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Rape, let’s end it

By Miranda Pyne

Anene Booysen’s gruesome murder last week caused many of us to speculate about revenge. Yet again we sombrely witnessed another violation. Another woman’s life wasted. People online, and on the radio, called for castration, the death sentence, sentencing the murderers to life in the worst prison possible, in some overcrowded hellish place where mob justice will take its own brutal course. I too wished to turn back the clock so that in some macabre fantasy someone brave and fearless would have rescued Anene or stopped the attackers dead in their tracks. In this widening narrative, someone would have intervened to help the courageous woman Fezisa Mdibi whose story of being raped twice before her 16th birthday and contracting HIV as a result would move a mountain. And what about all those women and children, all 64 000 of them if statistics are correct, and not including the boys and men who are also raped and abused? They too would have been saved by somebody in their midst. Real men are supposed to fight villains. Where are they?

Don’t get me wrong. I am not advocating mob justice. Heroic actions belong foremost in film and theatre, where our imaginations have a chance for proper and healing catharsis. But I admit that ever since I heard of an unnamed American father, who last year found a man called Jesus Mora Flores molesting his five-year-old daughter and accidently beat him to death right then and there, I’ve been hoping for some form of heroics. When I read about that, something inside me loosened. At long last someone had stood up and upended the endless narrative of unnamed faceless men raping and abusing women and children who get away with minimal sentences. This 23-year-old father sent a swift and clear (albeit) fatal message that violating a vulnerable person is, for the average moral man, intolerable, repugnant and a dangerous provocation. Enough is enough was the message. In a sign of changing times, the prosecutors and the grand jury concluded that the father’s use of deadly force to protect his daughter was “appropriate”.

Certainly in the US, while brutal rape happens, the tolerance level is now zero. One of the 10 most dangerous men on the FBI’s most wanted list replacing Osama bin Laden is Eric Justin Toth, a man who likes to rape and assault children. Since the mid-1990s, sex offenses have been in dramatic decline. And this must because prosecution has improved. Public health prevention campaigns are better funded and taken seriously at the top of the health agenda. And somewhere upon high, there must be unequivocal support for women’s inalienable rights. Are our justices up for the challenge? Time has run out for partisan political or personal opinion. The people want a lasting justice put in place that protects the victims, that gives the guilty a fair trial, that provides rehabilitation for all involved. The rest is up to us.

It’s taken a few days to cool down. Short-term vindication is contextual and suited best to individual cases. Moreover, unless a real transformation takes place on a societal level, the action of that lone father is consigned to folklore. But across the continent whether we are working towards democracy or wracked by civil war, whether working towards economic self-sufficiency or just barely making it, we have to respond to the provocation, to fight for our humanity to thrive. I’ve been looking for some heroics in this instance. The protests, the many voices in these past days, Jay Naidoo’s manifesto are the beginnings of a brave and challenging journey, which South Africans must take.

Let rape no longer happen in Africa. It’s utopian I know, but after all we have gone through, in light of all we still need to do, we need to begin to grieve and prevent the loss of even one more person on this beautiful continent because (we will never know) it may be, that this was the very person we needed. Let us banish it from the DRC, the Sudan or Timbuktu. Something needs to give because I am very damn tired of reading sensationalist lurid stories of molestation, sexual assault, clergy sex abuse, even pornographic abuse of babies. Let’s plough our hard-earned money back where it belongs. The ground of this story. The people.

Anene’s death must be remembered in some real way lest we forget what we’ve set out to do and why. The president should convene a rape control task force to discuss exactly what happens next. We know what’s wrong with our policies from housing to education ad infinitum. The links between poverty, lack of education and repressive societal attitudes towards women needs to be broken down so everyone understands. We’ve got black, white and Indian patriarchy as well as right-wing religious orthodoxy running through our veins. In our hearts we know that there is a crisis of masculinity in this country — the dehumanisation we’ve endured under apartheid must have done incalculable damage to the male psyche and has caused generational pain. But rape is universal and there are many ways of ending it. If we can host the World Cup and the Afcon, surely we can do this. If we could lead a liberation struggle and overcome HIV/Aids, we can do it. Not just for South Africa but to lead the way forward in Africa, and maybe even the world.

Miranda Pyne is a freelance writer.

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    • The Creator

      So, since you can’t think of any meaningful or effective way of dealing with the problem, you suggest that people should be encouraged to murder “rapists”, which essentially means, murdering people whom they believe to be rapists, or murdering people whom they can later claim they believed to be rapists.

      This is not, of course, an effectual way of dealing with a problem which clearly you have never even tried to understand, but it will probably arouse a lot of support from sadists and power-fantasists generally.

    • Gavin Jood

      The opportunities in which rape is committed are known. Can we eliminate all the opportunities?
      The quick road to justice is known and is not insurmountable. Can we make this quicker, cheaper and highly accessible?
      In solving problems we look at all the alternatives and eliminate those less feasible and choose the best alternative. The killing of a rapist caught in the act, by the father of the child, is certainly an alternative that one would choose if in those shoes. It is also possible to resolve at that alternative if you place yourself in that persons shoes. It is easy to reject that alternative if you don’t truly place yourself in those shoes.Rape is the end of a normal life. I have never heard of a remorseful and repented rapist.
      Without eliminating ALL the opportunities and without a perfect way to achieve justice, high levels of rape will continue. Reliance on remedial action and counselling must receive much more attention and funding. The importance that the eradication of this crime is to the government is interpreted from the low level of funding for NGO’s and CBO’s.
      Our country would have better energy to deal with this crime if we had credible moral leadership.

    • salsmith60

      The author is not encouraging murder of rapists, but rather giving an example that demonstrates how attitudes have changed.radically. Fortunately voices in South Africa are beginning to gain strength, which is necessary for much needed changes to occur..

    • Momma Cyndi

      The increasing number of ‘mob justice’ incidents in our country are a direct spotlight on just how little our justice system is trusted. In a country with a functional justice system, the people do not get so desperate and frustrated that they resort to sorting things out themselves.

      I can honestly say that if I ever caught someone violating any child – he would not be able to become a repeat offender. As much as I am against vigilantism, I am still a mother.

    • Xsanga

      South Africans are befuddled, perplexed and confused, by the violent nature of rape cases in our society. If the perpetrator was your son, we would have assessed his environment in which he grew up, his parent’s intellect, previously abused history etc. It infiltrates the subconscious and lays dormant, waiting to be challenged so that it may violently express its inner childhood turbulence and upheaval.
      The parent of this scourge is apartheid. Our long history of apartheid has left a trial of sociopaths, enslaved minds and subservient souls, abjectly submissive, the creator of poverty and wealth. The self is all they know, enslaving us to a white economy and a black corrupt government playing the white game where the impoverished slavishly bow to their overwhelming opulence and accept their sad life and hopelessness. The rape victims are personified as our white bosses and white economy whose daily exploitation of the poor is protected by the government, army, police and religion. Violent misplaced projection of the inner pains of poverty, hopelessness and desperation social phobias. You are all guilty for blindly pursuing wealth in the midst of extreme poverty, hopelessness and hunger, and daily lie to yourself implying rights to your greed by condemning the poor and exploited through your distorted window of the world, ordained by your god and government

    • cid

      Xsanga – you make good points, however I am not sure what you mean by a white economy . Racializing often obscures the class based not skin colour based exploitations. What is a black economy, that being by implication an alternative? Capitalism in Asia is the most powerful in the world, and is rampaging into Africa. Traditional African trade practices were, and still are, equally exploitative. In every place in the world, in the most terrible conflicts, merchants will up the prices they charge suffering people, landlords will up the rents for displaced people — the pursuit of wealth and self interest is wired into people. So what needs to counter that is: religion? I don’t think so, we are seeing people using God to exploit and abuse nice, faithful ordinary people all over the globe. Civil structures? There I think we have something, but where do we start to change. ls the Constitution okay, but needs to be implemented fully and better? There needs to be a history of legal decisions that go to support the Constitution, and those could be good or bad precedents. Right now we have a lot of bad precedents, a short 20 years after independence we have govt action to protect wrongdoers, gut the judiciary and press, decrease transparency, use funding as patronage and a private bank — it is only mass awareness that will stop this, but people slavishly vote for the people doing this. So, there is a problem in popular culture then. How to create some good channels?