Its 02.24 and I am sitting on my bed for some reason unable to sleep. I open my computer to read the news and complain to myself about many things including the economy, and eventually shrugged it off because that’s what you do.
I closed my computer in the effort to force myself to fall asleep, alas this does not help. After trying repeatedly in vain to fall asleep, I reopened my computer. I feel like something is stuck in my head which bothers me enough to not let me fall asleep. I wondered about the work I need to do in the soon to come few hours, the study loans I still needed to pay over the next years; but all these were usual things. And then it hit me. I have been subconsciously thinking about what is it that we as South Africans can do on a practical level to challenge and hopefully change some of the issues which bother us everyday.
Without reducing all our issues to one; one issue in particular often gives me sleepless nights. Why is it that a human being same as I am can have the ability to RAPE and torture someone? Even more concerning, why is it that this horrible deed is tolerated here in South Africa? Yes, I use the word tolerated because it is not uncommon for a rapist to walk free from our courts. It is also not uncommon to have people accusing the victim; pointing to their dress code, or the time at which they were out. While I agree that in some cases it may be irresponsible given the dangers and realities of our country, the real issue is deeper than this! The issue is not how people should or should not dress, or how early or late they should (or not) have the freedom to walk BUT rather why we have people committing these horrible acts and WHAT is it that we need to do to STOP this?
Unlike the economic frustrations and other issues which I usually shrug off and continue with my daily life, I could not bring myself to look away on this. I feel frustrated and helpless. I played scenarios in my head of a place where this is not the case; and played accordingly with scenarios which could lead us there. And frankly, they were all dreamy and too far to wait for (if they were ever to come). One thing stood out: if we really want to see this change, we NEED to stand up and do something about it. The time is long overdue that we should openly talk about this and pitch up solutions.
While I have very limited understanding of the laws and how they go about being put in place, I wondered how we as a society can make our collective voice heard through actively being part of the solution, including the suggestion of new laws. What is the real possibility of us rising up and meaningfully suggesting punishments we see fit for the crimes committed? Can we have a referendum in which every South African can vote on how we think (rapists in particular) should be dealt with in our society? Is this too much to ask for? I believe in order to make ours a true democracy, we need to stand up and work together because our circumstances are unique. The constant side-picking, politicising societal problems and being generally fine as long as it has not hit us close to home, will not take us far.
I invite you to put away your ego, religion, political alliance, race, ethnicity and focus particularly on this horrible act of rape. Let’s think up how we can take this forward. Remember bad things happen as good men stand by and do nothing!