From the Mail Guardian's editorial today:
It's that time of year again when, amid much lunching and launching and ribbon-cutting, the country commits itself for 16 days at least -- to combating violence against women and children. But despite this noble effort, which has enjoyed high-profile government support, South Africa remains a dangerous place for women and children. A recent study that tracked the progress of rape cases through the criminal justice system in Gauteng threw up some startling facts:
- Almost half the rapes of women and teenage girls involved abduction;
- 40% of rapes of women involved a weapon;
- 43% of rapes of teenage girls were committed by a neighbour or acquaintance;
- 28% of girls under 11 were raped in their homes;
- Just half of rape cases reported to the police resulted in arrests. Only 42,8% of suspects went on to appear in court and fewer than one in five (17,3%) reports resulted in a trial;
- Only one in 10 rape cases reported by girls under 12 resulted in a conviction, while for adult women, this number was just one in 20; and
- Of 34 cases in which the perpetrators were eligible for a life sentence in terms of minimum sentencing legislation, only three were sentenced to life.
While the politicians rattle their sabres and trade insults of a simian and entomological nature ahead of the election, we should pay careful attention to what they aren't saying and learn to read between the lines.
When the likely future president, Jacob Zuma, calls for obedience to the Bible and the ancestors, what does this mean for women's equality? Is this a return to the patriarchal ideal of the omnipotent father who holds the power of life and death over his wife and children?
Does this mean an end to women's right to make their own reproductive choices? When Zuma talks disparagingly about gays or women wearing miniskirts, what does this mean for a country in which rape is endemic and violence against lesbians is growing? And why do his plans for banishing pregnant teens not mention the men who impregnate them?
Will the next government move away from the rights-based culture enshrined in our Constitution and bow down to reactionary, populist elements in a bid to win votes?
In the coming months we should evaluate carefully the gender stance of any party asking for our vote and challenge the party to explain how it will make South Africa a safer place for its women and children.