The “South Africa’s Sexual Offence Act” BLUES

Alarm raised on sexual offence laws when 15 year old girls get convicted for rape… for being raped

By Carl Perks

Not only did rape prevention laws in South Africa get up on the wrong side of the bed after the apartheid policy along with its minority government finally stepped out of power, but they did so on the wrong foot.

If you haven’t flipped through the International News section of this week’s paper yet, there is an article on a 15-year-old girl in South Africa who, after being drugged and sexually assaulted as school mates filmed the whole ordeal, was charged for statutory rape.

The charges for the victim and the rapists were dropped for lack of evidence.
In the country where the people compared former Deputy President Jacob Zuma’s raping of a 30 year-old aids activist to Bill Clinton’s famous blowjob, victimising them as “Both presidents who were accused by a woman,” the women’s side of the chessboard seems to be covered with pawns.

But if professional chess has taught us anything it’s that even pawns can check mate: despite not having the government on its side, dozens of activist groups and children/women’s rights groups have brought ever-so-required media attention to the issue.

An updating of the laws is on its way but it’s a muddy road: parliament can now boast a third of their ministers being women, yet their Sexual Offences Act dates back to 1972. The laws have been amended in 1996 but the only changes were ages of majority and youth. Until laws are properly updated to fit current women’s rights, South Africa will continue to be that country where a woman is raped every 17 seconds (according to the country’s Medical Research Council).

These laws will be like sausages, you don’t want to see them as they are being made. The task here will not only be to enforce them but also explaining them to the population: according to the BBC’s interview with Dumisani Rebombo, a repentant rapist who now works with young men to prevent their ill-treatment of women, he said ‘‘I think that we raise boys in the wrong way, but later on in their lives we want to see them as different men who care and love.’’

Rebombo agrees with most social analysts on the matter, saying that the problem lies with men’s view of women as ‘‘fair game’’. He gives lectures to young men and explains how much he regrets his past actions. In South Africa this is somewhat like spitting in your own beer mug: though one in four men admit to having raped, the macho consensus dictates a non-repentant demeanour.

Most men still refuse to listen, booing rape victims when they bring their assailers to court, despite only 7% of reported cases ever lead to conviction.
The wrong people are being booed.

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