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.