In a letter, titled "When is good news bad news?", South African President Thabo Mbeki makes the following points about a line of argumentation that has been debated in our forum, but in regards to Haiti. The parallels are striking.
A South African newspaper had an article entitled "Rape has become a sickening way of life in our land". We publish Mbeki's comments, excerpted from the letter above, and follow with the reaction from the author of the newspaper article.
[quote]The author of the article on rape is described by the newspaper as "an internationally recognised expert on sexual violence and post-exposure prophylaxis." In an article published by the US 'Washington Post' in June 2000, this "inter
nationally recognised expert" wrote: "Here (in Africa), (AIDS) is spread primarily by heterosexual sex - spurred by men's attitudes towards women. We won't end this epidemic until we understand the role of tradition and religion - and of a culture in which rape is endemic and has become a prime means of transmitting disease, to young women as well as children."
In simple language she was saying that African traditions, indigenous religions and culture prescribe and institutionalise rape. The "internationally recognised expert" was saying that our cultures, traditions and religions as Africans inherently make every African man a potential rapist.
Given this view, which defines the African people as barbaric savages, it should come as no surprise that she writes that, "South Africa has the highest rates of rape in the world, according to Interpol." To her, this assertion would have been obviously correct, because, after all, we are an African country, and therefore have the men conditioned by
African culture, tradition and religion to commit rape.
If she is telling the truth that Interpol has said what she says it said, it will have to explain how it arrives at this conclusion. In 2003 Interpol had 181 affiliated national police services. Of these only 21 submitted reports to Interpol on the incidence of crime in their countries. It would be most instructive to know how Interpol arrives at "world" figures enabling it to arrive at the conclusion about our country it is reported to have reached.
Incidentally, on July 7 this year, the US 'Washington Post' quoted the UNAIDS deputy executive director, Kathleen Cravero, as having said, "Most of the women and girls, as much in Asia as in Africa, don't have the option to abstain (from sex) when they want to. Women who are victims of violence are in no position to negotiate anything, never mind faithfulness and condom use."
Clearly, the views of our own "internationally recognised expert" are shared by other people in high places
, that as African (and Asian) men, we are violent sexual predators.
However, it may be of interest to our readers that a Demographic and Health Survey for South Africa carried out by an organisation called Macro International, funded by the US Government through USAID, showed that rural African women in our country reported a lower rate of rape than women in the United States. The reference to our rural women is especially apposite because it is in the rural areas that we should find entrenched habits that derive from African culture, traditions and religious beliefs.[/quote]
A response from Charlene Smith (the author of the article)
[quote]A high-profile South African anti-rape campaigner has hit back at President Thabo Mbeki after being called racist."The president clearly has a problem with... sex and sexuality and that is delaying South Afri
ca's capacity to effectively deal with sexual violence and HIV/Aids," said Charlene Smith.
At the weekend, Mr Mbeki said she, and other journalists, saw black people as "barbaric savages".
He was angry about criticism of figures which showed a drop in levels of violent crime such as rape and murder.
Some commentators said the statistics did not make people feel safer in a country with one of the world's highest rates of rape and murder.
Ms Smith, who was raped herself in 1999, wrote a newspaper article titled: Rape has become a sickening way of life in our land.
She denied being racist and said the president was "in denial".
Mr Mbeki has been criticised for failing to take action to curb the spread of Aids, at a time when more than five million South Africans are HIV positive. He has previously questioned the link between HIV and Aids.
In his article for the African National Congress website, Mr Mbeki wrote:
"She was saying our cultures, tradit
ions and religions as Africans inherently make every African man a potential rapist... [a] view which defines the African people as barbaric savages."
But Ms Smith said that if Mr Mbeki called all his critics racists, then the word would lose its meaning.[/quote]
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