I ever anticipated of relocating to South Africa later in life. In my 20’s I watched Scandal on E.tv Monday to Friday. Friday evenings were a perfect time to lock myself in my tiny bedsitter to recover a missed episode. Do not doubt me, I learn a little bit of Zulu; Umtwana is a child, Isifino is food, ilgwu or ndlu is house, umama and ubaba is mum and dad and so forth. My curiosity was sensational…South Africa is pretty good, nevertheless, let’s agree that a coin has two sides.
My random pick of a book that narrated much of the epic struggle leading to South Africa’s Freedom from Apartheid-Long Walk To Freedom by Nelson Mandera from the UoN Library was a plus for this post. Till the last chapter, we were inseparable- to and from classes in the matatu as we call them here in +254, else they are the public transportation means. Nelson Mandela in one of the last chapters laments that his boyhood freedom was an illusion, of the pains and wounds the policy of apartheid had created in South Africa and how it would be an intergenerational oppression.
28 years later as post apartheid state, the profound oppression lingers everywhere in South Africa stemming to a situation the InterNations describes as one of the worst places to live, particularly for women and girls. Sexual orientation and race are fundamental intersectionality in the centre of South Africa’s human rights and development. What does this explicitly mean for women, and especially women of color, women of low socio-economic status, marginalised groups especially the LGBTI, commercial sex workers and immigrants.
South Africa’s Disturbing Statistics-I Got Goose Bumps!!
The abuse of women’s rights in South Africa remain high, making it one of the unsafest place for women in the world (Human Rights Watch). In 2021, President Ramaphosa lamented of his country as experiencing a second pandemic after Covid-19- domestic violence. Same year, South Africa had the highest cases of femicide in the world. In fact, intimate partner violence (IPV) was estimated at 51%, while the situation worsened due to covid-19 restrictions.1 woman dies of domestic violence every 3 hours.1 in every 8 girls drop out of school as a result of pregnancy related issues. Rape Crisis Center reports of only 4% of reported rape cases will be prosecuted. 1 in 5 children are sexually abused, representing 19.8% compared to the global average of 18% for girls and 8% for boys ( South Africa Police Services).Victims have a myriad of reasons- strong culture of silence from victims (caused by threats and stigma), scot free perpetrators, police ignorance and harassment, vulnerable groups such as LGBI, sex workers, refugees and asylum seekers fear discrimination. Who is blame for the brutal prevalence?
A Culture or Myth in South Africa: Rape
Rape is demeaning, it is hurtful, very traumatising, an extremely agregious crime. Rape is graveios. Rape in South Africa has been normalised in schools, public transport means , malls, homes. Most black women know so well their dignity remain elusive and existence is fragile…they remain on the receiving end! Rape culture in South Africa is a result of failed institutional frameworks, gendered socialisation, deeply-entrenched patriarchal beliefs, attitudes and norms, coloniality and racism. It is a culture because sexual assault, incidents of violence and rape have been joked about, talked of less often, lack the assertiveness it needs, it is a normalised mundane. A publication by Interpol names South Africa as a “Rape Capital of the World” a situation described by ” there’s a probability that a woman born in South Africa being raped than to read”.
Pumla Dineo Gqola Book: Bottom of the Barrel
Pumla Dineo Gqola in her award winning book, Rape: A South Africa Nightmare unpacks the misery behind South Africa’s gloomy phenomenon. Rape in South Africa is more or less of a pre-apartheid incident. It is a repercussion of male dominance coupled with aggression leaving no room for trust, gentleness and compassion.However, she point at rape as a punishable offence (by hanging) during the post-apartheid if only a white women became a victim. Rape of black women was socially acceptable stemming to other racial and gender issues against black women to diffuse in the struggle for independence. Particularly, black families lost their fertile land to the colonies, education, healthy and adequate housing are still far-fetched dreams.
Sexual initiation through abduction and forced sex is part of the patriarchal fabrics worn daily in South Africa. Young men are made to belief lack of sex causes mental problems. So, innocent girls are abducted and “housed” only for young men to line-up for their turn to have sex to avoid serious mental health issues. Its not okay people! This is obsolete. That is a tips of an iceberg. Talk of corrective rape, a kind of sexual violence so rampant in South Africa particularly among the LGBT+communities- A group member is raped with the intentions of bringing them back to conformity of sexual and gender orientation norms by combining homophobic and gender based-violence. In the South African context, the prejudice is an intersection of white supremacy, patriarchal systems and gender inequality. That’s not what it is, rather, violence, abuse and malice-no justification whatever.
As if that is not solemn enough, rape has been used as joke, not one, twice or thrice. In 2011, Durex, a condom manufacturing company got in hot soup for tweeting, ” Why did God give men penises? So they’d at least have one way to shut a woman up.” This was a nasty joke considering 1 in 4 men admits to raping one woman. Latest reports indicate a surge in rape-10,000 cases in three months(Anadolu Agency, 2021). A similar joke is seen in Love Island SA, when one of the cast advices the other to rape the boyfriend who claims he is a virgin and saving himself for marriage. Were such remarks a water down, an incite or confirmation of normalcy?
So, What Next South Africa?
Even as all these inequalities manifested through discrimination, violence, poverty, HIV&AIDS and inaccessible privileges and opportunities continue to wreak harm on South African women and girls, one cannot but wonder of the government’s take. Has the South African government failed to enforce laws for protection of its own women and girls? Has South Africa prioritised sustainable change on legislations for gender violence? Are stakeholders-society, schools, homes and media talking in one language; non-sexist subjects, challenge of patriarchal systems, advocating and lobbying for gender equality measures, whistle blowing on impunities to advance the rights and freedoms of women and girls.