Guest Column

Rising up against rape in South Africa

2013-02-12 07:20

Lauren Hess

The brutal rape and murder of 17-year-old Anene Booysen in the Western Cape left South Africans not only outraged but wondering how to properly respond to the country’s rape crisis.

Last week, as the story of Anene’s last hours grabbed the nation’s attention, the top two trending topics on Twitter were “Stop Rape” and “Say No 2 Rape”.

Some radio stations ran a campaign to signal each time a woman was being raped somewhere in the country (according to statistics) with a beep. Radio presenters offered rape and sexual abuse survivors the opportunity to share their stories.

It seemed as if South Africa had finally started having a much-needed conversation.

But the outcry was met with something of a backlash from others. Pierre de Vos wrote a blog stating why he wouldn’t be “joining the chorus of voices protesting against rape”.

Many felt that people were merely paying lip service to the anti-rape cause and felt that nothing tangible was being done. In fact, by Monday this week, the rape hashtags had disappeared from the top trending topics in the country.

So how do we make a real difference against women and children abuse?

One possible answer? One Billion Rising.

One Billion Rising is a bold, positive global movement that aims to address violence against women and children.
It was started almost a year ago by US activist and Vagina Monologues playwright Eve Ensler.

The campaign takes its name from statistics which show that one billion people, or one in three women, will be raped or beaten in her lifetime.

Feminist and activist, Gillian Schutte, started the largely under-reported South African movement in July 2012.

Numerous events have taken place since then and various South African public figures and NGOs such as Sonke Gender Justice Network have joined the campaign.

But OBR wants its big day to be on 14 February 2013 - the day of the opening of Parliament and the State of the Nation speech - when it wants followers to “walk out, dance, rise up, and demand an end to violence against women”.
Hollywood celebrities including Kerry Washington, Anne Hathaway, Dylan McDermott and Robert Redford have joined the movement.
Activities have been planned for rural areas, towns and cities around the country, including Marikana, Cape Town, Durban, Grahamstown and the main event at Constitution Hill in Johannesburg.

Hopefully the violence suffered by Anene won’t be in vain. Hopefully South Africans will take part.

“People should go apeshit in the streets,” Schutte says.

To find out more about One Billion Rising South Africa and what events they have planned, visit the Facebook page or follow them on Twitter.

- Follow Lauren on Twitter

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