A group of women, led by Lucinda Evans from non-profit organisation Philisa Abafazi Bethu, are spending their Women’s Day by protesting against gender-based violence. The protest began outside the Bishopscourt residence of Anglican Archbishop Thabo Makgoba early August 9.

The women are taking a stand against gender-based violence and the Anglican Church of Southern Africa’s (ACSA) reported lack of response to such abuse. They are specifically protesting for justice for Reverend June Major, an Anglican priest from the Cape Town Diocese.

Reverend Major was allegedly raped by a fellow priest in 2002 at Grahamstown Seminary. Despite reporting the rape to the South African Police Service (SAPS) and to the Church authorities, her rapist reportedly continues to minister to congregations and justice has not been served.

Women protest against GBV outside Archbishop's home

Speaking at the protest, Evans says: “We choose not to celebrate Women’s Day because we have nothing to celebrate. In a country where we, the women, are unsafe. In a country where gender-based violence is the national sport. This morning we are in front of the Archbishop of South Africa’s home and we’re here for the justice for June Dolley.”
According to Evans, police asked Major what underwear she was wearing when the alleged rape occurred.

Women protest against GBV outside Archbishop's home

They are calling on the Archbishop to respond to the allegations and reopen the case. Until then, they will be hanging panties outside his residence for the next 180 days.

Women protest against GBV outside Archbishop's home

Major says that since the alleged rape, she has faced much hardship like homelessness and abuse, all while dealing with the emotional trauma of rape.

In a Facebook post, she explains that she initially stayed quiet about the alleged rape because she felt shame.

For years, I kept it all inside. You are told to not talk about such things. Also the shame that is attached with being raped, feeling dirty; so I kept quiet,” she says. “I felt so alone, had nightmares, freaked out when a stranger would even touch me. I kept it all inside and bit by bit, it ate away at me. I had no one to talk with about it. Figured that everyone was dealing with their own issues, so who would care about mine.”

In 2016, Major began a hunger strike in response to the Church’s silence on her case. Not much success came from this protest, and Major says that fellow priests were forbidden from making contact with her thereafter.

In July 2020, Dolley began another seven-day hunger strike and pitched a tent outside the Archbishop’s home.

On July 6, ACSA pledged to launch an internal disciplinary process to address Major’s allegations. It will also ask State prosecutors, who declined to press charges some years ago, to re-open the case.

Responding to her protest action outside the gates of the Archbishop’s official residence in Cape Town, Archbishop Thabo Makgoba has addressed her twice, once on the day she began her protest, and again on Saturday. He told her the Church is committed to follow a fair, just and transparent process in which she will have the opportunity to state her case, and the priest she has accused will have a chance to state his,” reads their statement.

On August 4, Major responded to the statement by saying the investigation should be done by a fully independent, credible body.

“For 18 years, this beloved church of mine has protected my rapist, allowing him to minister to other women and children. For these reasons, I believe that an investigation conducted by people who are on the payroll of, and aligned to the church, would only serve to further victimize me,” reads her statement.

Picture/s: Facebook / Justice for Rev. June Dolley Major and for All Victims/Survivors of Abuse

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