Tuesday, 25 November 2008


One in three women will be raped in her lifetime. Read that again.
This is a horrifying statistic that simply can't be ignored, especially in South Africa, where a woman or girl is raped every 26 seconds (Source: Charlize Theron, UN Messenger of Peace). That's just over 1,661 rapes every single day - or 606,500 a year - excluding all other forms of sexual assault.
A report by the Southern African Regional Poverty Network (SARPN) shows that the country has one of the highest per capita rates of rape and violence against women in the world (Source: Sunday Times). So common is violence in relationships between men and women in this country, says the SARPN study, that violent or coercive sex is often accepted as normal by both genders. This is a sad - and terrifying - indictment of the state of our nation.
That's why SAbookworm is asking its readers to consider wearing a white ribbon in support of the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence Campaign, which runs from 25 November to 10 December. Even better, volunteer at a women's shelter or organisation, and help a woman or girl child who has been abused (see Women's Net for details).
The 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence is an international campaign that was established in 1991. Symbolically, it starts on the International Day Against Violence Against Women and ends on International Human Rights Day, emphasizing that gender violence is not just a women's issue, but a fundamental violation of human rights. Believe me, if one in three men were raped in their lifetimes, a world-wide state of emergency would have been proclaimed years ago.
The 16-day period also highlights other significant dates, including International Women Human Rights Defenders Day on 29 November, World AIDS Day on 1 December, and the anniversary of the Montreal Massacre on 6 December.
It was on this day in 1989 that twenty-five-year old Marc Lepine, armed with a legally-obtained semi-automatic rifle and a hunting knife, entered a lecture hall at a Montreal university and separated the male and female students. Claiming that he was "fighting feminism", he shot all nine women in the room, killing six. He then moved through the corridors, the cafeteria, and another classroom, specifically targeting women. He killed fourteen and injured ten more, as well as injuring four men, before he turned the gun on himself.
It is this kind of mindless violence that the 16 Days campaign aims to eliminate. So, women and men alike, stand up and be counted on this issue. And, mothers, teach your boy children well - the end to gender violence begins with them.

Top image from the Irish 16 Days campaign of 2000; bottom image from GEMSA (Gender and Media Southern Africa).

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