Koleka Putuma's New Poem Speaks to South Africa's Femicide Crisis
'This country buries us before we are born. Calls us by our obituaries before it calls us by our names,' writes Putuma.
South Africa has a long history of femicide and gender-based violence. However, over the past few months, this seeming war against the country's women has surged with numerous young women being abducted, raped and subsequently found dead—if found at all. Last month, South African women marched to both the Johannesburg Stock Exchange (JSE) in Sandton and the Parliament buildings in Cape Town in protest of the rising violence against women and children. Against that backdrop, award-winning South African poet and author of Collective Amnesia, Koleka Putuma, has recently penned an unsettling poem entitled "Every Three Hours" which details the nightmare that women in the country are faced with on a daily basis.
As of last year, the official statistics show that every three hours, a woman is murdered in South Africa with as many as 3000 having lost their lives in 2018 alone. This year's figures are not much better. According to News24, while the murder rate of women has decreased slightly, that of children has increased dramatically. Additionally, the rate of sexual offenses committed against women has surged went by a whopping 4.6 percent.
Putuma is no stranger to confronting the uncomfortable or the taboo in her works. Poems such as "No Easter Sunday for Queers", "Coming Home" and "Suicide" are testament to that and "Every Three Hours" is no different. The poem speaks about the rate at which women are murdered in South Africa, the lack of autonomy, safe spaces, effective policing and failing justice system, all of which have little regard for the bodies and lives of South African women.
Published on the Johannesburg Review of Books, an excerpt of the poem reads as follows:
[every 3 hours, one of us does not make it]
this country hangs our dignity at half-mast.
waves our bodies as lessons to be learnt.
as moments that should teach us something.
as modules. tests. experiments.
my existence is not for your teaching
to dislocate my mother's throat six feet under
and compensate her grief with scholarships and amended policies.
policies that have gathered dust before they have even been drafted.
You can read the rest of the poem here.