The SMMS community joined the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN)’s Gender and Religion Programme and Ujamaa Centre, as well as other gender justice organisations and activists, in the International Silent Protest to highlight the silence that exists in society and institutions of higher learning around sexual and gender-based violence, at UKZN’s Pietermaritzburg campus, on 7 August.

For the whole day, the protesters had their mouths taped, while holding placards with messages that denounced rape culture, the dehumanising effects of gender-based violence and the stigma around abuse. The protesters also highlighted the hostile and inhuman treatment of victims and survivors of sexual and gender-based violence.

The protest created a safe space for survivors to disclose, often for the first time, their harrowing experiences of abuse, often at the hands of their loved ones.

They also engaged in exercises such as meditation, yoga spaces, as well as arts and crafts as a way of venting their frustrations and emotions in a safe way.

After a day of activities at UKZN, the protesters then marched to SMMS for the “Unsilencing ritual” in which they declared:

“Today we were silenced. We chose to be in our bodies, without a voice, in solidarity with the many whose bodies are misused and abused daily. Today we were silenced in solidarity with broken and abused bodies. In this sacred space, we stand in the company of Jesus – who hanged on a cross, also in solidarity with abused and broken bodies. We remember that, while his body was being tortured, one of his last spoken “words” was: “I thirst”. And that, we too, are thirsty… So, we remove the tape from our mouths and break our fast by taking our first sip of life-giving water…”

Survivors described participating in the silent protest as “an intense and liberating experience.”