A Letter sent to President Thabo Mbeki about his questioning of the statistics which various organisations use
Dear President Mbeki,
We appreciated your statement that one rape is too many in South Africa. However your statement about the inaccuracy of the statistics regarding the number of rapes sent a ripple of unease through many women in South Africa.
It is not that we think that these statistics are accurate. In fact, we fear that the figures quoted are probably too low given the extremely narrow definition of rape. What we take issue with is that the fundamental premises of this debate are misleading.
Firstly, clearly the issue of violence against women is not just a South African one. In Europe one in five women will be raped in her lifetime. In a recent UK survey, 20% of men said that they would rape a woman if they could get away with it. Women in Tibet are being forced to bear their Chinese invader's children. We feel strongly, however, that the issue of violence against women in South African is particularly deserving of attention. For example, it is a fact that we have one of the fastest growing rates of HIV infection in the world among economically active women and their children. This stems to a large part from unchecked, under-reported, and unchallenged violence against women and children.
Secondly, reports of men who are raped are increasingly coming to public attention. It is ironic that the bell that has tolled for women in this beautiful country for so long has begun to toll for men too.
Thirdly, when a man like yourself, the most powerful person in South Africa, says that rape and violence against women is not as bad as it has been made to seem, it is in danger of sending a signal to men that the issue is one of numbers and statistics. The size of the problem, however, can never be reflected in statistics. In creating a debate around the accuracy of numbers, we lose sight of the fact that this is an issue about human rights, human dignity and the silencing of women's voices.
The Charlize Theron '"Real Men Don't Rape" advertisement was unbanned in response to people's protests. They were heard. Equally, women demand that rape and violence is framed within the context of the extreme violation of human and constitutional rights.
Reproduced courtesy of the following organisations who endorsed this letter...
Trauma Centre for Survivors of Violence and Torture
Western Cape Network on Violence Against Women
Rape Crisis, Cape Town
The Black Sash
S.A. National Editor's Forum
NICRO Woman's Support Centre
Call to Action Campaign to stop Violence against Women
Union of Jewish Women
Mediaworks (Women's Media Watch)
Institute for Healing of Memories
The Specialist Press Association
Catholic Justice and Peace
Gender Project, Community Law Centre
Legal Resources Centre
New Women's Movement
Women In Need
Children's Resource Centre
United Sanctuary for Battered Women
Department of Social Services
Prepared by : WOMEN DEMAND DIGNITY
South African Rape Survivor, Journalist, Rape Support and Anti-rape Activist Charlene Smith tells her own story...
Charlene Smith: "It wasn't particularly dramatic or brutal. I was an ordinary woman, coming home after an ordinary day. It was a rape that could have happened to anyone."
Click link to read Charlene Smith's chilling story published in the Mail & Guardian on April 9th, 1999.
You can also visit Charlene Smith's 'Speakout' rape support web site by clicking onto this link.
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