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South African National AIDS Council Press Release on Rape and murder of Anene Booysen

“Women born in South Africa have more chance of being raped than learning how to read” -

The South African National AIDS Council Women Sector is appalled at the gruesome rape and murder of Anene Booysen. Sexual violence against women in South Africa knows no age, skin colour, sexual preference, and class or education level. Although the line above, quoted from when viewed from a statistics perspective[1] cannot be validated, as social activists it captures the reality which we experience working with marginalised communities in South Africa.
It is horrific incidents like that of Booysen that serve to remind us of the particular type of violence that is directed at women perpetrated by men, because we are women. Crime statistics for the 2010/2011 year were announced in September 2012, murder and robbery rates were down but rape figures had increased from 55 097 to 56 272. For the year 2011/2012 this increased to a staggering 64,514. So while we fight for, legislate and programme to realise gender equality; national statistics show that women’s vulnerability to sexual violence is on the increase.

Women’s rights organisations working in the area of sexual violence call for the right to dignity and safety from all forms of violence – in the private and public spheres. Violence against women in South Africa is an omnipresent threat. With a rape occurring every seventeen seconds, and intimate partner violence forming the leading cause of death among female homicide victims, with 56% of female homicides being perpetrated by an intimate partner – being a woman in South Africa is akin to being a moving target.

The place we call home . . . what do the numbers say?

In our homes: 40-50% of women in a research study conducted by the MRC reported having been victims of physical violence from an intimate partner, correlated by over 40% of male respondents in the same study[2]

In our communities: Three quarters of men who perpetrate rape do it for the first time before the age of twenty years old. A local research study found that 28% of men report having perpetrated rape.[3]

In our schools: More than 30% of young women report being raped at school[4]. Close to one-third of all girls surveyed in a local study, said their first sexual experience was forced, and nearly three-quarters had sex against their will at least once.[5]

Accessing Services: There are extremely high levels of secondary trauma faced by a survivor reporting a rape matter to the police, undergoing a forensic examination and testifying in court[6].

Access to Justice: Of the 32% of rape cases that go to court, conviction rates for adult rape is recorded as 4.5% and of the 42% of cases pertaining to minors, the conviction for rate stands at 9.06% for children less than eighteen years. For rape of adults, more tried cases resulted in acquittal than conviction. For murder and for child rape there were almost as many convictions as acquittals. [Sample size form Western Cape Eastern Cape, Gauteng and KwaZulu Natal Provinces][7]

Where is the Outrage? – The Institutional Crisis

From the outside South Africans have been depicted as desensitised, with references to the disproportionate public outcry as compared to India. There is a lack of confidence in the justice system to protect women from violence; there is also a demonstrated lack of political will to drive women’s equality through the support of civil society initiatives. This is underscored by an ongoing process of government and development agencies slashing funding to essential service organisations in the women’s sector. [8]

The reality is that women’s organisations are closing, while the threat and perpetration of VAW is increasing. In the last two years we have seen member organisations closing, and with the exception of a select few, there has been no women’s organisation that has not had to retrench staff in the last three years.

VAW, HIV and Gender Equality

In 2010 Jewkes et al released data over a study that quantitatively linked VAW and vulnerability to HIV infection in South Africa. This study found that nearly one in seven new HIV infections could be prevented if young women were not subjected to physical or sexual abuse and a similar proportion could be prevented if they did not experience the greatest relationship power inequalities [9][sic].

Mmapaseka “Steve” Letsike Deputy Chair of the South African National AIDS Council [SANAC] had the following to say “We cannot continue to tolerate such behaviours of perpetrators, who continue to brutally rape and murder our community members. South Africans should act against such behaviours and we must unite in condemning the acts of these perpetrators. It is our duty as citizens to protect the rights of everyone everywhere. I call upon all citizens and government to stand and see the gravity of the problem. We must tackle the violence and stand as a collective to address these issues.”

Where to Now? - Jewkes noted the following “Rape perpetration is preventable. This review suggests that the predominant underlying factors for rape perpetration are environmental, and central among them are gender attitudes and childhood experiences of violence.”[10]

As organisations working toward gender equality it is important that we link the realisation thereof to health and development outcomes. There is global recognition on the risks between gender inequality and increased vulnerability to VAW and HIV.
Feminism as a global movement against sexist oppression, demands that we continue to expand on local feminist participation in order to realise gender equality. In a context where we cannot name what the perpetrators have done to the victim because it is too disturbing even in print, it points to a crisis. That transforms this case along with so many others, into a call for us to rally together as women, as feminists, as citizens with rights to dignity, safety and security.

The statement can be downloaded on the SANACWS website at the bottom of this announcement under the section titled "Announcement Downloads and Resources"


Dear Myrtle

Thank you so much for writing to me to ask me to be your friend! I have accepted your invititation. I thought I'd tell you about the project which I'm working on. The project has not kicked off yet - perhaps you might like to talk with me about involvement if you're interested?

I need help of whatever kind we can collect .... might be you up to it? NOt sure what your day job is, perhaps you will email me and we could talk if you're interested in kick-starting something in Joburg? If you send me your skype id and/or a landline number I will be in touch and we could meet remotely (I live in France)...... Please read to the end and then let me know whether you might like to come on board (especially within the gay community - but definitely anywhere women are suffering in our lovely country)....

This is the letter which I'm sending out to prospective partners. The project is not yet registered and this is something which you and I might explore, for we need people to come on board for registration ... but read first and let's talk afterwards if you're interested, dear Myrtle....

NAME: I PROTECT ME. A pyramid Self-Defence training system run by S.African women in schools and in the community in South Africa, educating and training children and other vulnerable adults to detect, prevent and deter rape and physical assault

Violence is a legacy of apartheid in SA, ‘the rape capital of the world’, where a quarter of school boys say that ‘jackrolling’ (gang rape) is ‘fun’, ( and a third of rapes in schools is by teachers and fellow pupils (The Lancet 2002). The ‘National Schools Violence Study’ (CJCP, 2007) found that 59% primary school girls have been assaulted three times or more, and fellow learners were 86% responsible. Yet 95% say they receive safety information at school. More than information is needed, and we believe that self-defence training, which is 85% of safety, is part of the answer.

OBJECTS. The Association is a public, non-profit organisation established for the following object:
5. To teach children and vulnerable adults in the community how to defend themselves so as to get away and report attacks of physical violence through a system of pyramid training
6. The training will be accredited and is aimed to be placed within the physical education curriculum of the Department of Education in schools, in due time to be offered as a national vocational qualification to enhance employment opportunities
7. The training will be outreached as a workable business model which brings together the community, education and businesses with a common purpose, whilst opening entrepreneurial doors
8. Attacks of rape and violence in schools and in the community will be mapped through mobile telephone reporting.
The training is a methodology proven to reduce rape figures by up to 30% in targeted areas.

This is a business model partnering the community with experienced business partners, we will be able to start and sustain this training.

We are 40% there. A group in Kenya which has taught millions of children and women in the slums of Nairobi how to defend themselves against attack - not judo nor karate, but by ‘fighting dirty’ - with thousands of success stories, are coming to teach us in SA. They will send two trainers to SA to start this training for us free of charge. I have already collected their airfares and have offers from the community for their accommodation.

The first round of training will be for 100 volunteers, who will, by the first school term in 2014, go into 25 target schools to start teaching children how to protect themselves. Within one school year we will reach more than 30,000 children and will teach the same skills to hundreds of women and other vulnerable people in the community. Because we are going to do this by way of a pyramid training system (training trainers to train trainers), the potential is huge.

We know this can be done but we need business knowledge, seed funding and partnerships.

Please talk with us.
I PROTECT ME project
Tel (France) +33 9 54 32 55 31
Skype monicagracie

Monica Clarke, Writer & Storyteller, bringing human rights alive.
I wish you 'Nangamso', that is: May you continue to do the good work which you do so well.
(A blessing from my ancestors, the Khoikhoi, the first people of South Africa).

MyrtleG's picture

Gender equality in education

Hello Monica,

Thank you for sharing this with me and accepting my request.

Educating girls and women is widely acknowledged as the most powerful and effective way to address global poverty.
Bringing gender equality into the classroom discussion, will not only equip educators with the skills to deal with issues of gender inequality but will also support girls’ education. Children deserve the opportunity to reach their full potential. All the best with this venture in schools. I know it is not easy to institute initiatives of this nature in our education system. I worked with a group called Knot Violence, based in Switzerland, who did some programs with locals from disadvantaged areas, here in SA. This was during the 2010 worldcup soccer hype. The program focused on teaching children how to deal with conflict and peace collaboration efforts, while having fun, through playing, soccer for instance. It was a wonderful experience for all that participated. The sustainability of such inititiaves always requires collaboration. I will send you the name of the person I worked with, who is based in Sweden and maybe you can make contact with them.
I would have loved to get involved at this level with you, but my day job is too consuming for all the visits and talks with the department of education in South Africa (Johannesburg).

I am however, interested to see such an initiative being shared with women who identifies themselves as gay,lesbian or transgendered. In my voluntary capacity, I work with an organisation who you can access. In a country, like ours, where hate crimes takes place in our communities, woman who identify as gay/lesbian, can benefit from self-defense mediums to protect themselves. There are other networks I too can put you in contact with.

My email:
Looking forward to hear from you.
I will collate a list of LGBTI organistaions in South Africa(Johannesburg) and will send it to you.

Much Light

Myrtle Adams-Gardner

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