Women Are Pushing Back Against Rape Culture In South Africa

By Zaheer Cassim, Jennifer Collins, Austin Davis

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South Africa’s sexual offense statistics are alarming. A high-profile court case sparked a national debate about rape culture as well as the formation of a group that is fighting for justice for survivors.

It was a galvanizing moment.

It was May 2006 and South African Vice President Jacob Zuma had just been acquitted of rape. Thousands of his supporters – both men and women – stood outside Johannesburg’s High Court to support the man who would later become their president.

But amidst the sea of yellow, green, and black – the colors of the ruling African National Congress party – a group of roughly 20 women dressed in purple T-shirts stood in stark contrast to the crowd in solidarity with Zuma’s accuser, Fezekile Ntsukela Kuzwayo, who was known to the public as Khwezi.

Kuzwayo and her comrades had endured daily heckles and threats from Zuma’s supporters. After the ruling came through, they fended off violent provocations from the masses, quietly removed their purple T-shirts and made their way home.

“It was a sad day for us as the women out there,” said Mpumi Mathabela, a coordinator with the One in Nine Campaign, which fights on behalf of rape survivors and stood by Kuzwayo during the trial.

“It was a sad day for the survivors. It was a sad day for justice as a whole, because we thought that this was one case the South African courts would use to advance the rights of women,” she added. “But it wasn’t.”

Daily threats

In the days and months following the court’s decision, the threats against Kuzwayo intensified and her mother’s home was torched.

“It was after the judgment that her life was in danger and was constantly threatened,” said Mathabela. “We had to think through how we could get her out of the country – she was always in danger.”

Kuzwayo and her mother were forced to flee South Africa and received asylum in the Netherlands. Her court case and the perceived injustices in South Africa’s legal system were the catalyst for the formation of the One in Nine Campaign.

The name has roots in a sobering statistic: Research indicates that of every nine women who are raped in South Africa, only one will go and report that rape.

Almost a decade later, the rape statistics remain startling. Police figures released for 2015 and 2016 recorded 51,895 sexual offenses. The majority of those – over 42,000 – were classified as rape, according to the NGO Africa Check. Fifty-eight rapes each day. But the true figure is believed to be much higher as rape and sexual assault are under-reported crimes, say representatives of the One in Nine Campaign.

Source: allafrica.com

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