Women don't deserve a day

David Moseley

We've just come off a long weekend. There are violent protests in the Western Cape, there are people dying at Lonmin mine, others are suffering through the cold snap that's chilling the country. I'm almost certain there are other terrible things happening right now in South Africa that we don't know about, or probably don't want to know about.

There is always something terrible happening in South Africa.

I intended to distract further from reality this morning by writing a light-hearted piece on fear, as in "my biggest fear is being stuck in an elevator needing a pee". Nothing serious, just something to take the edge off.

I was trying to think of some other irrational "non-fears" to fluff out the piece when I realised I couldn't write that kind of article at all, because my biggest fear is no laughing matter...

Girl power

Last week Helen Moffett wrote a furious piece detailing, with little mincing of words, the total and utter inefficacy of Women's Day, the day where all South African men wake up early, make the missus some breakfast in bed and do their bit for equality.

I read her expletive-laced (a woman after my own heart) column and immediately thought, "calm down, crazy lady. At least Women's Day draws some attention to the plight of the needy".

Then I read it again. And again. And again. And like all the classics (barring Macbeth) it got better each time I poured over it.

Helen is angry. She's angry that women are getting raped (almost every 17 seconds in South Africa). She's angry that Rape Crisis has to close its doors due to lack of funding. She's angry that women are still treated like lesser citizens in this country, given a pat on the head and told to go watch The Bold and the Beautiful when they raise serious concerns. And she's downright fucking furious that government would rather spend millions on a picnic instead of making South Africa a safer place for its womankind.

(a resource site for rape survivors) quotes a survey that was conducted amongst 1 500 Soweto school children, in which it was discovered that a quarter of all boys said that "jackrolling" (their lingo for gang rape) was "fun".

If you Google "rape South Africa" you'll find stories in the LA Times, CNN and other major international networks detailing that moment of infamy we enjoyed earlier this year thanks to the video of a gang rape being filmed by the rapists. In fact, the LA Times notes it as a "typical South African rape" and one "that wouldn't have made headlines, had it not been for the cellphone".

Interpol (you've probably heard that name mentioned in some espionage themed movies. They're a pretty big deal) tells us that South Africa has the highest rate of rape in the world. Helen herself notes, "that the rape stats in South Africa are the worst in the world for a country not at war".

But Helen is wrong there, because we obviously are at war. At war with our women.

What do I fear?

So Helen got me thinking, which is the point of all written words. And in a roundabout way I come back to my original idea of writing about "fears" today. Because my biggest fear is not going down in a ball of flames in a creaky 1Time plane, or sliding off Sir Lowry's Pass on a rainy evening, or evening getting munched by a shark while sitting in the line-up.

No. My biggest fear is that one day I get a phone call informing me that a woman in my life has been attacked by a witless coward who thinks his penis is the epicentre of his strength and manhood.

My biggest fear, living in South Africa, is not that I might die in a home invasion, or get hijacked or murdered in the street for my lousy call-dropping cellphone.

My biggest fear is worrying, every time I leave the house, every time she leaves the house, that the woman I love (and the other woman I love, don't worry, it's my gran) become another forgettable rape statistic, ignored, shoved aside, "dealt with" and shelved away in some CIA fact file that foreigners use to ward off visitors to this beautiful, barbaric country.

I know women who've been raped. It's impossible not to. An ex, on a night out with her friends, was once attacked. Thankfully she got away. When she came home and cried and cried and cried, there was nothing I could do. I don't want to feel like that ever again. This year my fiancée, while on a business trip, was propositioned in her own hotel. She told me over the phone. I wanted to fly upcountry immediately.

The internet, social networks and so on, they are double-edged swords. They help spread word, words like Helen's. But they help spread the words too thinly.

There is always something terrible happening in South Africa.

The "epidemic" (LA Times, not my words) of rape is too often pushed into the background. That should never be the case.

Women don't deserve a day at all.

They deserve every day, every week, every month, every year. They deserve our undying attention. They deserve a country where they can live without fear.

They deserve life.

- Follow @david_moseley on Twitter.

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