Women in South Africa are more likely to be raped than to learn to read

January 26, 2011 § 3 Comments

Millicent Gaika, victim of "corrective rape" in South Africa

If ever there were two words ridiculous put together, “corrective rape” wins the prize. In South Africa, the term is used to cover a violent, vicious atrocity on a woman to “cure” her of lesbianism.

Campaigning group Avaaz is raising awareness of these crime, highlighting the case of Millicent Gaika, a young woman bound, strangled and tortured for five hours. A few brave activists from Cape Town raised an appeal to the country’s Minister of Justice, gathering over 140,000 signatures.

 Astonishingly, nobody has ever been convicted of “corrective rape” and the Minister has not answered their demands with any action. It’s not even recognised as a “hate crime”.

Sign the petition here https://secure.avaaz.org/en/stop_corrective_rape/?vl

The wider context here too is that a South African girl born today is more likely to be raped than she is to learn to read. 62% of boys over 11 don’t think forcing someone to have sex is an act of violence. President Zuma himself is a Zulu traditionalist who has stood trial for rape.

Avaaz has rightly called it a “human catastrophe”.

I want to do my part to raise awareness on this topic. Please, sign the petition. Let the South African government know that the world is outraged by a statistic like that, a case like Millicent’s, a government that does so little to care for the country’s women.

This video is the Minister of Justice on South African television talking about corrective rape. He’s making a lot of the right noises, emphasising that “rape is rape, regardless of the motives”. Let’s make sure the pressure is kept up so that he has to match his talk with action

“She has little chance of a fresh start” – child prostitution in South Africa

December 23, 2010 § Leave a comment

Jounreymanpictures: Child prostitutes in Johannesburg

A gritty video  here focusing on the overstretched Child Protection unit in Johannesburg in South Africa. This documentary is two years old but still relevant and poignant and terrifying and shocking. It shows young sex workers addicted to drugs, driving off with customers, shouted at by pimps, lying about their age – and yet still trying to escape from rehabilitation homes and help centres to get back on the street.

The girls in this video talk about being raped, taking drugs, being abused and harming themselves as if they were discussing the weather. They don’t get much help, and they don’t expect anyone to care. Those who do mobilise to help are fighting an overriding tide of poverty, corruption and misogyny.

Ongoing rumours and concerns that the centre will be closed down have been denied and then have re-emerged  in a constant concern over what is really government’s intentions for the centre and its policies for women and children. It is, after all, a country where 78% of men admit to some kind of violence towards women, and where many believe using prositutes is a “call of nature”.

Incidentally, the producer of this video, journeymanpictures on YouTube, is home to some brilliant videos from all corners of the world, including the one in my previous post on child marriages in Yemen, and is well worth a look on YouTube.

“Only women can communicate with the gods”

October 14, 2010 § Leave a comment

BBC Image: Mathelenei Makhaulele, Woman of Power in the Venda community

BBC Image: Mathelenei Makhaulele, Woman of Power in the Venda community

 Only women can effectively communicate with the gods – so men are not allowed to speak during the ceremony. This is the view of the Venda people in South Africa, where “women of power” perform ancestral rituals for the good of the tribe.

Incidently, I rather like the title Woman of Power. I might use it as my email sign-off from now on.

But on a more relevant note – this led me to consider how different faiths or communities place women in the central position of power. In Western societies where women still earn around 16% less on average than men, male business leaders dominate the top global companies, with only one female British prime minister historically – and still no women as US Presidents – the international decision-making rests with men. (Although, this is a rather quirky page here from the BBC talking to eleven world leaders about how they achieved their positions of power, in case I appear to generalise too much..)

But other communities rate women rather more highly. After all, overlooking that minx Eve, Mother Nature as a concept places a female identity on the whole of nature, the life-giving force. And if we roll back into Greek and Roman mythology, there are numerous examples of strong goddesses in what we are consider “male” roles in today’s patriarchal socirty.  In Roman mythology Diana is goddess of war, while her twin brother Apollo floats around with a lyre. Juno, Queen of the Gods, had responsibility for the Empire’s finances, and don’t forget of course the Muses, those women with power over all of arts and sciences.

In Hinduism the goddess Saraswati is a symbol of knowledge, and Chinese and Japanese history is littered with patron goddesses and legendary women who fought off oppressors, led armies and incited revolts. And now female soldiers aren’t even allowed to go to the front line.

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