In South Africa, a woman is raped every 26 seconds. Every six hours, a woman is murdered by her intimate partner. Bishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu recently claimed that society in South Africa is more violent than it has ever been in the past, and that the level of rape and murder across all sections of society shows that the spirit of ubuntu has died.
|In Issue 4|
When 17-year old Anene Booysen was raped, mutilated, and left for dead, the world turned its gaze on South Africa and asked how such horrific acts of violence could be allowed to happen. Then Oscar Pistorius was arrested for the alleged murder of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp, and once again the world asked what South Africa was doing to stop the brutality against women and girls. In response to Anene’s murder, Sisonke Msimang of Sonke Gender Justice, in a recent article in the Mail & Guardian wrote:
“It will happen again. Until our bones are worn into dust and our teeth crushed into the sand. It will happen and happen. Until we invent a way to stop being women. Until we find a way for our blood to no longer bleed between our legs. As long as we exist, we will be raped.”
But this violence is not a South African phenomenon; the brutal bus rape in India, the Steubenville rape case in the U.S. and the recent suicide of a young woman in Canada as a result of her gang rape being documented and circulated online highlights that rape culture is alive and well and women continue to be blamed for “being at the wrong place at the wrong time”, or “asking for it”. Their crime? Being who they were. And we must remember that rape is not just a crime perpetrated against women; men also experience rape and are strongly discouraged from speaking out. The real crime, however, is that rape, as all gender-based violence, is preventable, and it is only through holding those accountable for rape—and those who condone GBV—that we can truly change the tide of the violence facing women and girls all around the world.
The outcry and demand for justice for Anene Booysen echoed around the world highlighted once again the need for more attention, time, and resources to be given to the issue of gender-based violence.
The MenEngage Africa network believes that there is a clear way forward to prevent gender-based violence across all societies, and that is to transform harmful gender norms and violent masculinities. Across the region, MenEngage and its partners are working to engage men and boys in gender equality and to challenge social structures that pressure men to be violent against women and girls, as well as against each other. It through seeing men and boys as allies and beneficiares of gender equality and preventing GBV that MenEngage seeks to constructively involve men as advocates for positive change.
For this issue of the MenEngage Africa newsletter, we want to draw attention to the damaging effect that GBV continues to have in our communities but also to highlight the inspirational work that is being done by individuals and organisations to combat gender-based violence. In Tanzania, our partners are using the media to draw upon the importance of male participation in the health and wellbeing of their families. In Kenya, we climbed Mount Kilamanjaro to demand that governments and policy makers fulfil policy commitments to reduce violence against women. And in Nigeria, we are mobilising to challenge stereotypes and abuse against LGBTI individuals.
All across the region, MenEngage Africa partners are working hard to try and find solutions to reduce the alarming levels of GBV that is happening – and with every successful action we take, we are reminded how far we still have to go. Every 26 seconds a woman is raped, and so we must act every 25 seconds; we must mobilise faster and take action louder in order to end gender-based violence, achieve gender equality and secure health for all.
By newsletter editors: Emily Miles, Laura Pascoe, Tapiwa Manyati and Tim Shand from Sonke Gender Justice Network