”Written byNadia Hassim
“The Dangerous Reality of Travelling for Women in South Africa.”
Picture this: It’s midnight and you’re travelling home from a night out. You’re happy but tired, exhilarated from a good night spent with music and people you love. Most importantly- you’re safe with a clear route home.
Can’t picture it? You’re probably a woman travelling in South Africa.
Travelling in South Africa if you don’t have a license or a car is a mission. If you’re a woman, it’s just straight-up life-threatening. Let’s break it down, step by step, with some fun (read: incredibly fucked up) statistics for you.
Walking? 10,512 women were raped in the first three months of 2023 alone. There are also the 1,458 cases of attempted murder, 969 who were actually killed, and then the extra 15,000 who were assaulted. These don’t include incidents that aren’t reported. So… no, maybe no walking. Seems to be the quickest way to become abducted and land up as another statistic.
Taxis? Back in 2017, 56% of women who used taxis reported experiencing violence of some sort, and 69% also reported witnessing it. Bad enough as those statistics are, two women were given secret video cameras and captured what happened at the taxi rank as they waited. With ten hours of footage, more than 150 incidents of sexual harassment were reported. But, okay, let’s ignore all that. When have we ever felt safe when a taxi is on the road near us?
Bus? Say you manage to have a safe bus ride. There’s still the matter of walking to the bus (already a bad idea as previously discussed) and then of course waiting at the actual stop. If you have to get up early or finish work late, bus stops are deserted. Couple that with the fact that a lot of them are not well kept and maintained, the risk of assault is higher.
Train? Same issue as buses. Poorly kept train stations open up the door for more assault, much like bus stops, and overcrowded rides mean there are more opportunities for groping. Overall, trains are just as unsafe as any of the previous options I mentioned.
Right. So, we have Uber and Bolt left, yeah? In July 2022, 500 female passengers sued Uber in the United States for assault. They were kidnapped, stalked and a bunch of other very encouraging things. I don’t think I have to tell you that since South Africa’s crimes against women are some of the highest in the world that the statistics for us are probably ten times worse than the US.
Let’s breathe for a minute.
“10,512 women were raped in the first three months of 2023.”
As somebody who is privileged enough to be well-travelled, I’ve come to appreciate South Africa a lot. There’s so much to love. Its crimes against women are unfortunately not one of them. I went to a club in London with a friend and the two of us took the tube back, walked on the street at 2 a.m. and still made it home safely. I’m not saying things overseas are always better, but I can tell you that South Africa’s gender-based violence is unique in the worst way possible.
The people most disadvantaged by this are black women, Apartheid being the main reason. Since black people were forced into areas far away from where they were employed, travelling long hours in order to work and make a living is standard. Women are also more likely to travel than men, so yeah. Being a black woman puts you at the bottom of the pyramid.
The statistics of this all depressed me but I didn’t want to dump information without providing possible solutions for us. And while they’re bleak, I still wanted to bring light to them:
- If you’re taking an Uber, after you’ve checked the standards, take a picture of the number plate and send it to your closest contacts.
- Share your live location with close contacts through WhatsApp or enable FindMyPhone.
- Sit behind the passenger seat, not the driver’s seat. It’ll give you a clearer view of them.
- Always check for child lock before getting in.
- There’s a safety app called Namola, you unfortunately have to pay a monthly fee for it, but if you’re up to spending the extra money, it has a 24-hour, seven-day-a-week call centre of responders ready to go at any moment. There’s also a family safety feature that allows you to share your location with anyone you choose. They will receive notifications when you leave and arrive at a place.
- Trust your gut instinct. If something is putting you off a driver, situation, or person, trust your instinct and act accordingly.
- Make use of any male friends you have, like, they have to be useful for something.
- This might seem silly but I think it’s very important. It’s been proven that men target women who look like they can’t fight back and who seem like they will go easily. If you are ever in any situation, make the biggest fuss you’ve ever had to make in your life. Screaming, kicking, scratching, crying, anything. An acquaintance of mine was nearly abducted but she threw herself on the floor and screamed so loud that they got spooked and left her alone.
‘South Africa’s gender-based violence is unique in the worst way possible.’
To the women reading this, I hope there can come a time when we’re able to travel without worries or anxieties.
To the men reading this, just be fucking better.
These problems only exist because of men’s entitlement to women’s bodies and the culture of impunity our government fosters.
But make no mistake- women are lights.
We’re the sunshine that allows life to thrive, we’re the light switch in a dark room that eases nightmares, we’re the candles on a birthday cake bringing joy to the person blowing them out.
As pretty as light is, it burns.
We will not let you snuff us out anymore.