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"The Demand of the Women of South Africa for the
Withdrawal of Passes for Women and the Repeal of the Pass Laws,"

Petition presented to the Prime Minister, Pretoria, 9
August 1956

We, the women of South Africa, have come here today. We represent and we
speak on behalf of hundreds of thousands of women who could not be with us. But
all over the country, at this moment, women are watching and thinking of us.
Their hearts are with us.

We are women from every part of South Africa. We are women of every race, we
come from the cities and the towns, from the reserves and the villages. We come
as women united in our purpose to save the African women from the degradation of
passes.

For hundreds of years the African people have suffered under the most bitter
law of all - the pass law which has brought untold suffering to every African
family.

Raids, arrests, loss of pay, long hours at the pass office, weeks in the
cells awaiting trial, forced farm labour - this is what the pass laws have
brought to African men. Punishment and misery - not for a crime, but for the
lack of a pass.

We African women know too well the effect of this law upon our homes, our
children. We, who are not African women, know how our sisters suffer.

Your Government proclaims aloud at home and abroad that the pass laws have
been abolished, but we women know this is not true, for our husbands, our
brothers? our sons are still being arrested, thousands every day, under these
very pass laws. It is only the name that has changed. The ``reference book"
and the pass are one.

In March 1952, your Minister of Native Affairs denied in Parliament that a
law would be introduced which would force African women to carry passes. But in
1956 your Government is attempting to force passes upon the African women, and
we are here today to protest against this insult to all women. For to us an
insult to African women is an insult to all women.

We want to tell you what the pass would mean to an African woman, and we want
you to know that whether you call it a reference book, an identity book, or by
any other disguising name, to us it is a PASS . And it means just this:-

  • That homes will be broken up when women are arrested underpass laws
  • That children will be left uncared for, helpless, and mothers will be torn
    from their babies for failure to produce a pass
  • That women and young girls will be exposed to humiliation and degradation
    at the hands of pass-searching policemen
  • That women will lose their right to move freely from one place to another.

In the name of women of South Africa, we say to you, each one of us, African,
European, Indian, Coloured, that we are opposed to the pass system.

We voters and voteless, call upon your Government not to issue passes to
African women.

We shall not rest until ALL pass laws and all forms of permits restricting
our freedom have been abolished.

We shall not rest until we have won for our children their fundamental rights
of freedom, justice, and security.