South Africa is becoming an increasingly unsafe place for women to live in. The Crime Against Women in South Africa Report by Statistics SA shows that femicide (the murder of women on the basis of their gender) is 5 times higher than the global average. This means that in South Africa, women are 5 times more likely to be killed due to gender-based violence committed by men.
Horrendous tales of young girls and women going missing make the rounds on social media daily, with the occasional story catching media attention and becoming a national news story.
An example of such a story is the gruesome rape and murder of Anene Booysen, which occurred in 2013. Her story caught international headlines, as did the story of Karabo Mokoena who was brutally murdered and killed by her ex-boyfriend, Sandile Mantsoe.
Furthermore, former President Jacob Zuma was accused of rape by Fezekile Ntsukela Kuzwayo, who has since passed on.
Recently, 19 year old UCT student Uyinene Mrwetyana was raped and bludgeoned with a scale when she went to fetch a parcel at the Claremont Post Office in Cape Town.
In the same timeframe, we heard the news of South African female boxing champion, Leighandre “Baby Lee” Jegels, being shot to death by her boyfriend.
Unfortunately, it has become common to hear daily stories of the brutal murders of women and even children — as well as members of the LGBTQ+ community, many of whom experience corrective rape.
Pumla Gqola deconstructs the idea that rape culture within South Africa is merely a post-Apartheid issue in her book Rape: A South African Nightmare. Gqola states that in order to fully comprehend and tackle rape culture, we must first acknowledge that it existed prior to South Africa becoming a democratic country. Rape was a central facet of colonialism which resulted in enslaved women of colour being forcefully impregnated and systematically subdued.
She further adds that during Apartheid, when the death penalty was in effect, white men were not hung for rape and the only black men who faced execution for such a crime were those who violated white women. Understanding this history assists us in dissecting how historically, rape culture was given the space to flourish, particularly from an intersectional standpoint that allows us to factor race into the equation.
South Africa’s history of brutality has become entrenched within society, resulting in hypermasculinity.
This issue is so pervasive within South African society that 41% of people raped are children and only one in nine rape cases are reported. Of those reported, only 4% result in prosecution. This can be attributed to an inept justice system and a culture of denialism and rape culture, which protects perpetrators and vilifies survivors for being victimised.
Unfortunately, many experts state that the rates of sexual violence in South Africa are higher than what has been statistically recorded as underreporting skews the figures.
Rape is an “assertion of male power,” states Armstrong. The solution to South Africa’s gender based violence crisis is not to task women with the responsibility of arming and protecting themselves, but rather to change the societal narrative around women and their bodily autonomy.
“The best protection is to teach nonviolence and respect for women,” only then can we create a safer society for marginalised identities, so that they don’t have to protect themselves in the first place.
Source: Capricorn Review