The most dangerous place on earth is this land of sunny skies, warm and friendly people, tremendous diversity and vibrant natural beauty. It is this South Africa.
If you are a woman, or a child, you cannot find yourself in a more treacherous place than this. This beautiful country of ours holds unimaginable treachery, putting your personal safety at a higher risk than anywhere else in the world. You are facing peril from the moment you are born, until the day you breathe your final breath.
And where does this peril come from? What is the source of the hazard? Our men. Statistically a woman is at greater risk to be killed by her own lover, boyfriend, husband than any other danger that may befall her. 2 to 4 women die at the hands of their partners every day in South Africa. To show you the contrast: In Ireland 5 women die at the hands of their partners every YEAR. Here, in our beloved country, that number would have been reached by the morning of the second January, of any given year.
A friend asked me if it is safe to travel to India with her 16 year old daughter, as there are so many reports of rape in that country. Here is the answer: Every year 25 000 rape cases are reported in India with a population 1,2 billion strong. That is 1 in 48 000 people. In South Africa the number of reported cases stand at 65 000 per year, that number is 1 in 862. You are 56 times more likely to be raped in South Africa than India. Both countries face the challenge of under-reporting of rapes and inadequate investigative and judicial response to the problem. In both countries the number of reported cases could represent as little as 1 in 20 of actual rapes. The statistics however are much bleaker in South Africa and the answer is: Your daughter is more likely to be raped here at home than in India or anywhere else on the planet.
If you are a child, your chances of being raped, molested, abused and killed, are likewise higher here than anywhere in the world. We are the world champions at baby rape and murder. Children, as small as a few weeks old, are raped in our country. And this happens across the racial spectrum. Even mothers are raping and abusing their children. There is something seriously wrong with our society and we have to begin to ask ourselves, what can be done to make South Africa a safer place for all our citizens and particularly for our children.
This is the biggest problem we have. Hands down. There is no political, economic or social challenge that poses such a threat to personal well-being than the sexual violence perpetrated against people in our nation every day. It is time that we ask ourselves the difficult questions: why are we the world champions at rape? What has happened to our democracy that the personal safety, sacredness and inviolability of more than half of the population cannot be secured, don’t seem to carry priority and wont feature significantly in the budgeting of private and public sectors alike?
That brings me to the crux of the matter. We have to stop talking about it and start spending real money on it. It cannot be that only Corporations dealing pertinently with ‘women’s’ issues have budget available to combat and respond to rape. Our Department of Social Development has funding for Victim Empowerment. Could we empower people BEFORE they are victims? Could we also PREVENT people from becoming victims? I have developed my Rape Response material out of pocket. I am training Rape Response Community Care Workers for free with the training material that I have written and compiled for free. However, the question is: how many can I train out of my own pocket? What difference can I make when I have to tackle this problem from what is left of my own salary as an NPO manager? I have been called upon to drive police officers to court and meetings because there are no vehicles or budget to get them there. I have been asked to supply airtime to police and care workers so that they can call victims and call me. I have had to pay for everything from the Rape Response posters to the taxi fees of care workers to get to court and to refreshments at training. I need to open a safe house – in fact I need to open many safe-houses. I need to put more coordinators and Rape Response Care Workers in the field. I need to film and edit training so that it can go to hard-to-reach areas. I need fuel for the vehicle I use to get to training and meetings. I need more vehicles for more workers, I need technology and tools… and I am one person. None of the Rape Prevention, Response and Support services are funded sufficiently in order to make any real difference to the problem. There simply is not enough money to make our country a safer place!
The court managers need to be trained to do their job properly. The investigating officers need to be trained to consider victim’s rights. More social workers need to be appointed. More community level interventions need to be put in place. More safe places and recovery centers need to be built and funded.
When we still used cheque books, someone once said: Give me your chequebook and I will tell from your stubs what is the most important thing to you. This is true. Show me what you spend your money on and I will tell you what is important to you. South Africa show me your chequebook stubs. Private and public sectors alike – let me see what you spend money on and I will be able to tell you if the fact that our country is the most dangerous place on earth has reached your attention and has touched your heart at all. I am going to resist making this about the things that Government spends money on, because it is not only Government that has to ask itself these questions. Everyone needs to say: What can I do? And if I can’t do anything, what can I give?