#ExpectRespect – what, why, how?

What does ‘Expect Respect’ mean to you?

When this hashtag first appeared on Sex Rights Africa Network (SRAN) social media posts, its creators were adamant – don’t tell people what it means, let them decide and interpret for themselves!

Network members and supporters all over Eastern and Southern Africa have been adding #ExpectRespect to photos, posters, tweets and texts on almost every aspect of sexual and reproductive health rights. Whether they are advocating to end gender based violence and child marriage, to promote LGBTIQA rights, to demand menstrual health rights or HIV treatment access, the tag is ExpectRespect.

So what does #ExpectRespect mean? Why are we not demanding respect for rights that have, after all been guaranteed in international legislation going back decades? How can we expect respect when what hundreds of millions of people wake up to on a daily basis is the blatant disrespect of their basic human rights to life, equality, dignity, protection, bodily integrity and health?

Is expecting respect an aspiration, a nice idea? Is it naïve and unrealistic? Or is it a way of thinking and approaching rights violations that can shift the way we relate to people?

Human rights defender and Sex Rights Africa Network movement builder Dumiso Gatsha wasn’t sure that #ExpectRespect was appropriate or even defensible in the landscape of hurt and oppression that is sexual and reproductive health rights. But after taking in part in the SRAN Movement Building Forum in Johannesburg in December 2018, Dumi concluded that ‘Building advocacy on the premise of expecting mutual regard for each other, as opposed to demanding so, allows for dialogue.’  Inviting ‘the offensive and repulsive to clearly express itself’, could open doors that would usually be shut by power, patriarchy and privilege at the first sign of confrontation.

Find out more in Dumi’s blog and feel free to share what #ExpectRespect means to you.