SlutWalking in South Africa

South African is a crime-ridden society. The murder rate in the country is 52 per 100,000 – that’s 8 times higher than in the United States. And the country leads the world in rape against women.

  • 1,300 women are raped in South Africa every day.
  • A woman is raped in South Africa every 27 seconds.
  • It is estimated that 1 in every 2 South African women will be raped.
  • A woman born in South Africa has a greater chance of being raped than learning how to read.

South African SlutWalks

In a society were rape is rampant, protest marches are extremely important form of community resistance and public protest. This year, South Africa hosted two such protests — SlutWalks — in Cape Town in August and Johannesburg in September. About 2,000 marchers showed up for the Cape Town event.

SlutWalks are protest marches held in cities around the world. Started in Toronto in April 2011, SlutWalk participants protest against the explaining or excusing of rape by referring to any aspect of a woman’s appearance. The protest started when a Toronto Police officer suggested that “women should avoid dressing like sluts in order not to be victimized.”

The marches aren’t promoting that women wear provocative clothing or sexual promiscuity. Instead marchers are protesting the blaming of rape victims that they somehow have asked to be raped by what they wore or how they acted.

During the marches, women come dressed how they like – some provocatively to drive home the point, but many in everyday clothing. I know at least one South African woman marched in the outfit that she was wearing when she was raped.

South Africa’s Rapists

In a 2010 study, 37% of South African men admitted to raping someone and nearly 7% admitted to participating in a gang rape (known as “jackrolling” in South Africa.)

Two-thirds of South African rapists say they have a sense of sexual entitlement. Other stated reasons for rape include a desire to punish women who rejected or angered them, and because of boredom.

Of South African men who knew somebody who had been raped, 16% believed that the rape survivor had enjoyed the experience and had asked for it. In another study, 1/3 of admitted rapists said they did not feel guilty.

Scared in South Africa

I’m not sure how South African women function in society where rape is an everyday occurrence. I was uneasy most of my time in South Africa, where relaying the latest crime is typical conversation at the dinner table. I can’t tell you how many horror stories were shared – not by travelers – but by resident South Africans themselves.

People ask me what I think of South Africa. My answer: I have a love / hate relationship with it. It has a physical beauty that is astounding, but there is an ugliness that runs deep. I always breathe a little sigh of relief when I leave.

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This entry was posted on Thursday, October 20th, 2011 and is filed under Social Issues.

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