IT’S NO longer time to just talk. It’s time to act, urgently. It’s time to talk and do something about men – about how we make them, groom them and send them out into the world to rape and kill women.
For this is the silence at the heart of the violence and rape scandal of South Africa. It is men, singly and in groups, who do this.
It is men who are our sons, our brothers, our friends; we, who commit this most heinous of crimes.
The conversation must take place among men and, concomitantly, tough action needs to be taken against those who break the law.
During the past few weeks there has been a horrific display of what we have all become: a nation that daily maims, rapes and kills women.
The name Anene Booysen animated us, flickered a conscience that might have been dimmed, then other news came along and we moved on.
We must not move on. This problem will not go away.
It is unknown, except for speculation, what happened at the home of athletics hero Oscar Pistorius on the morning of St Valentine’s Day. One fact, though, is implacably true. A young man with a gun in his hand killed a young woman, Reeva Steenkamp.
That reminds us that there are too many men who visit violence upon women. It must stop, but the old methods and the old wringing of the hands is not enough. It is time to talk to the perpetrators: men.
What is it about our country that makes so many of us men believe that we have a right to a woman’s body to the extent that we violate these bodies in order to assert this sick right?
What is it about us that makes a group of men – as happened in the video- recorded gang-rape last year of a child – participate in this sick and disgusting act?
What is it that we have ingrained in our boys that not a single one of them, not one in any of these gang-rape incidents, stops and walks away?
Something is deeply broken in what we have inculcated in our men. In villages, townships, university campuses and elsewhere men witness, participate in or are aware of rape and rapists. Yet there is a code of silence, of acceptance, that is ingrained in all of us: no one snitches on these rapists, no one walks away, no one stops it and draws a line in the sand.
We are not a sick country; we are a country of sick men.
President Jacob Zuma, in his state of the nation speech, said absolutely nothing about the seriousness with which we ought to tackle the issue. He spoke mainly about the National Council on Gender- based Violence, established last year. This is a talk shop that has met only once.
Worse, though, the president seems to think service delivery protests are a greater scourge to our country than rape. He announced plans to establish a special rapid prosecution regime for protesters but cannot move himself to do the same in respect of the 60000 sexual assault cases a year.
Here is the thing. It is men who rape. It is men who protect and defend the men who rape. It is men who badger and bully and force women and abused children not to report the chief, priest, sangoma, uncle or other relative who has committed this crime.
The problem therefore lies with men. That is where our efforts should now be directed.
Over and above some serious legal action – strengthening the police’s domestic violence, child protection and sexual offences units, plus special rape courts with properly trained prosecutors – we need wholesale re-education of men.
In schools and communities, in universities, in churches and in workplaces, we need campaigns similar to those that we initiated to fight the scourge of HIV/Aids.
We cannot keep rape underground any longer. We need to declare a state of emergency.
That state of emergency must expose men to messages about rape and other gender-based violence and in such a way that there is a shift in our collective psyche.
South African men need mass re-education. If needs be, this should be legislated for: every man needs to attend several classes of sensitisation at a school, community hall, clinic or other such facility.
Every man needs to go for a refresher course – just as we all go for re-testing for HIV and Aids – every two years.
It must happen until rape is no longer a pandemic in our country.
Otherwise we will all talk until the cows come home but we will have failed to deal with the problem.
The problem is us, men. We need to deal with it.
Justice Malala is a political commentator and journalist