The continuation of the scourge of rape, in all its shapes and forms continues to stain the reputation of our beloved country, and the ideals of equality and liberty that underpin our much lauded constitution.
Rape is not a private or ‘domestic’ matter. It is an assault on the human rights of a very large percentage of our population. As long as it continues to create havoc in the hearts of our communities, and ruin the lives of those who are subjected to it, we have no right to say that we live in a peaceful and democratic society.
Rape and the threat of rape are now regarded by the UN as one of the most oppressive instruments of subjugation.
The latest shocking case of a gang rape against a seventeen year old, who was left for dead, has demanded that we all stop and think about what type of society we are developing. A recent gang rape in India has sparked a mass movement across India and several continents demanding that governments take measures to protect their citizens.
This Union believes that much more needs to be done to apply existing laws to make sure that rapists and abusers are brought to court, and convicted, and that our communities are made safe for girls and women and all those who are vulnerable.
What is needed is a dramatic change of mindset, and behaviour. A massive campaign needs to be launched to challenge the patriarchal view of our society. We have to sensitise boys and men that using sexual harassment, violence and worse to oppress girls and women is holding back our development, and is undermining the democratic struggle that brought an end to apartheid. We need education on these issues in every school, college, workplace and community. Secondly, we cannot separate the desperation that is produced from unemployment, poverty and hopelessness and the socially negative behaviour that characterises life in many of our communities. We have to remove the chronic material conditions that produce negative social relations.
This Union, while expressing its deepest condolences to the family for the loss of a promising young life, hopes that the incident will ignite the widest possible level of concern and mobilisation, of people and resources, to begin the difficult but essential task of ending the scourge of rape and abuse, and to realise a society where all are treated with respect and dignity.
South African Municipal Workers' Union of COSATU