I got the title of this piece from “The Big Debate” which is a television show which is focused on current affairs and social issues in South Afrika. the title seemed very fitting because the topic being discussed warrants such an attention grabbing title. Rape.
In South Africa, rape is a pandemic and a problem that needs to be addressed at the root. looking at rape at a surface level does not allow us to find the real reasons and root for this behaviour. We have a society that turns a blind eye to rape incidents and acts surprised when extremely disturbing sexual assaults take place (although there is no acceptable abuse) and want to brand it as an irregular occurrence that has no explanation. It is a country led by a man who although acquitted of rape charges laid by HIV positive the daughter of his former struggle cadre, was not apologetic or even sympathetic to the situation. This also reflects the attitude of many South Africans concerning rape. South Africa has the highest sexual violence occurrence rate in any country that is not currently engaged in a war or civil war. That is a very scary thought.
I recently read RAPE: A South African Nightmare by Pumla Gqola which helped me further understand what rape entails and how it is more than just forced sexual penetration but a physical, psychological and emotional experience for the victim. in this book Gqola discussed the 2006 rape trial of Jacob Zuma the attitudes it reflected about our community/society about rape and the treatment of rape victims amongst other issues.
Rape is sexual assault of any kind that usually involves a violence but its not limited to having to involve a violent act. Rape is about power and dominance which is translated through sexual domination. Rape includes: date rape, attempted rape, inappropriate touching/groping, verbal abuse and even oral sex to name but a few examples. The underlying factor to all these acts is the absence of consent. If consent is given under duress then that still qualifies as rape. A person who is under the influence of any substance that causes impairment of judgment is a from of rape too. Rape must not be boxed into a small box of a violent act in a dark alley for rape to be “qualified/valid”.
The mindset which society holds and fosters is can perpetuate rape situations and can be called “rape culture”. Well, what exactly is rape culture? In my understanding, rape culture is the manifestation of daily practices that excuse or tolerate sexual violence. We see examples of this culture being promoted in music, advertising, movies, law, jokes etc.
Rape culture is teaching rape victims that being raped was their fault for various reasons ranging from the length of a dress to a particular attitude displayed by the woman and always trying to reason and establish what the victim could have done to avoid the rape instead of addressing the real issue: the rape.
Over my life as a sportsman and a student too, I always remember people referring to humiliating defeats in a mere game as being “raped” by the opposition or having been “raped” by a very difficult test. These are just two further examples of how the matter of sexual violence is not taken seriously and in such use of language, desensitize people from hearing about actual rape accounts.
Us as a community, men especially, not getting fiercely outraged by incidents of rape. This is a way we perpetuate rape culture.
The violence against members of the LGBTI community being swept under the rug and not being acknowledged is also another way we as a community perpetuate rape culture.
The constant and unfounded pressure on men to bed as many women as possible to fill their egos is also another way we allow rape culture to manifest and play itself out in our community.
Rape culture can only thrive in a patriarchal environment. This means that we need to come together as a community and a people to re-evaluate our morals and beliefs as to the way we want to go forward. Perhaps a look into the past will help us recreate an environment where women can feel safe again and rebuild our families.
With the prevalence of rape culture, there is call on men of all ages to have some introspection about the way we think about, speak to and about women in public and private spaces.
Nfr Sa Ma’at