Yesterday was Black Friday or ‘Rape Awareness Day’ in South Africa. Why? Because most people are unaware of the fact that a (usually female) person gets raped every 4 minutes within the borders of our beautiful Rainbow Nation. Why have we suddenly become aware of this fact? Anene Booysen, a 17-year-old woman from Bredasdorp (a rural town in the Western Cape Province) died after being gang raped, and this story is making headlines similar to that which the rape and death of Jyoti Singh Pandey made in India and the world just a few weeks back, for the same reasons.
A lady, writing as Amber, responded in the following way in a letter to one of our local news papers:
I have spent the better part of my morning trying to spread the word on the Black Friday Campaign for Rape Awareness in South Africa as this issue is obviously at crisis point and has been for sometime.
However now that I stop and breath, to what end is this campaign? Once awareness is created, then what? What are we asking Government to do?
In the workplace one is advised not to voice the problem unless you have the solution.
Very often the answers to problems seem simple but unfortunately people are not…
She then continues to explain along the general lines of how policy changes and economic restructuring will assure jobs and, in effect, men their dignity which will cause them to rape less. In other words, how ‘a tweaking of the system’ will bring about a more moral society.
Whenever a community or society is faced with such a barbaric act, action and justice is demanded – some suggested procedures and solutions more practical and thought through than others. As always, people are divided on why this happened and how it ought to be dealt with. All seem to agree however that it is a cultural issue – each blaming different segments of, or ideologies functioning within, the culture. We saw a similar response after the recent Sandy Hook school shooting in Newtown in the US.
There exists this notion that better circumstances will produce more moral people. According to this logic poor people can be excused for breaking the law while we can expect the rich people not to? Or differently put that evil is an illusion, that all the corruption, crime, bloodshed and so forth are only results of mismanagement from government’s side? Our problem is seen as a material and structural one rather than a perverted spiritual or heart condition. ‘Structural’ is perhaps not such a misplaced word, but which structures must be changed and what will such restructuring be aiming to achieve?
As mentioned above, everyone has an opinion, some coming from a place of desperation, others pushing an ideology they believe will fix the situation, and (hopefully) some are assessing the situation soberly in the light of the greater South African context, where rape is simply another symptom of a greater problem.
I share below a response to the question ‘Why do males rape?’ together with solutions which is very much aligned with my view of the situation – both the root of the problem and the likely solution. This response was shared by the Christian Action organisation and also sheds light on questions surrounding the death penalty, as more and more South Africans are calling for its return into our judiciary system:
Here are some reasons given by gender researcher Lisa Vetten, the Medical Research Council’s Professor Rachel Jewkes, Sonke Gender Justice’s spokesman Mbuyiselo Botha and People Against Women Abuse counsellor Tiny Moloko. We have adapted and added to them.
Easy accessible pornography and a lust-saturated media: The legalisation of porn and an immoral, lust-saturated media has poured fuel on the fires of an already sexual immoral society. South Africa has become more ‘pornified’ than anyone could have predicted; kids are not only viewing porn, now they’re brazenly imitating its brutality by filming their ‘exploits’ and then spreading their videos on social media. They are imitating not only the same actions seen in porn, but also the same abusive, exploitative attitudes towards women. Porn is a manual for rape and child abuse.
Objectification of women in the media: The media regularly portray women as sex objects and as nymphomaniacs (always available for sex). This is especially so in hip hop music.
Entitlement: “There is a sense that men can demand sex whenever they want it.”
Endemic unemployment: Socialist government policies have caused widespread unemployment. Most rapes worldwide are perpetrated by young males aged 17 – 30. The devil finds evil work for idle hands.
Dysfunctional families: If males have experienced trauma or have themselves been abused in childhood, they are likely to hang out with anti-social peers who could encourage them to rape. According to the MRC, one in nine South African men have been involved in gang rape!
It has become socially acceptable: With so many South African males involved in gang rape, this shows it is something approved of by male peers.
Boys growing up in single parents families without healthy male role models: fathers and husbands need to imitate Christ’s example and be protectors, providers and servant leaders.
Warped ideas of masculinity: Without the role model of strong fathers and a lack of Biblical teaching on manhood, many males have come to believe that part of being a man means accepting violence and dishing it out.
Lack of legal deterrents: “I rape because I can. There is a high likelihood, I will not be arrested. If I am arrested, the detective work will be so shoddy and I will go free.” Medical Research Council research shows that just 6% of reported rape cases in Gauteng are successfully prosecuted. “When the sentence for a crime is not quickly carried out, people’s hearts are filled with schemes to do wrong.” Eccl 8:11
The Role of Government
The Bible is very clear that God has instituted civil government as “an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer.” Romans 13:4. The civil government is called to be a minister of God’s justice: “to punish those who do wrong” 1 Peter 2: 14.
The primary duties and responsibilities of civil government are the protection of the law-abiding citizens and punishment of law-breaking criminals. Psalm 101 reminds us that the duty of God-honouring rulers is to destroy the wicked, to root out evil and to protect the law-abiding – all to the glory of God.
“For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong, for He is God’s servant to do you good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for He does not bear the sword for nothing. He is God’s servant, an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer.” Romans 13:3-4
Capital punishment is God’s clear command: “Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed; for in the image of God has God made man.” Genesis 9:6
God instituted Capital Punishment long before the enactment of the Mosaic Law. In fact, Capital punishment was declared not only for Noah’s time, but “for all generations to come.” Genesis 9:12
“If anyone takes a life of a human being, he must be put to death, whoever kills a man must be put to death. I am the Lord your God.” Leviticus 24:17-22
As rape is a brutal and life-threatening act of violence, the death penalty is also mandated for rape: “But if a man finds a betrothed young woman in the countryside, and the man forces her and lies with her, then only the man who lay with her shall die.” Deuteronomy 22:25
If we are serious about dealing with rape, we will campaign to ban pornography and execute rapists. “Hate evil, love good; maintain justice in the courts…” Amos 5:15
Another reader by the name of Prof. AC Cilliers, also in a letter to another newspaper, here makes his legal case for the re-institution of the death penalty in South Africa:
The most important human right is the right to life. Most of those who infringe on another’s right to life, therefore deserves the most severe punishment, even the death penalty.
Our Constitution states: “Everyone has the right to life.” This is not unqualified. The right of an innocent person to kill his attacker in legitimate defense, concealed. The constitutional court in Makwanyane’s case also ruled in 1995 that the death penalty is not prohibited by international law.
Can the death penalty be wrongly imposed on an innocent person by a court? Among others, the following questions emerge: (i) How many times has this occurred in our country? (ii) What are the names of those who hung innocent? (iii) What is the date(s) of any executions in this regard? (iv) What is the full facts?
Had an innocent be condemned to death and hanged, it would have occurred many years ago. I am not aware that it has happened in South Africa. My conclusion is based on nearly fifty years of practical experience in this regard. In addition to that the president may grant pardon of punishment before execution thereof in doubtful cases.
The government’s refusal to re-introduce the death penalty, is irrational. One reason for any punishment is retribution. If the government does not realise this it is very ignorant. If it does realise this it is immorally inconsistent: Breach of the most important human right deserves the imposition of the heaviest punishment, namely the death penalty, unless there are strong mitigating circumstances, or where it was a case of justifiable euthanasia.
The primary purpose of a legal system is fairness. Even if it only deters a few prospective murderers, the reinstatement of the death penalty is warranted.
Personally, I’ve been somewhat undecided regarding the death penalty for a while now but considering all the other South African laws and privileges together with the way it is being executed, I agree with Prof. Cilliers that there exists serious rational legal inconsistencies in our country, where innocent lives are often treated as lesser ones than that of the guilty before the law.
What are your thoughts? Do you think our nation’s problem is primarily a moral or structural one? Is morality the result of cultural structures or is it in fact the other way around? Which structural changes are necessary and what further changes do you believe it will bring about?