Sorry, we have no space for rape apologists.

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In October 2017 South African Kwaito star Sipho ‘Brickz’ Ndlovu strolled into the Roodepoort Magistrate’s Court wearing grey pants, a white shirt and a blue jersey. While his attire proved fairly neutral, his choice of accessory did not. Brickz completed his look with a heartless smile.

Smiles are not gestures usually frowned upon, but in this case, the amused expression was severely uncalled for, Brickz was facing a conviction of raping a 17-year old relative in 2013.

The archaic and far too simplistic excuse for rape dates back to 1886 – and that is that men rape women because of sexual deprivation therefore causing them to lose control of their urges in the presence of an unguarded woman. Psychologist Richard von Krafft-Ebbing wrote about this myth in his book Psychopathia Sexualis. He further writes that rapists suffer from a mental weakness that allow sexual urges to escape control. This is commonly now known as the hydraulic theory – The pressure of wanting to have sex is too much, and men are too weak, therefore a horrific crime manifests as a result.

Over a century later, the same theory persisted. In fact, the simplicity worsened. Alfred Kinsey, for example, the famed sexologist who founded the Institute for Research in Sex, Gender and Reproduction, dismissed the issue altogether saying that most rapes were false accusations and saying they caused no real hardship anyway.

Fast forward a few years later and as a result of the landslide of rape myths and falsified rape theories which are products of a patriarchal society we find ourselves, still, battling with what we now call rape apologists who still problematically exist in numbers in spite of the significant amount of scientific and psychological study, educational research and feminist theory.

Rape apologists argue that women ask for it, boys will be boys and most of all, women dramatise the act of non-consensual sex for attention, or simply that it never happened. Rape apologists are the men who are most likely to ask for “proof that it happened”, question “what she was wearing” or “what did she do to deserve it”, or smile in court denying that it happened all together, as in the case of Brickz.

Here’s what we know about the victim – she was under the legal age of consent at the time and a virgin, she was the musician’s cousin and she suffered severe bleeding as a result of the rape. We also know she had been infected with an STD and was struggling with depression after the heinous act saying that she wanted to kill herself. We also know Brickz, who told her to take a shower and never tell anyone what had happened, if she did, he would kill her. Then the focus moves back to Brickz, smiling in court, with no remorse, no empathy and an unhealthy degree of deniability.

The rape apologist pandemic is not one particular to South Africa. But in a country fraught with rape, where men should be at the forefront of recalling rape culture instead of perpetuating it, this is the last thing we need.

It is estimated that over 40% of South African women will be raped in their lifetime and that only one in 13 rapes are reported, while only 14% of perpetrators are convicted.

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In 2017/18 the police reported a record number of rapes at 40,035 for the year with 110 occurring daily but more than that, the Institute of Security Studies reports that the extent of the crime cannot accurately be estimated because there is no way of knowing how many women refrain from reporting the crime.

The survivors of rape are the forgotten and invisible demographic of our country. They silently exist on the dark fringes of society afraid of castigation, further punishment and judgment. Rape crimes will remain under reported as long as rape culture supports the perpetrator instead of the victim. Rape culture will continue to persist and pillage as long as it requires men to admit they’re guilty and for the public to believe instead of trusting the testimony of women. As long as this trend exists, rape apologists will continue to hold forth in a society already heavily burdened with the power of patriarchy and male privilege. We will continue to be burdened with men who can do what they want because they operate in an economy that disregards the autonomy of survivors and instead institutionalises the protection of male sexual entitlement.

A year after his conviction, another celebrity, DJ Cleo, visited Brickz in prison – he is serving a 15 -year sentence. In spite of being found guilty, in spite of raping what was effectively a child and more so, in spite of showing no remorse and no empathy. The DJ tweeted an image of their reunion and captioned said image with: “We all run our own races, he fell along the way… but the race is not over.”

It shouldn’t need saying, but it does: sexual offences against women is not a race to be run and rape is absolutely not a stumbling block along the way, but here we are – in a society where men, with platforms and larger than life audiences, come to the defence of other convicted rapists with watered down motivations of an incredibly serious national crisis.

Author: Haji Mohamed Dawjee

Haji Mohamed Dawjee is a South African columnist, disruptor of the peace and the author of ‘Sorry, Not Sorry: Experiences of a brown woman in a white South Africa’. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram: @sage_of_absurd

We have created a Rape Survivors Toolkit for survivors friends, family & colleagues:

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THE SILENT RAPE OF SEX WORKERS

In South Africa, cases about rape have become our daily news, whether you read it on the morning news headlines, watch it on prime-time television news or hear about it from your neighbour. The news has become synonymous to hearing about the weather.

However, in the wake of the #Metoo campaigns and #Thetotalshutdown, there is a group of women whose voices are still suppressed. These women put their lives on the line to keep themselves, their families and their children below the poverty line in a country where unemployment is at an average of 52.15 percent. Crimes perpetrated against these women are not taken seriously, by the law, their neighbours, their partners and even some feminists.

Women who do sex work, are part of those women who are pushed to the margins, where they’re vulnerable and exposed to sexual violence because they chose to sell sex.

In South Africa studies that have been done in the past decades have shown that 1 in 5 sex workers will be raped in a period of 12 months, by either people posing as clients, police officers or their intimate partners. This study shows that sex workers are at high risk of rape, particularly where sex work is illegal.

The rape of sex workers comes in different shapes and folds, and because the women already sell sex, they are often seen as easy targets for such crimes. In South Africa, the current criminalisation of sex work means sex workers are on the frontline of gender-based violence, in that the perpetrator knows they are unlikely to report it, and that they are vulnerable and unprotected. Sex workers are targets because of these factors and the fact that they are often subject to violent misogyny [1].

In an instance were one is raped by a client, sex workers are reluctant to report the case to the police as they fear identifying themselves as sex workers, which puts them in jeopardy of being arrested or abused by the police.

Where police are involved or are the perpetrators, even if a case is successfully opened at the police station, it is most likely that the docket will get lost, or the case will be closed due to lack of evidence. This happens because police officers often cover for each other. In a study done in Cape Town, 12% of street-based sex workers reported that they had been raped by policeman [2].

In the case of intimate partner violence, sex workers are often blackmailed by their partners and made to feel less worthy because they sell sex. Some of their partners are threatened by their independence and the fact that they are making money from other men threatens their partners masculinity which can lead them to act out by being violent.

The stigma and discrimination that is attached to doing sex work is the main cause of violence experienced by sex workers. However, they face many folds of victimization because of the moral perspectives people hold. To many, sex workers are seen as people who deserve abuse because they chose to sell sex.

The current full criminalisation of sex work in South Africa leaves sex workers vulnerable to violence, harassment and abuse, and does not provide them with the necessary protection of their rights. International experience shows that the police can help prevent violence against sex workers, but this requires a big change in attitude. Sex workers must be thought of as an at-risk group who needs protection, rather than as a ‘nuisance’ or even a group who ‘deserve’ violence and abuse.

Research has shown that decriminalisation of sex work respects the rights of sex workers, reduces gender-based violence and will increase community and individual safety [3].

What is Decriminalisation of Sex Work?

Decriminalisation of sex work is when all laws that criminalise sex work in a country are removed and sex work is governed by the same laws that affect other employment, such as occupational health and safety and employment legislation.

What is Sex Work/er?

Sex work is the provision of sexual services for money or goods. Sex workers are women, men and transgendered people who receive money or goods in exchange for sexual services, and who consciously define those activities as income generating even if they do not consider sex work as their occupation.

*The opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Rape Crisis Cape Town Trust organisation.

About the authors

Lesego Tlhwale is a Communication Professional and current Media & Advocacy Officer at Sex Workers Education and Advocacy Taskforce (SWEAT), a human rights organisation advocating for the health and human rights of sex workers. Lesego is passionate about advancing human rights of LGBTI people and sex workers.
Nosipho Vidima is a Human Rights Activist, Black Feminist, HIV Rights Activist and Womxn Rights Activist. She currently works at SWEAT (Sex Workers Education and Advocacy Taskforce) as a Human Rights and Lobbying Officer. Her daily work is Human Rights of sex workers nationally, where she insures that sex workers are reached with a holistic approach to accessing their basic and fundamental rights while accessing justice and legal recourse in the legal system that marginalises most women.

REFERENCES:

[1] Rangasami, j; constant, T; Manoek, S; Police Abuse of Sex Workers: Data from cases reported to the Women’s Legal Centre between 2011 and 2015; Women’s Legal Centre, 2016.

[2] Gould, C & Fick, N (2008). “Selling sex in Cape Town: Sex work and human trafficking in a South African city”. Pretoria/Tshwane, Institute for Security Studies.

[3] Manoek, S (2014). “Police Sensitisation Training Manual: A Guide for South African Police Service (SAPS) Officers to the Rights of Sex Workers and the LGBTI Community”. Women’s Legal Centre.

The United Nations Commission on the Status of Women

The Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) is the principal global intergovernmental body exclusively dedicated to the promotion of gender equality and the empowerment of women. The CSW is instrumental in promoting women’s rights, documenting the reality of women’s lives throughout the world, shaping global standards on gender equality and the empowerment of women and in mainstreaming a gender perspective in UN activities.

During the Commission’s annual two-week session, representatives of UN Member States, civil society organisations and UN entities gather at UN headquarters in New York. They discuss progress and gaps in the implementation of the 1995 Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, the key global policy document on gender equality as well as emerging issues that affect gender equality and the empowerment of women. Member States agree on further actions to accelerate progress and promote women’s enjoyment of their rights in political, economic and social fields. 

Methods of Work

The Commission adopts multi-year work programmes to appraise progress and make further recommendations to accelerate the implementation of the Platform for Action. These recommendations take the form of negotiated agreed conclusions on a priority theme. At each session the Commission:

  • Engages in general discussion on the status of gender equality, identifying goals attained, achievements, gaps and challenges in relation to implementation of key commitments;
  • Focuses on one priority theme, based on the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action and the outcome of the 23rd special session of the General Assembly;
  • Holds a high-level roundtable to exchange experiences, lessons learned and good practices on the priority theme;
  • Evaluates progress in implementing agreed conclusions from previous sessions as a review theme;
  • Convenes interactive panel discussions on steps and initiatives to accelerate implementation, and measures to build capacities for mainstreaming gender equality across policies and programmes;
  • Addresses emerging issues that affect gender equality;
  • Considers in closed meeting the report of its Working Group on Communications;
  • Agrees on further actions for the promotion of gender equality and the empowerment of women by adopting agreed conclusions and resolutions;
  • Contributes gender perspectives to the work of other intergovernmental bodies and processes; and
  • Celebrates International Women’s Day on 8 March, when it falls within its session.

#CSW63

The sixty-third session of the Commission on the Status of Women is currently taking place at the United Nations Headquarters in New York until 22 March 2019. Representatives of Member States, UN entities, and ECOSOC-accredited non-governmental organisations (NGOs) from all regions of the world are expected to attend the session.

This year the priority theme is “Social protection systems, access to public services and sustainable infrastructure for gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls”.

When infrastructure, public services and social protections are lacking, women and girls are often the ones that feel the greatest impact. Their needs must be factored in when policies are designed. Their voices must shape the decisions that affect their lives.

At the Rape Crisis Cape Town Trust we are interested in the South African government’s promise to roll out specialised sexual offences courts across the country so that all rape survivors have access to the support they need, when they testify against rapists in court. The infrastructure required in these courts can be extensive and include separate entrances, waiting rooms and bathroom facilities for survivors so that they do not interact with the accused rapist and become distressed before they even enter the court room. It also includes Closed Circuit Television (CCTV) in court rooms together with a separate intermediary room from which vulnerable rape survivors such as children, survivors suffering extreme trauma and survivors with mental disabilities can testify. Private consulting rooms for rape survivors to meet with a court supporter before they testify must also form part of this court layout. Many courts will need rebuilding to accommodate this kind of infrastructure. Our Rape Survivors’ Justice Campaign (RSJC) is designed to make sure our government provides the infrastructure required.

Read our next blog on why CSW63 matters to all of us and join us and share your experiences and ideas about specialised sexual offences courts to make sure that #CSW63 knows and understands this issue. We have put together a social media package to help you.

Social Media Package

  • Check out the RSJC webpage and social media pages on Facebook and Twitter to find out more about this important campaign.
  • Your experiences and ideas matter on social protection, public services and infrastructure. Tell the world how you want to make a difference using #CSW63. Find our selection of Tweets on sexual offences courts in South Africa below and post them throughout the week.
  • Check out CSW’s Facebook Live broadcasts from United Nations HQ at UN CSW.
  • Head over to see CSW’s Instagram Stories at @unwomen for a behind-the-scenes look and interviews.

Social Media Tools

You can copy and paste this selection of Tweets or Facebook posts in support of improved sexual offences court infrastructure into your Twitter feed this week:

  • Sexual offences courts are important as they are sensitive to the survivor and help to get more convictions and send more rapists to jail. We need the #SouthAfricanGovernment to roll out the necessary infrastructure for these courts now! @RSJCampaign #CSW63_SA #CSW63
  • We advocate for specially trained court supporters to be available to rape survivors when they testify. We need the South African government to provide rooms at courts for court support to take place in private. @RSJCampaign #CSW63_SA #CSW63 @CSW63
  • #SouthAfrica has one of the highest rates of rape in the world. This needs to change! We need a strong criminal justice system with specialised courts. @RSJCampaign #CSW63_SA #CSW63 @RapeCrisis
Written by Kathleen Dey

Feminist Leadership

Anyone can be a leader, whether they hold the title of a leader in an organisation or not. But what does it mean to be a feminist leader?  This is a question that we at Rape Crisis have been thinking deeply about from the time the organisation was founded in 1976. We have not always made this thinking clear or visible to others, but a recent grant from the African Women’s Development Fund has allowed us to explore the topic more and to be more open about exploring the question of power in our organisation.

We all know that women’s rights are under threat in South Africa because of violence, poverty and inequality. This affects us in our homes and in our communities, but most of all in our work because we work for an organisation that:

  • Offers services to rape survivors 
  • Educates communities about the harmful norms and stereotypes that promote violence against women  
  • Advocates for change that will improve the criminal justice system for rape survivors.
Our RSJC volunteers advocating for change

Because we do this work we know that, well beyond the scope of our own endeavours, South Africa needs leadership that encourages individual women to work at understanding and shifting the oppressive power dynamics that keep harmful and oppressive systems in place. By oppressive we mean harsh, authoritarian treatment of others by powerful people, making sure that less powerful people are kept down. These dynamics appear in ourselves, in the people around us and in society.

Oppressive power dynamics are the things that make us feel that because we are women we are less than men, and that we deserve less than men when it comes to pay, holding positions of power, sharing our opinions and making decisions. As a result we accept poor wages, do not apply for powerful positions, remain silent when others give their opinions and hesitate to make certain decisions. 

We need to shift these thoughts, feelings and ideas about ourselves because they are not true. Women deserve to be paid well, to be leaders, to voice our opinions and to make decisions. 

It is harmful for us to believe that this is not so because it makes us believe that women are submissive and subservient to the needs of men. The harm that comes from this, is men’s ongoing violence against women, the fact that we are not kept safe from this, that we are often blamed for this and that our recourse to justice is filled with so many obstacles that in the end not enough rapists are punished.

That is why it is important that we not only work to bring about this shift within ourselves but also to lead in a way that brings about a change in larger and larger numbers of women so that they feel empowered to bring about change at every level of the systems that influence the way we live our ordinary everyday lives.

How do we lead in ways that empower other women? Make sure to Read our next blog on “The Roles of Feminism“.

Written by Kathleen Dey, Director of Rape Crisis Cape Town