Shock and disgust at women churchgoers’ sexual assault in Khayelitsha over Easter – No freedom to be celebrated in South Africa

On the eve of South Africa’s Freedom Day, Action Society is disturbed and disgusted following the attack of 19 women who were forced to strip naked and perform sexual acts on two men in a Khayelitsha church. The incident occurred at the Blessings Zion Church over the Easter weekend. Action Society received a mandate from some victims to assist them with their cases.

According to the police, the assailants robbed congregants of cellphones and money and sexually assaulted the women – holding guns to their heads. A senior citizen who was attacked said the men forced their way into the church during loadshedding.

“When they came in, they told us to remove our clothes and beat us with the tables and chairs,” she told Action Society. The woman added that they proceeded to force sexual acts in full view of the other congregants, some even in front of their own family members.

Action Society’s Action Centre coordinator, Kaylynn Palm, was visibly shaken by what these women went through. “We are shocked, angry and extremely disgusted by what had occurred. These were teenagers and elderly women who had to endure these acts of violence, invasion of privacy and degradation. The ordeal lasted about an hour and a half, and the women said they just prayed for it to end.

“About 11 women are murdered every day, 18 women survive an attempted murder every day, and 48 women are seriously assaulted every day in this country. There is a war on the bodies of women and children. What freedom do our women have when they are constant targets? Some women no longer feel safe walking through the streets of their neighbourhoods and don’t feel safe sleeping in their homes. How can we then celebrate Freedom Day?” she said.

The men in the Khayelitsha case were arrested and appeared in court on 17 April 2023. The charges against them include three rapes, eight sexual assaults, housebreaking, intent to rob and robbery with aggravating circumstances.

“We will pressure authorities to prioritise this matter and have the men responsible stay behind bars. We want to see justice,” she said.

The two men are expected back in court on 5 May for bail application. Action Society will be in court on this day and closely monitor the case and offer support to the victims.

Please join here to support Action Society’s Action Centres to continue assisting women and children through similar cases.

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