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Men hang your heads in shame

19 March 2013, 19:19

Research  studies  into  rape  and  gender  based  violence  in  South  Africa  have  over  the  years  revealed  shocking  and  disturbing  truths  about  men’s  attitudes  towards  women.

In  1999  a  research  study  by  CIET Africa  made  findings  which  came  as  no  surprise,  especially  given  our  long – held  title  as  the  world’s  rape  capital.  It  was  reported  that  one  in  three  of  the  4000  women  questioned  by   CIET Africa  said  they  had  been  raped  in  the  past  year.

In  a  related  survey  conducted  among  1500  school  children  in  Soweto,  a  quarter  of  all  the  boys  interviewed  said  that  ‘jack  rolling’,  a  term  for  gang  rape,  was  fun.

Ten  years  later,  in  2009,  a  study  into  rape  and  HIV  by  the  Medical  Research  Council  painted  a  depressing  picture  of  a  country  whose  men  are  so  sick  they  derive  pleasure  from  inflicting  pain  on  defenseless  women  and  children.  It  was  reported  that  of  the  1,738  men  who  participated  in  the  study,  28%  admitted  to  rape  and  confessed  to  attacking  more  than  one  victim.

With  this  in  mind  I  hope  we  can  all  agree  that  rape  and  gender – based  violence  are  not  new  phenomena  in  this  country.

The  brutal  rape  and  murder  of  Anene  Booysen  tells  us  that  as  years  go  by  South  Africa  is  becoming   more  and  more  unsafe  for   women  and  girls.

It’s  quite  saddening  that  South  African  women  are  not  safe  even  in  their  own  homes.  Not  only  are  they  victimized  by  perverts  in  the  streets  and  other  public  spaces,  at  home  they  fend  off  attacks  by  the  very  people  who  should  be  protecting   them - their  husbands,  boyfriends,  cousins  and uncles.

Sadder  still  is  the  fact  that  this  madness  has  even  found  its  way  into  the  houses  of  worship.  Earlier  this  month  The  Zion  Christian  Church  was  rocked  by  a  sex  scandal  involving  a  one  of  its    trusted  prophets. This  happened  hardly  a  month  after  a  trainee  pastor  with  the  Universal  Church  of  the  Kingdom  of  God  was  arrested  for  allegedly  raping  one  of  his  female  congregants.

Our  society  has  become  so  rotten  that  even  churches,  of  all  places,  have  now  become  hunting  grounds  for  sex – crazed  maniacs.

It  remains  to  be  seen  if  the  Booysen  family  will  see  justice  or  not.  The  justice  system  has  over  the  years  failed  to  deliver  justice  to  rape  and  gender  based  violence  victims,  not  to  mention  the   police’s  insensitivity  towards  rape  and  the  humiliating  cross – examinations  that  victims  are   often  subjected  to.

Now  that  the  condemning, the  demonizing  and  the  hurling  of  insults  at  the  young  men  who  took  Anenes  life  has  died  down,  we  need  to  pause  and  ask  ourselves:  How  did we  become  such  a  cruel  society?

The  answer  to  this  question  lies  in  our  attitude  towards  women.  I  can  already  hear  most  of  you  exclaiming:  I  am  not  a  rapist.  It’s  a  good  thing  that  you  are  not  a  rapist,  but  this  is   not  about  what  you  are  not  doing.  It’s  instead  about  the  what  you  should  be  doing  to  contribute  in  the  fight  against  this  disgusting  culture  of  treating  women  and  girls  as  sex  objects. 

It’s  about  the  role  that  you  should  be  playing  in  building   a  rape - free  society.  A  society  where  women  walk  the  streets  without  fear  of  being  subjected  to  sexist  taunts  or  raped. 

Attitude  change  towards  women  is  the  only  precondition  to  this  society. 

 We’ve  now  reached  a  point  where  not  being  a  rapist  is  just  not  enough.  We  can  take   to  the  streets  and  sing  the  “real  men  don’t  rape”  slogan  from  dusk  till  dawn,  but  for  as  long  as  we  find  humor  in  sexist  jokes  and  keep  quite  when  our  friends  or  brothers  abuse  women  we  should  admit  that  we  don’t  deserve  to  be  called  real  men.  And  that  we  don’t  even  deserve  their   love,  compassion  and  respect.

The  best  thing  we  can  do  right  now  is  to  be  honest  with  ourselves  and  admit  that  when  it  comes  to  treating  women  and  children  we’ve  been  nothing  but  jerks.  Let’s  face  it,  our  cruel  and  degrading  treatment  of  women  and  children  are  the  reason  why  organizations  such  as  Rape  Crisis,  Women  Against  Rape,  People  Opposing  Women  Abuse  and  others  came  into  being.  If  we  were  not  so  cruel  towards  them  there  would  have  been  no  need  for  the  Department  of  Justice  and Constitutional  Development  to  contemplate reinstating  the  specialized  sexual  offences  courts.

To  make  up  for  all this  we  should  just  hang  our  heads  in  shame,  be  real  men  and give them the love  and  respect  they  need  and  deserve.  We  owe  them  that  much.

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