Parent24 recently conducted a poll where we asked South Africans who they think is responsible for improving the current state of gender-based violence in our country, and 42% of respondents said parents.
And while a parent's role is undeniable, parental influence and guidance are far too often obstructed by social factors beyond the home.
For the rape prevention organisation, No Means No Worldwide, the fight against gender-based violence begins and ends with consent and self-defence classes.
In 2018, the organisation introduced consent classes in Kenya and Malawi, and the results show what a big difference teaching these concepts can make. Their video is once again making the rounds on social media, and perhaps it's time SA considers including these kinds of programmes in our schools.
Watch the video below:
Also read: A great way to teach our kids about consent
What happens when we teach mutual respect
In the video they explain that 1 in 4 girls in Nairobi, Kenya is raped every single year. This is largely due to the fact that, prior to the programme, many boys thought it justifiable to rape a girl if she was taken on an expensive date, if she was wearing a mini skirt or alone, out in public late at night.
Since the introduction of the programme, however, there has been a significant decrease in both rape and teen pregnancy.
No Means No Worldwide reports that there has been a 46% decrease in pregnancy-related school dropouts in the schools where the programme runs, and a 51% decrease in the incidence of rape among female participants, while 50% of girls reportedly stopped a rapist a year after training. There has also been a 73% success rate of boys who intervened to prevent an assault.
The organisation explains that in order to prevent rape and improve these statistics, they train instructors and place them in high-risk schools to teach students between the ages of 10 and 20. Through interactive verbal skills, role playing and physical training, both girls and boys are empowered and encouraged to create a culture of mutual respect. They believe this to be the key to ending the global rape epidemic.
Girls learn how to identify risk, say 'no' and talk their way out of trouble, and if that 'no' isn't respected, they also learn physical skills to back it up, states the organisation's website.
Boys learn to challenge rape myths, ask for consent, accept rejection and intervene if they anticipate or witness predatory behaviour. This is called positive masculinity.
How these classes will make a difference in SA
The South African Police Services reported that for 2018 and 2019, 52 420 sexual offences were reported.
These statistics include 7 437 sexual assaults, 2 146 attempted sexual offences, 1 254 contact sexual offences and a total of 41 583 rapes. Of course, they represent only those cases that are reported to the police and therefore do not include the countless sexual offences that women are too scared to report, perhaps because they’ve been brought up in a community that perpetuates rape culture.
Also see: Understanding rape culture and teaching your children about it
If we were to introduce these classes across schools and campuses in South Africa, we too can improve our rape statistics.
And although this might not be a ground-breaking or even new solution, helping our girls understand that they can defend themselves and say, “Don’t touch me!” while encouraging our boys to “do the right thing”, might be the very necessary intervention we need.
Do you think we should introduce these programmes at schools? How are you introducing your children to the idea of consent? Share your story with us, and we could publish your mail. Anonymous contributions are welcome.