ON SATURDAY, the same day that Bredasdorp rape victim Anene Booysen was buried, we reported that police had arrested a Johannesburg pastor for luring a woman into his church and raping her.
Details were scanty, but this is not the first time we have carried reports about the local clergy committing rape. A few months ago we reported that an East London priest was on the run after allegedly luring a poor Duncan Village girl into his house with a promise of food and then raping her. She was seven years old.
As shock waves about the attack on Booysen ripple and South Africa’s tag as “the rape capital of the world” continues to be broadcast, various organisations are mobilising in an attempt to send the same message of outrage as Indian protestors did after a New Dehli woman was raped last year. Cosatu plans to march. The DA plans to march. President Jacob Zuma has expressed shock and outrage. The ANC Women’s League is trying to call people to action.
Certainly there is cause. Every four minutes a woman is raped in South Africa. Our country is reported to have the highest number of rapes per head of population of any Interpol member country, with more than 64500 reported in 2011-12.
And this is not the whole picture – rape is vastly under-reported. Then when suspects are caught only 12% of cases end in conviction.
Today we report two heart wrenching cases: that of a 21-year-old disabled woman and that of a granny who was raped in her house and then, in extreme pain, went to sleep in her garden because the brazen rapist lay sleeping in her bed.
The reality is that a war is being waged against women and it is outrageous that the situation has been allowed to deteriorate so far.
The question we wish to raise here however is, where, when the rest of society is starting to mobilise, when politicians and trade unions are starting to speak out, is the church? What is it doing when its own priests are part of the problem?
Where is the church when, in all likelihood, some of the men in its pews are perpetrators (reports say a third of all South African men have committed rape)? Where are the pastors and elders when the women who make up the bulk of their congregations are the continued targets of a crime that, if it does not kill, emotionally mutilates?
The church played a pivotal role in the struggle against apartheid. During the 1980s the red cloth of the clergy was a distinguishing mark in protest marches across the nation. Today it continues to be a network that penetrates most communities and as such is better positioned than most to make an impact addressing an issue like rape.
As a bearer of moral standards, as a representative of 80% of our community, as an institution that must ensure its relevance if it is to have worth, and as body whose own leaders are also committing rape, the church should surely be taking its place among those standing up against this horrible crime?