her team who called her ‘Maradona’, had scored two goals and was going to buy her new boots, I knew that this march and many more like this, was absolutely imperative. It was a necessity and imperative until we eliminated homophobia and hate from our society.

By the time we reached the gate of the Guguletu police station, we were tired but enthusiastic about the memorandum handover. I would do it again and again. I started out disappointed with the hundreds who didn’t arrive to participate in the ‘Walk For Justice’ but I finished the walk satisfied that a social justice message had been carried across many, many streets.

I also know that one can’t force people into protest action. Whilst we can make people aware and inform them of events, it’s ultimately up to people to support and participate. I also understand that not all people who would have wanted to support the walk for justice were able to do so because of varying reasons and commitments.

But what I do know, is that few people are committed to social justice activism, whilst many people are quite prepared to go along in life, either remaining quiet or thinking they are not a victim.

However, the statement had been made. The voices roared and the anger was expressed Fists were clenched and raised, the feet walked, and our strength grew during a long community walk of protest action. What the ‘Walk For Justice’ demonstrated was that Freegender was not tolerating homophobia, hate or assault and neither was Freegender waiting for someone from outside the community or an international event to come along and shine the spotlight on their demands.