The ‘Thursdays in Black’ campaign protests began in the 1970s and its roots lie in groups such as Mothers of the Disappeared in Argentina. These women began wearing black sashes in honour of their friends and family members who were disappearing, being raped, and abused. They would gather every Thursday in silence to protest the loss of loved ones under the military dictatorship, with the aim of raising the government’s awareness that these acts of violence were happening in their homeland. Other groups have developed including women who wanted to express outrage at the rape-death camps in war torn Bosnia,the Black Sash in South Africa and women who oppose the Israel occupation of the West Bank and the abuse of the Palestinians.
In the 1980s, ‘Thursdays in Black’ became an international human rights campaign supported by the World Council of Churches as a peaceful way of saying ‘I support the human right of women to live in a world without violence, rape and fear.’ The focus of the WCC campaign was a peaceful protest against rape and violence – the by-products of war and conflict. The campaign focuses on ways that individuals can challenge attitudes that cause rape and violence.
‘Thursdays in Black’ encourages everyone (not just women) to wear the black campaign T-shirt, other black clothing or simply a campaign badge every Thursday as a sign of their support. Wearing black on Thursdays indicates you are tired of putting up with violence, and demand communities where we can all walk safely without fear; fear of being beaten up, fear of being verbally abused, fear of being raped, fear of discrimination. It shows that you want to be free. It is not a campaign confined only to countries at war, but recognizes that violence takes many forms – including domestic violence, sexual assault, rape, incest, murder, female infanticide, genital mutilation, sexual harassment, discrimination and sex trafficking.
The campaign focuses on ways that individuals can challenges attitudes that cause rape and violence. It reinforces at both a personal and public level that there is something wrong with a world that will allow the human rights of women, men and children to be abused and threatened. It provides an opportunity for people to become part of a worldwide movement which enables the despair and pain and anger about rape and other forms of violence to be transformed into political action.
In South Africa the campaign was launched by the Diakonia Council of Churches during the 16 Days of Activism Campaign at the end of 2008, as an ongoing drive to raise awareness and encourage people to work towards a world without rape and violence against women and children.
“We encourage local churches to join hands with people around the world by wearing black on Thursdays to indicate that we are tired of putting up with rape and violence in our communities and that we have a desire for a community where we can all walk safely without fear of being beaten up, verbally abused, raped, of being discriminated against due to one’s gender or sexual orientation.”
“Wearing black on Thursdays highlights the unacceptably high levels of abuse against women in our society.”
The response has been positive and many people, both women and men, have committed themselves to wearing black on Thursdays. This is an outward sign of mourning and of standing in solidarity with women who have died at the hands of their partners and signifies a desire to make a difference in our world.
The buttons have been distributed at various workshops, where gender-based violence is addressed and where the links between HIV infection and gender injustice are stressed. The members of the Self Help Groups are being empowered to understand the implications of gender-based violence and many of them appreciate the opportunity of wearing black on Thursdays to highlight this debilitating scourge in our rural communities.”
Various churches have distributed the buttons and information leaflets at their Synods and other gatherings of church leaders. In the past three years approximately 6,000 buttons and flyers have been distributed – some as far afield as Cape Town. Diakonia Council of Churches’ website promoted the campaign during the 16 Days of Activism Campaign and this additional source of information solicited much interest.
The campaign has been adopted by many organisations and CABSA enthusiastically embraced this in 2012
If you would like more information about the Thursdays in Black Campaign or would like someone to address your church or organisation on this topic, please contact CABSA or the Diakonia Council of Churches office.
You can order buttons or get more information from CABSA or Diakonia. Diakonia Council of Churches office on  310-3500. CABSA: Contact Lyn at 011 796 6830 or by e-mail.