Narratives and testimonies of women detainees in the anti-apartheid struggle

Citation:

Hiralal, Kalpana. 2015. “Narratives and Testimonies of Women Detainees in the Anti-Apartheid Struggle.” Agenda: Empowering Women for Gender Equity 29 (4): 34–44. doi:10.1080/10130950.2015.1104883.

Author: Kalpana Hiralal

Abstract:

South Africa's road to democracy was a product of the contributions of both men and women in the freedom struggle. Thousands of women risked their lives and sacrificed their families. In the post-apartheid era the narratives of the nationalist struggle have largely focused on popular and well known men and women, their experiences in exile and their role in the African National Congress (ANC) which led to the under-ground movement. This article seeks to document the lived experiences of women inmates and detainees in the liberation struggle, whose stories have remained in the shadows of dominant nationalist narratives. Thousands of women were arrested, subjected to naked body searches, torture, verbal abuse and sexual harassment. Women experienced both physical and psychological humiliation. This article argues that prison, despite being a "site of humiliation", repression, and subversion, also became a "site of female community and resistance" (Thapar-Bjorkert, 2006:12,25) and that women political prisoners were capable of challenging and negotiating their incarceration. This study challenges dominant narratives of the nationalist struggle by making women inmates and detainees crucial historical subjects and introduces the prison as another terrain of political struggle, resistance, confrontation, and negotiation in the telling of the liberation struggle.

Keywords: gender, prison, apartheid, Narratives, women detainees

Topics: Armed Conflict, Gender, Women, Health, Mental Health, Race, Sexual Violence, Sexual Exploitation and Abuse, Torture, Sexual Torture Regions: Africa, Southern Africa Countries: South Africa

Year: 2015

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