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Mbali, Mandisi (2005) “Disgraceful silences”: Charlene Smith’s challenge to the South African women’s movement. CCS Wolpe Review : 1-6.

South Africa has one of the highest proportions of female parliamentarians and cabinet ministers in the world. Gender equality is inscribed in the country’s constitution. South African feminists have been successful in campaigned for a number of pieces of important law reform. Yet, as Charlene Smith argued in her Wolpe lecture in March, the country’s levels of sexual assault, violence against women and HIV infection are some of the highest in the world. As Smith also argued in the same lecture, powerful men in government have many times tried to underplay the extent of violence against women or implicitly defend rapists and abusive men by criticising women such as Smith who speak out on the issue as motivated by racism. Perhaps even harder to comprehend is what Smith referred to in her lecture as “the disgraceful silence from women in power” in response to government’s inadequate response to violence against women.

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