Coffee with my girlfriends is a tri – weekly ritual.
A step counter device, which read a dismal eight hundred steps, stared back at me, considering I needed to clock in ten thousand steps for the day, walking to the coffee shop rang as a solution in my head.
No harm in walking to the coffee shop!
Except, that I live in Johannesburg, South Africa, and consequently the harm is immense because, at this particular corner of the globe, Men Are Trash.Dressed down in track pants and a tee; (I need to point out, I was not provocatively dressed, this is an apparent motive for rape, being sexually harassed or “asking for it” in South Africa); cool air brushed against my messy hair as I appreciated the beautiful South African weather and the meditation that walking supplies.
Out of the corner of my eye, I became aware of a white car slowing down to keep up with me; my heart sank, sweat formed on my palms, this is what it felt like to be afraid.
According to South African news, if this situation met with disaster, I could be kidnapped, raped, or both.
Benign as best as I could impersonate, I was terrified on the inside.
I noticed if something did happen to me, the roads were relatively quiet; this elevated the panic I felt.
A man rolled down his window and shouted at me, “Honey – want a ride? I’ll take you anywhere you want to go.”
Don’t fool yourself, men of South Africa, we women are not flattered by this behavior – it’s simply indecent.
Continuously I declined his offer, whilst he maintained his car pace to keep up with me. Eventually, he left, or so I thought.
Not long after, a truck horn sounded, startling me. A man put his head out the window and screamed to me “Hey sexy!” – while his male passenger friend whistled at me and licked his lips.
Are you beginning to understand why we women say Men Are Trash in South Africa. Again, men don’t be fooled, we woman are not flattered by this behavior. And even if some women are – it is still no way to speak to a lady.
After more sounded car horns, shouts of “hey sexy” and the white car coming around again, (was he following me?), I finally reached the coffee shop. At that point, I felt like scum, dirty, disrespected and all those related adjectives. However, these “men” were probably onto their next target, hooting and yelling at another girl, feeling perfectly okay with their actions.
Meanwhile, elsewhere in South Africa during these twenty minutes of me walking to a coffee shop, about thirty-five women would be raped. The shocking statistics state that a woman is raped every twenty-six seconds in South Africa.
On holiday in Europe, I take a walk, sometimes in my track pants, sometimes all done up. Wait! There’s a man walking towards me. “My name is Ivan – you are very beautiful,” he says to me. Smiling, I say thank you, he nods his head and moves along.
Another scenario, still in Europe, a man approaches me with a pen in his hand “Beautiful lady, may I please have your number so we can have coffee maybe tomorrow?” I point out my engagement ring to him, he simply says “Ah beautiful ring for a beautiful lady, have a good day.”
No man sounds his car horn at me, there’s no shouting out of windows and the likes, I don’t feel bothered, on the contrary, I feel respected, undoubtedly, I like this feeling; it puts a smile on my face.
When writing this blog, I was skeptical about comparing South Africa men and European men in general. But, I find much caution is taken to not offend these “men”.
The prevalence of domestic violence and rape are at a catastrophic high, particularly in rural South Africa, where disregard towards a woman’s dignity and rights takes preference. In addition to this, Elders, as well as traditional leaders and not police investigate the abuse against these women; the trusted Traditional leaders mislead communities and do not have the interest of the women in mind but rather inflict beneficial male dominated solutions.
While the Domestic Violence Act (DVA) looks favorable on paper, what women face in reality, is exceptionally different as the DVA is yet to be properly and fully implemented by the South African Police Services.
Remember this television commercial back in 1999, where Charlize Theron had a message for South African men?
Eighteen years later, this South African rape catastrophe has by no means decreased; the consistent reoccurrence of vile violence against our women and children is testament that we are still enabling rapists in our country. Together with this commercial, South Africa has only managed to come full circle to the hashtag #MenAreTrash.
In essence, what happens in our society mirrors who we are as people.
Consider these unnerving statistics:
- South Africa has about 100 000 rapes a year
- One in three women are raped
- South Africa ranks as number one for rapes per capita in the world!
This is what the reflection of South Africans look like.
Since Karabo Mokoena’s brutal killing, many conversations regarding South Africa’s state concerning rape and domestic violence has come to surface. This is an important time for South Africans.
Here’s what we can do right now, to help stop domestic violence and rape in South Africa:
- Always report a sexual offender
- Keep the conversation going
- Teach your sons how to treat a woman, don’t assume they know how to
- Volunteer at an Organization concerned with rape and domestic violence
- Speak to your family and friends who do not know how to treat women appropriately, call them out on it
- Disable rapists and enable women to live freely, with respect and dignity, making it extremely difficult for men to get away with rape in all communities at all times, thus protecting our woman assuredly.
Organizations Focused on Domestic Violence & Rape In South Africa:
Domestic violence together with the rape epidemic in our country can be defeated by continuously driving programs aimed at the absolute implementation of the DVA act by the South African Police Services with constant insistence from associations, tearing down patriarchal views in poorer communities, harsher sentencing for rapists and abusers, to name a few.
Join an organization and fight this epidemic:
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Pot Of Gold Blog By Sheena Deepnarain