Tuesday, October 05, 2004

If you read one piece of hard-hitting jounalism...

...read this one, about HIV, AIDS and rape in South Africa - written by Charlene Smith who herself was a victim of rape in South Africa. And if your train's leaving in five minutes - please read the whole article and skip reading the rest of my post.

President Mbeki has reacted badly to this, insisting that Ms Smith is racist and is trying to weaken his political position. This is a real shame because Mr Mbeki could instead take this as a cue to lead by example, to make it clear that rape is not a part of traditional African culture and that it will not be tolerated, nor its victims left to suffer. Instead it seems he is suffering from the same embarrassment and paranoia about the subject as those that perpetuate the suffering as well as those that suffer it in shame, silence and agony.

Now one issue is whether Mr Mbeki doesn't want his own sexual history - he fathered an illegitimate child when he was 16 - dragged up. Seems to me though that the 1.7m South Africans raped each year, many (estimated at 41%) of them children, and the risks of exposure to HIV/AIDS (estimated at 40%) has to be the key focus for the leader of this country. If the suffering of this huge tranch of the female* population doesn't matter to him, then he surely must be guilty of not just sexism but total disregard of women's health, welfare and basic rights.

Now to quote Amnesty: "Violence against women is the greatest human rights scandal of our times". You can read more about their campaign on the subject here.

*As Ms Smith's article points out, however, rape of young boys is also an issue.

No comments: