Gender justice can do without only the symbolism that accompanies International Women’s Day, and include effective legislation that are sensitised to the complex challenges faced by marginalised genders and sexual identities. Legislation must include a gendered-lens that focuses on the unique challenges faced by women of colour to access socio-economic justice, sexual and reproductive health rights, and safety and security. South Africans, in particular, must take conscious and deliberate steps to eradicate gender-based violence, create gender parity, and achieve gender justice in its society.
International Women’s Day is a global attempt to celebrate the significant progress that has been made in advancing women’s rights in some parts of the world, while reflecting on the obstacles that continue to bar us from progress. While we reflect on the challenges that continue to limit and exclude us, let us also ponder how this day of celebration and reflection embodies the disparity of power and privileges between white women and women of colour women; between upper-middle-class women, and working-class women; between urban women and rural women; between cis-heterosexual women and trans women. Recognise that International Women’s Day carries with it the potential to exclude and further marginalise certain types of women who fall within certain cultural contexts and socio-economic brackets; it is a, largely and inadvertently faux display of solidarity. Women of colour, queer, and trans women are routinely excluded from conversations around gender justice, and featured only as one-dimensional. Predominant narratives portray these individuals as either helpless, angry, primitive, or dysfunctional and in desperate need of a messiah. International Women’s Day must transcend the token of solidarity that it has become.
Gender-based and sexual violence are deeply entrenched crises that affects every facet our lives. Gender power imbalances control and dictate our choices, movements, and ways of engaging. If we, as a collective, are able to recognise that these power disparities are unjust and oppressive, we must garner the strength and will to rebel against it and actively dismantle the structures that sanction it. We must surpass gender justice rhetoric, tokenism and lip-service. Instead, we must actively prioritise marginalised voices. We must agitate for equality. We must defend and promote liberty. We must live and practice the Constitutional values we so quickly reference when our comfort is threatened. We must begin the work of truly seeing the humanity in others, and stoke the fires of empathy, compassion and acceptance.