On 9 August 1956, roughly 20 000 women from around the country amassed in a landmark march to the Union Buildings. Their reason: to protest restrictions on the movements of Black women in urban areas by the apartheid government. The day was a success, and continues to enjoy commemoration in our democratic nation where ALL South Africans may move about freely, without a Dom Pas.
Sadly, the era of bodily autonomy being denied is far from over.
Now You Have Touched the Women
In the fight to unleash Dagga for ALL, the stories of women facing gross injustices continue to stand out. Under-represented and generally made exceedingly vulnerable by the unjust laws that continue to criminalise ordinary citizens, women from all walks face discrimination and violence in the face of ongoing prohibition. The harms they face are often collaterally informed, but women – mothers, daughters, sisters – are not collateral damage to be swept aside.
Indeed, mothers are not only forced to witness their children face the boots and cuffs of our thugs in blue, they are often brutalised alongside their offspring. Elderly mothers are just as easily knocked to the ground as their sons and daughters who cultivate the Plant within their Constitutionally granted Rights.
Reports of mothers holding their traumatised children while their partners are bound and their homes raided make their way to us on our arrest line all too often.
Unlawfully arrested with incorrect warrants only to be left to the mercy of those they share holding cells with over weekends, wives cry out to their husbands in the dark, facing realities so very hopeless and stark.
These instances are indeed a sordid summary of the numerous injustices faced by our decidedly more vulnerable sisters and mothers, yet they are not unique to this half of our community. These accounts of trauma and suffering have all come to us through our 24/7 Arrest Helpline. They are all stark reminders that we are not free until we are ALL free!
Since starting this fight, we have recorded far too many instances of sisters, mothers, daughters, nieces, aunts, friends – being hurt by the political and social campaigns against Cannabis. Our brothers, fathers, sons, nephews, uncles, and indeed friends are equally impacted, but the harms they face are more readily expected. We have somehow separated the ladies from the harms in our minds while knowing statistically women are often faced with worse injustices due to their imposed and perceived softness.
You Have Struck a Rock
Yet, our sisters are not soft. We are as hard as the rocks we are pelted with.
Our own Myrtle Clarke (of the Plant) entered this fight after her own bodily autonomy was violated by the thugs in blue on that dark night back in 2010 when she and the late (truly great) Jules Stobbs were arrested in their home for Dagga. Little did the arresting officers realise that they had indeed struck a rock, and that our fiery brother and sister would rise up and lead us in unleashing the Plant for ALL!
While it remains strange to consider that a culture and fight built around the love for the female expression of a Plant is still so engendered with violence and an ongoing denial of basic Human Rights, we ALL have our part to play in seeing justice finally won.
As we continue to work toward unleashing Dagga – ALL of it – we need to recognise that we cannot separate males from females. The only time this makes sense is when we grow the Plant, not the movement!
In a Women’s Day talk last year, Myrtle highlighted that the time for separation is over, and that women and men are equally accountable for the change that we need to see happen toward ensuring we are ALL free to embrace our relationship with the Plant.
You Have Dislodged a Boulder
Of course, recognising the various roles fulfilled by each other in the many settings we find Dagga is key in this. When men are profiled and arrested, mothers are left to care for their progeny with blighted incomes. Women are also more likely to transport and trade the Cannabis they have cultivated to secure livelihoods due to being less likely to face the same level of profiling afforded their male counterparts.
However, one’s gender does not shield one from the full force of law, as illustrated all too clearly above. Ladies and gentlemen, we fear the same harms from the same entities who refuse to recognise rulings in our favour in the Constitutional Court, and even police directives on Dagga Arrests – the 2019 one, not the latest mystery one we are yet to receive following the Cannabis Phakisa.
In the growing understanding of Harm Reduction, it is abundantly clear that the harms of law enforcement and policies based in prohibition myths rather than grounded in evidence and centred on Human Rights must be reduced, without separation nor preference.
You Will be Crushed
Sisters and brothers, one and all, we need to rise now as our sisters and brothers before us. It is time we remind those who perpetuate their unspeakable cruelty against us for our relationship with the Plant that we have had ENOUGH!
We will no longer take ANY punishment meted out against us for our relationship with our Teacher Plant – she has taught us lessons aplenty of how to heal our nation with fiya!
Let’s burn our fields clean of prohibition, and rise to dance in our Fields of Green for ALL!