Dear Men, there’s simply no excuse for raping and sexually assaulting women

Thursday September 5 2019

 

By Daniel K. Kalinaki

You’ve probably never heard of Uyinene Mrwetyana. Neither had I until two days ago when, trying to make sense of the xenophobic violence in South Africa, I came across her heart-breaking story. Uyinene, 19, a first-year student at the University of Cape Town, went to a post office to collect a parcel.
Luyanda Botha, 42, an employee at the post office, told her power was out. He asked her to return at 2pm. When the post office closed officially at 1pm, he sent his co-workers home. Then he waited, a leopard among the parcels and postcards.
When Uyinene returned Luyanda dragged her inside, locked the door, and attacked her. He slammed her head against the wall then raped her. His sexual lust satisfied, Luyanda turned to his bloodlust. He bludgeoned Uyinene with post office scales then dumped her body.
How do we know all of this? Well, six days later after police sleuths had zeroed in on Luyanda as a suspect, he confessed. Uyinene, he said remorselessly, had given him so much trouble and had taken long to die. Uyinene had died fighting for her life and dignity. When he appeared in court for the first time, Luyanda was grinning, reports said.
This is, of course, a most extreme event and a reflection of the pervasive violence in South Africa. But even if it were just an exceptionally brutal event – and neither violence nor brutality are a monopoly of the South Africans – it proves the rule of how widespread rape and other forms of sexual assault have become.
For every extreme case like Uyinene’s that makes the news, there are hundreds, maybe thousands of others that go unreported, and a similar number of perpetrators walking around among us, wolves lurking among sheep.
There are primarily two underlying problems. The first is that women have been disadvantaged in many ways for a very long time, making it difficult for many victims to speak out. Evidence shows that most sexual predators are known to or close to the victims. They are often friends, family or co-workers.
It takes a lot of courage for a young girl to reveal that the uncle paying her school fees routinely rapes her. It often requires a miracle for such claims to be believed, with the accuser often required to carry, alongside the burden of her trauma, that of proof.
Secondly, society tends to skirt around the problem. First we tolerate what we think are small things, like catcalling. Which leads to groping before rapidly escalating to worse. And when push comes to shove, we have a long catalogue of excuses to bandy around in justification. “She was wearing a provocatively short dress.” “Her cleavage was showing.” “She seemed to enjoy it.” “Why is she raising this now if it happened such a long time ago?” “We were drunk.” “But she said she liked me!” Et cetera.
We even try to clothe it in the camouflage of euphemism and nomenclature. We call it sexual assault or defilement instead of what it really is: Rape, and rape of a minor. In fact, so pervasive has ‘defilement’ become that it no longer makes news.
A criminal offence that ought to attract long custodial sentences has become a civil matter to be negotiated between families; innocence auctioned as damaged goods.
We need to put women in charge of their own bodies. We need to teach young boys and grown up men about consent: Unless it is expressly and explicitly given, it should not be assumed, and it can be taken away in an instant. Stop means stop.
We also need more voices, including and especially from men, to speak out against rape and milder forms of sexual assault. I was pleased to learn that Nile Breweries has launched a campaign, #NoExcuse, to educate men that while alcohol might lower inhibitions and skirts, being drunk is neither an excuse nor a defence. We need more men and organisations to sign up and commit to respecting women.
And we need to stop shaming women when they speak out. Victim shaming drives these crimes underground and allows impunity to thrive. We can’t live in a society where a trip to the post office in the middle of the day is a life or death matter, or where every boda boda ride could be the last.
Having a conscience is what separates man from beast. Men who rape women are animals that should not be allowed to roam the streets. There is simply no excuse for rape. Never has been, never will be. Teach that to your sons, and remind yourself every day.
Mr Kalinaki is a journalist and a poor man’s freedom fighter.

write2kalinaki@gmail.com.
Twitter: @Kalinaki.

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