This year’s theme for activism is “Orange the World: Generation Equality Stands Against Rape!” Although the period has come to an end, the vision and fight have to continue.
Rape is a real problem in our society, stemming primarily from rape culture.
Rape culture is essentially and environment in which rape is prevalent and has been normalisation due to societal attitudes about gender and sexuality. It is the acceptance of abuse of women as typical, customary or routine. On a daily basis, we have to critically engage with our own behaviours and beliefs to eliminate the attributes that perpetuate rape culture.
This piece addresses 8 ways to stand against rape culture. These 8 come from the 16 suggested by UN Women in a piece called “16 Ways you can stand against rape culture.” This piece will explore the 8 in completion of our 16 actions. Although the running thread is around 16days, the encouragement is that our actions go beyond this period. These final 8 are ways in which we can each play our part.
• Redefine masculinity
Toxic masculinity is often at the root of rape culture. The adherence to traditional male gender roles that the emotions that men and boys are allowed to express, as well as the expectation of dominance by men as a way of limiting emotional range is problematic. Masculinity has to therefore be separated from unhealthy constructs of men’s emotional expressions. It has to be redefined along feminist principles.
• Stop victim blaming and objectifying women
Language is inseparable from culture. As a result, we easily forget that our words shape our realities. Rape-affirming beliefs stem from our language. The use of phrases such as “she was dressed like a slut she was asking for it!” as well as the apathetic response to the abuse of other’s as, “it is not my business so I will stay out of it,” feed into this rape culture. Even the normalisation of the objectification of women in the music that comes from our artists, “I want to see you move your waist thing//but I will leave it to the imagination//I like to picture the booty shaking…,” “heela ngwanyana shake your bantuka…” as well as the male calling of women in pop culture and media result in the deeper entrenchment of rape culture. We need therefore to reform our language and lyrics, which objectify women and blame them for violence that is perpetrated against them.
• Broaden your understanding of rape culture
In different societies and across various traditions, rape culture takes different forms. It is important that it goes beyond a man assaulting a woman. For instance, rape culture includes a wide array of harmful practices that rob women and girls of their autonomy, and human dignity. It is therefore essential to understand it’s context in terms of each society. In some societies there are child marriages; in others, there are
•Take an intersectional approach
Rape culture cuts across all categories of individuals, in terms of its impact. It affects all of us regardless of our gender, sexuality, social and economic status, even age. Victimisation of LGBT persons, and the exclusions of persons living with disabilities from general programming are illustrative of the depth of culture of rape in our society. Our failure to simply accept all individuals as they are, without forcing them to comply with our own perceptions and decisions of normalcy extend this deeply entrenched problem. For us to overcome it, we therefore have to uproot social limitations of people’s rights to freely express themselves.
• Don’t laugh at rape
Rape is never a punchline! Rape jokes delegitimise sexual violence and make it difficult for survivors to come out and share their experience or report it.
• Be an active bystander
One in three women in Botswana have experienced abuse. This reality reflects just how common violence against women is or has become in our society. Apathy and complacency communicates to the perpetrator that what they are doing is acceptable. Intervening, on the other hand, signals to them that their behaviour is vile and intolerable. Something as simple but as clear as letting the perpetrator know that “I am not comfortable with what you are doing!” can go a long way.
• Educate the next generation
It is up to us to bring up our children to challenge gender stereotypes and violent ideals, and to teach boys to allow themselves to feel all their emotions; to teach children to hear “no” and to respect it. We can do this by respecting their “no” when they say it. We have to create safety in the home, affirming their choices and empowering them to make decisions that are healthy.
• End impunity
One of the most prevalent toxicities in our country where rape is concerned is our failure to hold rapists accountable. The length of time that passes between the report of a rape incident, the collection of evidence process, the referral of the matter for prosecution, the trial and possible conviction is often long, frustrating for the survivor and gruelling. It often does not take into consideration the victim’s need to heal emotionally from the trauma and the re-traumatisation that occurs through court processes. There have been reports of rape cases being reported and years later, nothing would have been done. There is a gap in advocacy for speedily dealing with rape matters, for the good of the survivors.
It is vital that we do what we can to end rape culture in our generation and in our time! We have to ensure that it does not happen on our watch!