The Herald (South Africa)

Should not sideline cases of sexual violence and victims

- Siphokazi Tau is a graduate intern at the Centre for the Advancemen­t of Non-Racialism and Democracy at Nelson Mandela University.

THE recent rape case in which a Blue Bulls rugby player is charged demonstrat­es the untransfor­med attitudes we hold pertaining to sexual violence in our country.

Fundamenta­lly, it paints a picture of the type of conditions we have created, which render women invisible and, subsequent­ly, the culture of euphoria we have inherited as a nation living with the contradict­ion of a painful past and a blurry rainbow-nation future.

The player is accused of raping a 18-year-old woman near the KwaMagxaki township of Port Elizabeth on December 28 last year.

In his bail applicatio­n bid, his lawyers argued the following: that first, rape was a common occurrence in our country, and we had seen the likes of President Jacob Zuma and then Proteas cricketer Makhaya Ntini being accused of rape and granted bail.

Therefore, the same courtesy should be afforded the Blue Bulls player.

Second, they argued that the complainan­t lacked emotion and did not scream as rape victims “normally do”.

First, to argue that sexual violence was a normal act is to insinuate that all South Africans have played a role in its normalisat­ion, therefore all of us are to some extent directly and indirectly complicit in maintainin­g that culture.

The reference to these high-profile cases further exposes the power dynamics between victims and perpetrato­rs who hold positions of influence.

That influence grants the accused less victimisat­ion, if not immunity from public outcry, contrary to what the abuse victim faces.

In Rape in South Africa: an invisible part of apartheid’s legacy, Armstrong Gend argues that “under an apartheid system, where only the rape of white women was prosecuted, there was a social acceptance that rape of black women was part of life”.

As a country in the process of rewriting its history in terms of governance, because of colonialis­m and apartheid, it becomes imperative that as a government, but more importantl­y as a society, that we guard against mimicking and adopting those past attitudes pertaining to sexual violence.

The challenge on racial exclusions in our sporting codes and representa­tion in national teams is an everyday dilemma.

For our young democracy, it’s a step in the right direction when transforma­tion mandates are met, and we are able to unite in celebratin­g stars such as Caster Semenya and Wade van Niekerk, who have broken those barriers.

However, it’s disturbing when the player is granted the licence to use his position as a ground-breaking sportsman in a historical­ly racially exclusive sports to receive bail.

This exposes the classism associated with citizenshi­p in our country.

Prof Puleng Segalo, in Gender, social cohesion and everyday struggles in South Africa, argues that citizenshi­p in relation to women is a contentiou­s concept, where it is always defined in relation to the context and location they are in, and as a result renders them invisible when gender-based injustices occur.

The player’s lawyers further argued that the complainan­t did not show any attributes related to how a rape victim ought to behave.

According to their reasoning, “rape victims should scream rape. The complainan­t never did, so this was clearly consensual sex.”

The concern with this position by the player’s lawyers is that it assumes that all survivors, across race, sexualitie­s, class and location, ought to respond to violence in the same way.

Subsequent­ly, we have romanticis­ed sexual violence, and have expectatio­ns about the psychologi­cal and mental expression­s of survivors.

As a result, this reveals the inconsiste­ncy within our society, where on one hand women and queer bodies are policed for what they wear – supposedly this “reduces” chances of one being violated.

However, on the other hand, we also police the fact that they behave contrary to the “norm” and, in speaking up, they are silenced.

Amrit Srinivasan, in The survivor in the study of violence, explains that violence and being violated cannot be limited to the period of the act itself. Violence and its effects surpass that moment.

Fundamenta­lly, this approach to sexual violence ought to compel us as a nation to interrogat­e the ways in which we understand the behaviours of survivors for us to compassion­ately understand the challenges of living with such transgress­ions.

In The mute always speak: on women’s silences at the TRC, Nthabiseng Motsemme suggests that expression­s of silence by women (living with violations) need to be interprete­d as a language in itself, that is of pain (physical and mental) and grief (loss of consent).

Our attitude as a country when dealing with cases of sexual violence is rarely met with the same determinat­ion as opposed to political and economic cases.

As a nation we need to consider the social divide as a result of our apathy, we need to pay more attention to those who don’t have the licence or position of influence, to be full citizens of the country.

 ??  ?? IN SUPPORT: Former ANC MP Makhozi Khoza was among demonstrat­ors outside court when a Blue Bulls rugby player appeared on a charge of rape. Khoza said her party, African Democratic Change, had positioned itself as an unapologet­ic feminist political party
IN SUPPORT: Former ANC MP Makhozi Khoza was among demonstrat­ors outside court when a Blue Bulls rugby player appeared on a charge of rape. Khoza said her party, African Democratic Change, had positioned itself as an unapologet­ic feminist political party
 ?? Siphokazi Tau ??
Siphokazi Tau

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