Mental Health Crisis in India

More than 50 million people in India suffer from a mental illness.  In 2011, India recorded the highest rate of major depression in the world at 36 per cent.  According to doctors, roughly 10 per cent of India’s population suffers from depression – MGMH

 

Women with mental illness are treated as less than human.  They are dumped, abandoned and abused.  If there are any signs of mental illness, a woman is put in a mental hospital with no chance of getting out.  Men can go back home while women are there for life.  In the following video, we meet a woman whose husband had her institutionalized although she had no history of mental illness.  Here’s a story of a mentally ill woman whose husband built a case against her so that he could get custody of their children after divorcing her.

It is not surprising that women suffer from depression at higher rates than men.  They have to deal with gender inequality, violence, lack of paid employment, lack of education, excessive spousal alcohol use and poverty.  Mothers are blamed for the birth of a female child and many face pressure to have male children.  Women are diagnosed with schizophrenia later in life, oftentimes, following the birth of their children.  The children are often removed from the ill mother’s care and this results in further distress for her. Indian women have higher rates of suicide than women in most developed countries and a higher rate of suicide compared to men in India.  Depression is one of the most common reasons for suicide among Indian women.

Mental health in India carries with it a stigma, especially if the person suffering from mental illness is a woman.  According to MGMH (Movement for Global Mental Health), in rural India, it is common to see people taking their children to temples and faith-healers instead of hospitals and doctors, especially in cases of mental health.  Mental health was something that was talked about in hushed tones.  Thankfully, it is no longer being swept under the rug.  People are coming forward.  Deepika Padukone stunned her fans last year when she admitted that she suffered from anxiety and depression.

At the time the news broke, she was one of the most sought after actresses in Bollywood. It took tremendous courage for her to disclose her illness, especially since people diagnosed with mental illness face discrimination.  Deepika has since launched the Live Love Laugh Foundation to raise awareness about mental health issues and as a result many celebrities were inspired to come out in the open and address the need to talk about mental health.  Varun Dhawan admitted that he was depressed during the making of Badlapur and Honey Singh revealed that he has been undergoing therapy for bipolar disorder.

Sadly, those living with mental illness are victims of a cruel fate.  They are often locked away and stripped of their basic human rights in state-run institutions that are under-staffed. In an article, titled Mentally Ill Suffer a Horrible Fate in India posted on the site for Deutsche Welle (DW), most state run mental hospitals are in deplorable conditions. The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) reported that out of the 43 government mental hospitals in India, less than half a dozen are in a “livable” condition”.

There are doctors in charge of these hospitals who have no business being there.  “These doctors don’t understand the intricacies of a psychiatric illnesses and the comprehensive care the patients require,” said a psychiatrist working in a state-run mental hospital in Uttar Pradesh.

And in the midst of the crisis of hospitals not providing the conditions and care the patients need, are quack healers who are profiting from this.  According to a study by Dr. Shiv Gautam, former superintendent of Jaipur Mental Hospital, 68 per cent of the mentally ill are taken to faith healers before a psychiatrist.  “The reason, besides superstition, is that most general medicine doctors fail to diagnose psychiatric illness,” Gautam said. “A mentally ill patient displays symptoms which superstitious people believe are paranormal,” he added. “Such patients are tortured, chained and used for extracting money from their families.”  Hema, who was suffering from Schizophrenia was believed to have an evil spirit.  Her family took her to Datar Sharif Dargah where she spent a year locked up.  It wasn’t until her condition deteriorated that she was brought to Dr. Gautam.  In 15 days, she began to improve and a month later she was normal.

In other cases, the mentally ill are subjected to one of these horrific ordeals:  whipping, caning, inhaling burnt chili smoke, having their eyes smeared with chili paste or having their eyes branded with red, hot coins.  There are laws banning this practice, however, many dargahs and temples keep the patients chained.  Some of them spend the rest of their lives like this.  In 2001, 26 patients perished in a fire at a dargah in a coastal village because they couldn’t escape the blaze since they were chained.  What a horrific and senseless tragedy.

Families of mentally ill people opt for dumping them.  This means that they are dumped into an asylum where the conditions are not fit for a human.  When an illegal asylum was raided, they found thirty-five men and six boys living in inhuman conditions.  The stench from their unwashed bodies and the excrement drove neighbors to alert the health department.  Naked and chained inmates were discovered, dumped there by their families after they paid the asylum owner.  Some of these poor souls were found crawling in their excrement, some even consuming it.  On their bodies were marks of torture.  Some had surgical scars on their backs, leading to allegations that the asylum had links to kidney theft.  78 patients had entered the asylum but only 41 were found during the raid.

Other patients are dumped in jungles or forests ranges.  Their families pay lorry drivers to drop them.  Women and children are among these victims and in some cases, the females are raped by the drivers before being dumped.  Social activist Murugan S. who has rescued countless mentally ill people from the streets, cautions us not to judge the families by calling them cruel.  Instead we are to examine what forced them to take such extreme measures.  He believes that system needs to change.

Part of the solution is raising awareness.  The suffering of the mentally ill has been brought to our attention. It is out in the open.  The next thing that needs to be done is to show the superstitious and fearful society that mental illness is nothing to run away from or to be ashamed of.  The person suffering from mental illness needs love, support and most importantly, proper care so that he or she can live a normal life.

The government needs to put something place to ensure that patients are placed in reputable, sanitary facilities that will provide the care that they need and to ban the operation of illegal asylums and the practice of dumping.  Quack healers should be banned from profiting from other people’s suffering.  Husbands should not be allowed to institutionalize their wives if there is no record that they have mental illness.

No one wants to be mentally ill but it is a reality for many people and what they need is to know that they have a platform where they can talk about what is happening with them. Here in Canada, we have Bell Let’s Talk, a wide-reaching, multi-year program designed to break the silence around mental illness and support mental health all across the country. It has done so much to fight the stigma of mental illness and encourage people to get involved in educating themselves and others.

It is my sincere hope and prayer that something will be put in place in India so that attitudes toward mental illness would change and those suffering from it will have a platform where they would not be judged, dumped, abandoned or discriminated but supported and be treated with dignity and open minds.  In the meantime, let’s keep talking and raising awareness.

Talking is the best way to start breaking down the barriers associated with mental illness – Bell, Let’s Talk

 

Sources:  Vice News; Movement of Global Mental Health; Wikipedia; Deutsche Welle

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Women of Faith Persecuted

I received this persecution and prayer alert from The Voice of Martyrs Canada.  Imagine your teenage daughter is gang-raped, beaten and her life is threatened because you left Islam?  This is the reality for women who have converted to Christianity.  Their families threaten them, their husbands leave them and they could lose custody of their children.  They are attacked.  During these awful times, it is hard for them to remain strong in their faith and that’s why they need our prayers.  As you read their stories, try to imagine what you would do if you were in their shoes.

UGANDA: Abuse Perpetrated Against ‘Women of Faith’

Sources: Release International, Morning Star News

Pray for the safety of women in Uganda.
Photo: Flickr / CIAT (cc)

A teenager from eastern Uganda, whose parents had converted to Christianity, was gang raped and beaten a few weeks ago. The 19-year-old college student was still receiving hospital treatment nine days after the attack which took place in the Bukedea district.

Three masked men ambushed the young woman as she was returning from her teacher training college on September 19th. They threatened to kill her because her parents had left Islam, then they beat her to an unconscious state. She was discovered by passersby the next day. This attack has worrying similarities to the gang rape of a pastor’s daughter that took place in the predominantly Muslim Budaka district of east Uganda earlier this year.

Meanwhile, also in Budaka, a mother of eight attests that she has been forced to return to Islam, after in-laws threatened to kill her and take away her children. The woman’s husband left her ten years ago because she became a Christian. The discouraged 36-year-old mother is said to be “spiritually troubled” and has asked for prayer that God would restore her to Christ.

Ask the Lord to greatly comfort and heal both of the young Christian women who were raped and beaten. May He protect them from any further harm, and bring needed comfort to their concerned families, strengthening each of them in their faith. In addition, please uphold the abused mother from Budaka who was forced to convert to Islam, praying that she will experience God’s presence, restoration and protection. Ask Him to also protect her children — both physically and spiritually. Let us also be mindful to intercede on behalf of our other persecuted brothers and sisters in Uganda, praying that they will put their trust fully in God, even amid the rising persecution in certain areas — particularly against Christians of a Muslim background.

To post a prayer on behalf of those who are suffering for their Christian faith in other parts of the world, please visit our prayer wall.

We have read in the Bible how believers of the early churches were persecuted, scattered or martyred for their faith.   Jesus warned that we would face tribulation.  He said, “Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and kill you, and you will be hated by all nations for My name’s sake. And then many will be offended, will betray one another, and will hate one another” (Matthew 24:9, 10).  However, He also gave us this assurance, “But he who endures to the end shall be saved.  And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come” (verse 14).  

I pray that these women will not lose their faith and that they will hold on Jesus’ promises.  They each have a crown laid up for them.  Let us pray that they will persevere so that they can receive their crowns.  And it’s encouraging to know that no matter what opposition, tribulation or persecution Christians face, none of these things will stop the everlasting Gospel from being preached to those who dwell on the earth—to every nation, tribe, tongue, and people (Revelation 14:6).

For what is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? Is it not even you in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at His coming? – 1 Thessalonians 2:19 

Plead for the Widows

They still hope when they die, that their son probably will come and light their pyre.  A son who breaks your legs, a son who hits you so hard that your skull breaks, a son who is willing to put cow dung in your mouth – and yet you want the same son to come and light your pyre. We need to break that mind-set also, somewhere – Winnie Singh, social activist

I was searching the Internet to see what I could find out about the quality of life for widows in India and was shocked.  After losing their husbands, they are faced with a life of begging and destitution.  Some of them are thrown out by family members.  One widow was beaten by the sons she had raised when she asked them for money.  In-laws refuse to help some widows while others can’t go back home because their parents are too poor to take them back.

Widows face discrimination and are dehumanized.  They are called “it” and in some instances, they are referred to as “randi” which means prostitute in Punjabi.  Some of them marry their brothers-in-law because being man’s property protects them from being raped.

A widow is blamed for her husband’s death.  “You are widowed because you did something wrong in your previous life: that is the view in this predominantly Hindu culture,” explains Dr. Leelavathi Manasseh of the Bible Society. “So, whether a widow is from a rich or poor background, she faces blame, mistreatment and rejection by her family. Many are kicked out of their homes and left to fend for themselves and their children, leaving them in a desperate situation.”  It’s worse when a woman loses her husband to AIDS and she tests positive for HIV.  She is met with even more rejection and ridicule.

In Northern India, there is a place called, “Widow City.”  It is the holy city of Vrindavan.  Widows go there because they believe that if you die there, you would be freed from the cycle of birth and death and obtain moksha (emancipation). It is a place where these women can get away from a life of isolation and the society where they have no place or value.  They are there because they were cast out families who don’t want to pay for them or by in-laws who don’t want them to inherit money or property.  They are ostracised by their villages.  They have lost their income.  They are at the bottom rungs of society and are prevented from remarrying.  In Vrindavan, they pray at the temples and beg. Other widows go there, as pilgrims, intending to dedicate their remaining years to serving the deities Krishna and Radha.

Life for a widow is hard.  When their husbands were alive, they were protected but once they were gone, these poor women felt like orphans because they had no one to take care of them or help them.  They were all alone.  Perhaps this is why in the Bible, orphans and widows were always paired together because they were defenceless, society’s vulnerable.  God wants us to plead for the widows.  Defend their rights to a future filled with hope and dignity.  God made it clear that He is “Against those who exploit wage earners and widows and orphans” (Malachi 3:5).

While society sees widows as a curse, God sees broken, abused, mistreated and unloved women whom He wants to enter into a loving relationship with.  Their families don’t want them, but God wants them to be a part of His family.

Like so many widows, Netramani was cast out and left to fend for herself.  “I was completely alone. … No one would give me work so I had to beg. … I had nothing to eat, nothing to wear. I was completely senseless and didn’t know anything. . .”

Watch Netramani’s heart-wrenching story and imagine either you or someone you know lying there, sick and helpless and no one stops to help.

…for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.’

Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink?  When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You?  Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’  And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me’ – Matthew 25:35-40.  

June 23 is International Widows’ Day, a day when we step into the lives of widows and imagine the desperate places where they find themselves.  Some commit suicide rather than face the shame.  Others turn to prostitution.  Mothers resort to rummaging through the trash in order to feed themselves and their children.  These women don’t deserve to be like this.  You can change this. Through your donations you will make it possible for local pastors to help widows in need, buy them sewing machines, farm animals, or much-needed supplies like winter blankets, water filters and other essentials.  And with your generous gift, these women will have the opportunity to learn about Jesus and His love and compassion for them. To find out more about how you can help, visit http://www.gfa.org/women/widows/

As Christians, we need to demonstrate the love of Christ who reached out to those who were hurting, oppressed and ostracised.  He loved the unloved and valued those whom society deemed worthless. Together let us plead for the widows.  Let us take up their cause.   They have the right to keep their homes, their income and their dignity.  Let us contend with those who mistreat them.  Let us speak for those who cannot speak for themselves.  When we do good to others, we honour God.

A father of the fatherless, a defender of widowsIs God in His holy habitation – Psalm 68:5.

Sources:  Gospel for AsiaTime.com; Women Under Seige; The Laws of Manu; BBC.com; Cross Map; India: Widow City; BBC News

International Women’s Day

Sunday, March 8, 2015 is International Women’s Day.  Gospel of Asia Canada is celebrating this day in South Asia by:

  • Giving new saris to widows
  • Encouraging women by sharing stories of women found in the Bible
  • Distributing food and blankets to poor children and families in the slums
  • Visiting women in prison and encouraging prostitutes with Christ’s love
  • Meeting the basic needs of some of the poorest women in society

I encourage you to watch a clip of the movie, “Veil of Tears” about a woman named Suhkwinder who almost committed suicide because her children were born girls. As you watch the clip and celebrate International Women’s Day, find out how you can help to change the life of a woman just like Suhkwinder’s. In a society where boy babies are preferred, the worst words a parent could hear are, “It’s a girl”.

In India girls are unwanted.  I read in an article that came out a couple of years ago that a three month old girl died from cardiac arrest at a state-run hospital in Bangalore after battling for life for three days.  Her father had battered her because he wanted a son.  Little Neha Afreen sustained head injuries, abrasions and bite marks all over her body.  This caused public outrage which led to her father’s arrest.  Her mother said, “My husband was enraged with me for delivering a girl,  He hated her. He wanted me to get rid of the child or abandon her as he wanted a son.”

Sadly, there are several horror stories of baby girls who have been abandoned, tortured or killed because they were unwanted.  We live in a world where there is gender bias.  As a Christian this is very hard for me to accept.  God created both man and woman in His image.  Little girls are as precious in His sight as little boys.  And if society keeps killing the baby girls, how will they have the boys they want so much?  And what about the boys when they grow up and want to get married and there is a shortage of women?  Many of them will have to go elsewhere to find wives. In Asia, baby girls are tossed aside as if they are garbage and women are raped.

There is the documentary, India’s Daughter, the story of the gang rape and murder of a young woman which shocked the world and sparked riots and protests all over India. Grieving parents and one of the rapists tell the story of the night six men brutally assaulted 23 year old medical student, Jyoti Singh while driving around Delhi, India’s Capital, in a bus.  Women should have the right to feel safe in their own communities. In Canada, you can watch India’s Daughter on March 8 on CBC or online for 30 days after broadcast.

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I know of some fathers who have daughters and adore them.  In fact, they want daughters.  God bless these men.  Jyoti’s parents were happy to have her.  She had dreams like everyone else.  One night, her dreams and life were brutally taken away from her.

On March 8, let us celebrate our mothers, grandmothers, daughters, sisters, aunts, nieces, friends, teachers, etc.  Let us celebrate women and reflect on the marvelous contributions they have made and will make to our society.  Each life matters.  Girls matter.  I pray that one day, the words, “It’s a girl” will be met with joy and acceptance.  Until then, let each of us who has a little girl of our own, encourage her to stand up and say, “I am a girl and I matter.”

Sources: http://www.thenational.ae/news/world/south-asia/baby-girls-killing-reveals-indias-crisis-of-gender-bias; http://www.cbc.ca/passionateeye/episodes/indias-daughter

Five Year Old Rape Victim

When I saw on the news that a five year old girl was raped by a man in his twenties, I was livid.  As a mother of a five year old, I was greatly affected by this horrific crime.  Apparently he was a tenant in the girl’s house.  How could a grown man do commit such a horrific act on a child?  What is the government of India doing about this?  Why is rape so rampant in the country?  Women and girls are not safe.  What will happen to the rapist of this child?  I hope that he will get the punishment he deserves.

I learned today that the police arrested a second man in connection with the abduction and rape of the little girl.  This youngest of the rape victims so far was not only raped but tortured.  According to BBC News, she was taken hostage on Monday and attacked in a locked room for over 48 hours.  Once found guilty, these men should be thrown into jail without any possibility of being released.  This way they cannot hurt another innocent child.  They should be made an example to others who might be thinking of committing similar violent crimes.

It has also been reported that the little girl is showing signs of improvement but the people of New Delhi have erupted into protests again.  They are saying that the police are not doing enough to prevent rape in their country.  Enough is enough!  It’s time the police do their job.  Let us raise our voices in protest and soladarity with the people of India and demand justice for the five year old rape victim.

Source:  http://www.news.com.au/world-news/indian-rape-victim-5-improving/story-fndir2ev-1226625464082

Morocco to change Rape Law

Imagine being forced to marry the man who raped you?  This was the horrible reality 16 year Amina Filali faced.  This drove Amina to take her own life.

In a variety of cultures, marriage after the fact has been treated historically as a “resolution” to the rape of an unmarried woman. Citing Biblical injunctions (particularly Exodus 22:16–17 and Deuteronomy 22:25–29), Calvinist Geneva permitted a single woman’s father to consent to her marriage to her rapist, after which the husband would have no right to divorce; the woman had no explicitly stated separate right to refuse. Among ancient cultures virginity was highly prized, and a woman who had been raped had little chance of marrying. These laws forced the rapist to provide for their victim.

There are two accounts of rape in the Bible that I will address here.  The first was of Dinah, the only daughter of the patriarch Jacob.  The man who raped her was Shechem.  We learn what happened in Genesis 34:

Now Dinah the daughter of Leah, whom she had borne to Jacob, went out to see the daughters of the land.  And when Shechem the son of Hamor the Hivite, prince of the country, saw her, he took her and lay with her, and violated her. His soul was strongly attracted to Dinah the daughter of Jacob, and he loved the young woman and spoke kindly to the young woman. So Shechem spoke to his father Hamor, saying, “Get me this young woman as a wife.”

Shechem raped Dinah and then he wanted to marry her.  Dinah’s brothers were livid.  “The men were grieved and very angry, because he had done a disgraceful thing in Israel by lying with Jacob’s daughter, a thing which ought not to be done.”  Shechem’s father Hamor pleaded on his son’s behalf, asking Jacob to give Dinah to him as a wife.  And make marriages with us; give your daughters to us, and take our daughters to yourselves.   So you shall dwell with us, and the land shall be before you. Dwell and trade in it, and acquire possessions for yourselves in it.”  Surely Hamor was aware of what his son had done.  Wasn’t he disgraced by it?  Did he think that his son marrying the woman he raped would excuse what he had done?  And what about Dinah?  How would she have felt marrying the man who raped her?  Suffice to say, the marriage didn’t go through. Two of Dinah’s brothers killed Shechem, his father and all of the men in the city. We don’t hear about Dinah after this terrible chapter in her life but it is safe to say that she never got married.

Tamar was the daughter of King David.  Her half-brother Amnon lusted after her to the point where he couldn’t eat or sleep.  Finally, unable to bear it any longer, he dismissed all of the servants and got Tamar to come to his room on the pretense that he was ill.  She trustingly entered his room with the cakes she had made for him.  He took hold of her and he took hold of her and said to her, “Come, lie with me, my sister.”

But she answered him, “No, my brother, do not force me, for no such thing should be done in Israel. Do not do this disgraceful thing! And I, where could I take my shame? And as for you, you would be like one of the fools in Israel. Now therefore, please speak to the king; for he will not withhold me from you.” However, he would not heed her voice; and being stronger than she, he forced her and lay with her (2 Samuel 13:1-14).  After he raped her, Amnon chased her away even though she said to him, “No, indeed! This evil of sending me away is worse than the other that you did to me.” He had the servant throw her out and bolt the door.  Tamar was a virgin.  She went away crying bitterly.  She remained at her brother Absalom’s house.  Tamar didn’t go to her father to report what had happened.  And we can see why.  We learn that although King David was angry when he heard what Amnon had done to his half-sister, he did nothing.  Amnon was not punished for his crime.  Absalom took matters into his own hands and avenged his sister by murdering her rapist.

Rapists should not be allowed to marry their victims so that they could avoid jail time.  They committed a crime and should be punished according the law.  Victims should not be forced to marry the men who violated them.  What psychological damage could that do to a woman, especially a young woman like Amina?  She was forced to marry her rapist.  Such an arrangement was  unbearable for her.  After seven months of marriage, she saw no other way out except death.  Death was more preferable than staying married to Moustapha Fellak whom she accused of physical abuse.  It is a terrible shame that this young girl had to die in order for the Moroccan justice ministry to support a proposal to change the penal code.

Let us hope that other young girls will be saved from the same fate as Amina.  This is not just a women’s issue–it is human rights’ issue.  Everyone has a right to quality of life and to be protected from violent crimes.  Rape is a crime and should be treated as such.  Those who commit rape should be arrested, charged and sentenced.

It is sad that we live in a world where an unwed girl or woman who has lost her virginity is considered to have dishonored her family and deemed no longer suitable for marriage.  It doesn’t matter that she was raped.  Some families believe that marrying the rapist is the best alternative.  According to a BBC News, Amina’s mother told the Associated Press,  “I couldn’t allow my daughter to have no future and stay unmarried.”  It’s times like these when I am thankful that I am not a part of a culture where a young girl or woman doesn’t have the right to refuse to marry the man who raped her.  Keeping the family honor in tact even if it means that the guilty party will be a part of that family is more important than their daughter’s wellbeing.

Let’s continue to hope and pray that Morocco will change the law allowing rape marriages and to curb violence against women.  It’s time to take action, Morocco and prevent more  tragedies like the suicide of Amina.  It’s time for parents to stop forcing their daughters to marry their rapists out of fear they won’t be able to find husbands if it is known they were raped.   It’s time to protect the victims and stop allowing rapists to escape prosecution.  It’s time to rewrite the entire penal code to stop violence against women.  It’s time for change.

Open quoteIn Morocco, the law protects public morality but not the individual.Close quote

  • FOUZIA ASSOULI,
  • president of the Democratic League for Women’s Rights, on the suicide of a Moroccan teenager who was reportedly forced to marry her rapist

Read more: http://www.time.com/time/quotes/0,26174,2109097,00.html #ixzz2Mbyfl700

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Sources: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-21169923; http://www.forbes.com/sites/eliseknutsen/2013/02/04/after-girls-death-morocco-will-change-rape-laws/; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marital_rape; http://zeenews.india.com/news/world/morocco-to-change-law-allowing-rape-marriage_824656.html; http://www.violenceisnotourculture.org/News-and-Views/morocco-amina-filali-rape-survivor-commits-suicide-after-forced-marriage-rapist

Rape in South Africa

I barely caught the headline about a South African girl who was raped and badly beaten.  I searched for the story on the Internet and came across some startling information.  Apparently South Africa is known as the “rape capital”.  According to Women’s groups, a woman is raped every 26 seconds.  The rate of sexual violence in South Africa is among the highest in the world.

For the period 1998–2000, South Africa was ranked first for rapes per capita according to the United Nations Office on Crimes and Drugs for the period 1998–2000.  It is estimated that over 40% of South African women will be raped in their lifetime and that only 1 in 9 rapes are reported.  It is also estimated that 14% of perpetrators of rape are convicted in South Africa.  According to a survey that questioned rape victims who did not report the crime to the police, 33.3% of victims cited they feared reprisals, 9.6% cited that they felt the police would not be able to solve the crime, and 9.2% cited embarrassment as their reasons for not reporting the crime.

There are several different forms of sexual violence, including, but not limited to: rape or sexual assault, child sexual assault and incest, intimate partner sexual assault, unwanted sexual contact/touching, sexual harassment, sexual exploitation, revealing one’s genitals to another without consent, public masturbation, and voyeurism.  There are several types of sexual violence cases in South Africa that have specifically garnered a significant amount of international attention:

South Africa has the highest reported incident of rape in the world.  While men are also subjected to sexual violence and 3.5% of men have been forced to have sex with other men, the majority of sexual violence is against women.  The South African government reports that one of these reasons is the culture of patriarchy in South Africa. Its report states that patriarchy is firmly rooted in the country and fighting it is seen as attempting to destroy African tradition or Afrikaner ideals.  The danger from rape and sexual assault is compounded because of the prevalence of HIV/AIDS in South African townships. A woman being raped over the age of 25 has a one in four chance that her attacker is HIV positive and more women than men are affected from HIV/AIDS.   The perpetrators of rape in South Africa tend to be men known to the victim.  It is reported that a husband or boyfriend kills a woman every six hours in South Africa.  Many men and women say that rape cannot occur in relationships; however, one in four women reported having been abused by an intimate partner.

Corrective rape is prevalent in South Africa.  More more than 10 women per week are raped or gang-raped in Cape Town alone because of their sexual orientation.  31 have been died from their attacks.  Two years ago Noxolo Nogwaza , 24 years old was raped, beaten and stabbed to death on her way home from a night out with her friends in the South African township of Kwa Thema on 24 April 2011.  Her brutalised body was dumped in a shallow ditch.  It is believed that the motive was her sexual orientation.  Little progress is made on her case and her attackers still remain at large.

There is also the problem of sexual violence in schools.  girls from all levels of society and ethnic groups have been subjected to sexual violence at school in bathrooms, empty classrooms, dormitories, and more. Police, prosecutors, and social workers have also complained that many incidents of sexual violence in schools are not reported to them because schools often prefer to deal with it internally, thus hindering justice against the perpetrators. The danger of sexual violence in schools has created a barrier for girls to seek education. HRW also reported that South African girls’ school performance suffers after an incident of sexual violence.

Societal attitudes contribute to this epidemic.  The Medical Research Council states, “Many forms of sexual violence, particularly sexual harassment and forms of sexual coercion that do not involve physical force are widely viewed as normal male behaviour.”

Among children, a survey by CIET found 60% of both boys and girls, aged 10 to 19 years old, thought it was not violent to force sex upon someone they knew, while around 11% of boys and 4% of girls admitted to forcing someone else to have sex with them. The study also found that 12.7% of the students believed in the virgin cleansing myth.

In a related survey conducted among 1,500 school children in the Johannesburg township of Soweto, a quarter of all the boys interviewed said that ‘jackrolling’, a term for gang rape, was fun.  Furthermore, more than half the interviewees insisted that when a girl says no to sex she really means yes.  It is also noteworthy that those in this study were school children as age is significantly associated with rape. Men from ages 20–40 are more likely to have raped than younger or older men.

Market Research Africa, a Johannesburg-based market research agency, reported in 1994 that 76% of men felt that women had a right to say no to sex, one third thought that women could not decide for themselves on abortion, and 10% condoned a man beating a woman or his wife.

I can’t imagine why anyone would think a woman means “yes” when she is fighting off the man’s unwanted attention.  “No” means “no”.   No woman wants to be forced to have sex with anyone.  Sex is supposed to be consensual.  And rape is not sex.  It is an act of violence.  The 17 year old girl was brutally raped.  The Cape Town newspaper, Cape Argus newspaper stated that she was sliced open from her stomach to her genitals and then dumped as if she were trash on a building site in the town of Bredasdorp, 130 km (80 miles) east of Cape Town.  What is going to become of this?  Will there be justice for this victim in a country where rape has lost its power to shock?  The government of the Republic of South Africa is aware of this problem of sexual violence against women and there is a law which is supposed to ensure rights of all of the people in South Africa with the democratic values of human dignity, equality and freedom.  Furthermore, it calls for the right to freedom and security, including freedom from all forms of violence by either public or private sources and the right to bodily and psychological integrity, including reproduction and bodily security.

It seems to me that the law has very little effect on the violence it is supposed to be protecting its women  from.   The harsh reality is that women are being brutally raped and abused and are not receiving adequate psychological, social, or medical care.  There are few places rape and abuse victims can turn.  The Simelela Centre is one of those places.  It was established in 1998 in response to a case involving the rape of a 1-year-old girl at the hands of her father in Khayelitsha’s Site C.

Something needs to be done and fast.  Women should not be living in fear.  Imagine the fear of your son growing up and one day raping your neighbor’s daughter?   The way men view women has to change.  The law has to do more to protect women and girls.  It’s time for the lawmaker to fulfill their promises.

Outrage grows over the incident, according to a news report on CNN.  Many marched the streets of Bredasdorp toward the crime scene, chanting, “No violence! No violence.”  Residents say that this attack is uncharacteristic of the rural town.  I read that the girl’s injuries were so horrific that the hospital staff who battled to save her life needed counseling.  She was able to identify one of her attackers before she died.  He was a family friend. The victim’s aunt had this to say about him, “He was a lovely child to have in the house.  He was her friend, and it’s just incomprehensible.”

He and two others have been arrested.  More arrests are forthcoming.  Two of the men arrested have been charged been charged with murder and rape, the same charges the third will face.  Let’s hope that they all will be brought to justice.  It’s unfortunate that it had to take this young girl’s horrific ordeal and subsequent death to spark outrage.  There was the case of a mentally handicapped girl, same age as this last victim was raped by seven men, aged between 14 and 20 and the attack was recorded on a cell phone video which later went viral.  The men are on trial.  Unfortunately, this incident failed to gain the same outrage and attention as did the gang rape in New Delhi.  Columnist Rachel Davis of the online publication, Daily Maverick, raised this disturbing question:  “If the gang-rape of a mentally handicapped 17-year-old failed to get thousands on the streets in protest, what will?”

The men of South Africa need to stand up with the women and speak out against this epidemic.  The perpetrators of these crimes need to be brought to justice and women and girls need to feel safe in their communities.  Girls should be able to go to school and learn in a safe environment.  Their education is important.  They should not be forced to stay out of school because they are afraid of being attacked.  Girls should not have to live in fear of being brutally raped by strangers or even men they know.  Women should not be treated as if they have no value.  Violence against women and girls needs to be taken seriously and the public needs to make as much noise as possible, letting the government and the perpetrators know that they have had enough.  Let us join the men and women of South Africa and say, “No more violence!”  In the words of one of the women from Bredasdorp, “…we must do something.”  No more silence.  It’s time to take action!  Let the death of Anene Booyson count for something.

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Sources:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sexual_violence_in_South_Africa; http://www.ndtv.com/article/india/south-africa-girl-dies-after-rape-comparison-made-to-indian-case-327511; http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2013/jan/06/ana-matronic-backs-amnesty-write-for-rights-campaign; http://www.asafeworldforwomen.org/domestic-violence/dv-africa/dv-safrica/1386-violence-against-women-in-contemporary-south-africa.html; http://www.cnn.com/2013/02/08/world/africa/south-africa-gang-rape/index.html; http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/02/06/us-safrica-rape-idUSBRE9150VZ20130206