Journal for South Africa: October 2004

October 24, 2004

The past days have been challenging and amazing. The situation I faced on my trip in Krueger Park tested my strength in multiple ways. I spent the past four days in Krueger Park with three other girls in their twenties and two guides. Krueger Park is one of the largest game reserves in the world. There are over 1.5 million visitors a year. The size of the park is unfathomable until you visit and realize it is impossible to even come close to traveling the length of the park in one day.

The tour began on Wednesday morning. We spent the entire day on Wednesday driving the scenic route to the park. We stopped at Pilgrim's Rest to do some curio shopping. Pilgrim's Rest was one of the largest gold mining towns in South Africa. It was also notorious for being the most dangerous town in South Africa. The gold would be piled onto a rig that a horse would pull through a very mountainous area. Thieves knew that several tons of gold were coming through this area on a daily basis. Thus, you can say the 'car' jacking problem that South Africa is infamous for began many years ago!

We also made pit stops at the Blyde River Canyon, God's Window, and the 'potholes'. The Canyon is the third largest Canyon in the world and after a steep climb to the top viewing area we found a lush rainforest. God's Window is a beautiful mountain viewing point that sits on one of the highest points in South Africa. On a clear day you can see Maputo, Mozambique and the coast from the God's Window viewing point. And finally, my favorite stop was at the potholes. This is a beautiful viewing area where two rivers meet in a canyon. The volcanic rock has been shaped in large circular holes were the waters from each river swirl together and meet. It is currently the dry season in South Africa so the water was not moving rapidly through the canyon but the sight was still amazing.

The first night of the tour was spent in a Shangeen village. Shangeen is a tribe just like the Zulu tribe or the Xhosa tribe. The village is being preserved by the nephew of the chief. People continue to live in the traditional village and local children are brought in to learn about their culture. There is no electricity and there is only a small spout of water (the H20 was not drinkable). Upon arrival we were greeted by the men of the village with a welcome song. The men were wearing animal skins and had feather headpieces on (much smaller than a Native American headdress). We attended a short class on the Shangeen culture and settled in for a traditional meal. The meal consisted of mealie meal, cabbage, and cooked tomatoes and onions and chicken. We helped prepare dinner by grinding the maize for the mealie meal. After dinner we watched the men perform several traditional dances. I asked the leader to teach me a few of the moves and I was surprised at how difficult traditional dancing is. Traditional dancing consists of lots of jumping and stomping on the ground- barefoot. After a long but amazing day I settled in for a good night's sleep under a mosquito net in a traditional Shangeen hut. The traditional huts are made of the mud from a termite mound. The floors are coated with cow dung once a week to polish them and the smell from the dung keeps the snakes away.

Before leaving I had an interesting conversation with the grandson of the chief. He runs the village and the community project. He was 27 years-old and had received a Bachelor of Science in Engineering. He spoke of how bored he was volunteering at the village; he needed something more challenging but the jobs just aren't there. I began asking him questions about the Shangeen culture and the role that women played in the culture. Initially he seemed to scoot around the question first explaining what changes have taken place. One such change he mentioned was regarding how the lobola is paid. Lobola is the African tradition that is much like a dowry but was always traditionally paid in cows. In the Shangeen culture lobola was usually paid with 12 cows. However, as times have changed many families have begun to pay lobola in cash. Apparently it is no longer uncommon for a woman to have a higher salary than her husband, and end up paying off the lobola herself. Although he made it very clear that this is most certainly kept a secret, otherwise the money would not be accepted from the makoti's (bride's) parents.

When I continued to question him about the role of women in the traditional culture he began to explain the signifigance of a wealthy person having multiple wives and lots of children. Because having female children meant making lots of money through lobola and having male children meant having manpower to conduct work on the farm it was vital the chief have numerous children- more than one woman could produce. Furthermore, it was the first wife who was responsible for asking her husband to marry additional women to help with her workload. The first wife would always go and chose the husbands second, third, fourth, etc wives. I quickly realized how easy it is to accept a behavior or a practice if it has a role in sustaining the culture.

Day 2 - Krueger Park

We left the Shangeen Village early in the morning and went to the Cheetah Research and Breeding Centre. The centre has been open since the early 1990's and focuses on breeding endangered species, specifically the cheetah. Visiting the centre reminded me of my dream in high school to become a vet. The centre has had bumps along the way, poachers killed two rhino's, but it is a very successful endeavor. We went on an open game drive through their park and the cheetah's sat a few feet away hardly bothered by our presence. Cheetah's are the fastest animals running over 120kph. Many people confuse the cheetah and the leopard but the leopard does not have the distinctive tear marks around the eyes like the cheetah. The tear marks serve as sunglasses for the cheetah. The dark marks attract the sun and keep the light out of the cheetah's eyes while it is hunting. Also, the cheetah has single spots whereas the leopard has spots that are enclosed within another spot. We were able to watch a feeding sessions of the cheetahs who were enclosed for breeding purposes. I found it interesting that cheetah's eat an animal from the inside out- they don't like dirty meat. Lions, leopards, and other cats eat from the outside in. They begin eating when they rip the skin off. The cheetah peals back the skin and uses it as a tablecloth to keep the meat from touching the ground. The breeding centre is also trying to maintain the gene line of the King Cheetah. The King Cheetah is not a sub-species of the cheetah it is merely a genetic variation. Of the 11,000 cheetahs left in the world only 60 of them are King Cheetah's- 6 of those 60 are at the breeding centre. The King Cheetah is a beautiful animal but does not survive in the wild nearly as well as the cheetah. Their coats are much darker which forces them to hunt in covered areas because of the heat on the open plain. It is hard to run 60 mph in the woods and many die from running into dreams. The centre tries to release many of the cheetah's back into the wild. Some of the cheetahs are serving as hunters on air force bases to keep small game off the runways. Looking straight in the eye at a leopard a few feet away (without a fence between us) was a powerful experience.

The breeding centre also houses 80 wild dogs. Wild Dogs are one of the most endangered species in Africa. The alpha female is the only dog that breeds with the alpha male. However, recently the alpha female and the beta female had large liters of puppies. The centre was fairly certain that the alpha female would kill the babies of the beta female but instead she just brought them into her litter and she is now looking after 15 puppies! Watching a pack of wild dogs hunt is amazing. Many people don't like the site because it is more gruesome then other hunts but clearly depicts the power of the group. The dogs chase an animal and begin ripping the meat off of its back while it is still running. Our guide explained that this does not hurt the animal more than a normal hunt because the level of adrenaline protects the prey.

The breeding centre is currently raising a 10 month-old rhino who was rejected by his mother at birth. Rodger is about waist high and already drinks 10L of milk four times a day! The breeding centre also rescued an infant elephant and tried to release him back into the wild. However it was clear that he preferred human contact better than elephant contact and he refused to join the herd. This is difficult because elephant's are very sensitve and he could even die of heartbreak if his trainer has to leave the centre.

After visiting the breeding centre we headed to Krueger and set up our camp site before going on an afternoon game drive. We saw a White Rhino before we even entered the park. In the evening we went on a night game drive. Two male lions walked within a few feet of where I was sitting on the open Land Rover! After the nigh drive we returned to camp were we had a vegetable ostrich stew that was amazing.

Day 3 - The test

We were scheduled to leave camp the next morning at 4am to begin our 200km trip to our next camp site. I woke up at 3:30am and took a quick shower. I didn't feel quite right but I had no idea of what was ahead of me. Within a half an hour I began vommitting. We still loaded up the van and took off on our long journey. Between 4am and 8am I had to get out of the van at least 5 times (in a wild game park) to vomit. By 8am we reached the breakfast site. At this point I was unable to move, open my eyes, or even stay conscious. We were unable to leave the breakfast site for the next two hours because I was puking. The toilet I was in was just a hole in the ground and was merely enclosed by a few trees. The closest doctor was three hours away at the Krueger Hospital. We finally decided to load up the van and head to the hospital. After forcing the van to stop several times we finally arrived at the Krueger Hospital. I was quickly diagnosed with food poisoning and given five different types of medicine. I continued to vomit through the evening but over time I began to feel better. We arrived at our new campsite at 3pm and I immediately went to sleep. I awoke the next morning at 6am feeling slightly better but still not 100%. Fortunately I made it back to Johannesburg after a long trip. One thing I dread more than anything else is being sick when I am not at home. Not only not at home but camping in a foreign country a few hundred miles from anyone who is capable of helping me. I wasn't quite

October 15, 2004

It has been an amazing few hours. I was supposed to be traveling to Mozambique and Zambia this week to visit Amy and Bridget but my schedule didn't coordinate with theirs. I decided to go ahead and plan a solo trip to the Wild Coast of South Africa. I chose a destination, Cintsa, and began planning my trip. Madeleine dropped me off at the Johannesburg bus station and I boarded a bus to East London. Before my bus parted Madeleine and I met a little boy named Mark. He was nine-years old and had only one leg. He lived in an informal settlement and took the train everyday to the station to beg for money so he could eat. We gave him some change and he split a loaf of bread with his brother. Mark doesn't have parents and he was in a horrible car crash which caused him to lose his leg. He only has one crutch and has trouble making it around. We spoke to him and we hope to find a doctor to help him- or someone to help improve his situation. The bus ride was about 12 hours and was pretty comfortable I was able to sleep and was somewhat rested when I arrived in East London at 7am.

When we were departing the bus station I realized that I was off on a trip, by myself, with no one to meet me at the station when I arrived. When I was in Mrs. Newsom's class in the 5th grade at Lost Creek Elementary School we took Greyhound buses on all of our fieldtrips. We traveled to Chicago, St. Louis, Illinois, etc. We even flew to Disney World. I always looked forward to the Greyhound trips. Mom would take me to Kroger's the night before and I would pick out all sorts of treats to pack in my cooler. I always chose these little crunchy peanut cookies that had real peanut butter inside of a peanut. My friends and I would plan who we were going to sit with days before the trip and if you were really lucky one of the boys would have enough guts to ask you to sit with him. Now I was riding in the Greyhound as a necessity. I am trying to conserve money so I don't usually fly. The other passengers were in the same spot I was in and just needed to get where they were going. It is doubtful that such extravagant fieldtrips take place even at the most private posh schools in RSA.

I arrived in East London at 7am and knew that I wasn't being picked up until at least 2pm. I left my big pack in the Greyhound office and took off into East London. I had to trust that the employees wouldn't steal my bag- I had no other place to store it. I spent most of the day on the East London beach. I was quite tired from the trip so I ended up sleeping on the benches on the beach with the homeless people. While I was walking on the beach I saw a man and a woman carrying a pile of stacked cardboard boxes. I could tell the woman was having a hard time picking the boxes up and asked her if I could help. She misunderstood me and thought that I wanted to help her carry the boxes. So she grabbed a stack of boxes and put them on my head. I explained to her that I had never carried anything on my head before and she just laughed. I walked about a quarter of a mile with about 30, folded, flattened brown boxes on my head. Every time we went up a hill a few of the boxes would slide off and the man would laugh and pick them up. The people in the cars driving by were laughing and pointing at me. It must have been quite funny to see a young white person with a backpack on her back and boxes on her head. Finally at 5pm I was picked up at the Sugarshack Backpackers and taken to Bucaneer's Backpackers. I was so tired of carrying my bags all day and not having a good night's sleep from the bus ride.

Bucaneer's is an amazing place. I was not prepared for a Backpackers to be so huge! They have cottages, dorms, a breakfast room, a bar, a tv room, and it is on the beach. I wish that all of my friends were here - I would be having such an amazing time. When I arrived in my cottage it was full of three couples. One couple was from Ireland, another from Holland, and another from the UK. I wished that I had friends to travel with, although I am glad that I am traveling alone. I am forced to do things that I would otherwise not do and this has allowed me to learn so much about myself. However, I can't deny that backpacking through Africa with a group of friends or Conor would be amazing and much easier! That evening there was a planned Mexican meal and salsa lessons. The Mexican food was very good although it is interesting to see how different cultures interpret other cultures food. South African Mexican food is much different than American Mexican. After dinner there was an amazing guitarist but I was too tired to hang around for too long. I was in bed asleep by 11:30 and I don't remember anything until my alarm went off the next morning.

I left for a tour of the Transkei the next morning at 7am. There were seven in our group. I was the only solo traveler. There were brothers from the UK, a couple from the Netherlands, and friends from Germany. It is interesting hanging out with such a diverse group of people who all enjoy doing similar activities. We hopped in an open land rover and drove an hour towards the Trankei. The Transkei was not part of South Africa until Nelson Mandela became President. Previously you needed a passport and ID card to enter the area. The white Afrikaans farms were on the South African side and the black subsistence farms were on the other side of the line. To this day a line of trees and border buildings are not to distant reminders of the divisions between the two areas. The division between the Transkei and South Africa allowed the Transkei to become the perfect training center for the ANC, which is Nelson Mandela's political party. To access the Transkei you must take a ferry to the other side of the Kei River. Unfortunately it had rained the night before and the rains had brought in a lot of silt making the water to low to use the ferry. This is one of two places left in South Africa where there is not a bridge and a ferry is still used to cross the water. We had to wait for a few hours to cross using the ferry. When the ferry was finally unstuck we waited in a long line to cross. The ferry only carries one car at a time! There was a pickup truck that crossed 2 cars in front of us. We were all joking around that there was a dead body in the back of the truck because there was an arm hanging over the ledge. As the truck drove down the hill it became clear that there was actually a dead body in the truck with an arm hanging over the back gate. We guessed that they were taking the body to a funeral parlor across the river.

When we finally crossed we began driving - but not on roads. We were heading to a traditional Xhosa village and no roads would lead us there. I asked my tour guide how he knew he was going in the correct direction and he said that he just did. Even at night he was able to get us back to Cintsa, over two hours away, on non-existent roads. In the Transkei all of the animals are free ranging. This means that they eat and meander as they want all day and then a local boy will bring them home every night. Many people believe this area produces the healthiest livestock in the world. As we were driving through a field an elderly woman waved at Grant, the tour guide, and we stopped to talk to her. She asked Grant to bring us into her homestead. She had three rondavels and had a whole crew of men building her first rectangular house with rooms. She pointed out that it would have 4 rooms and a bathroom. The men were mixing cement and using the cement to hold the mud bricks together. The men were the elderly woman's grandchildren and her grandchildren's friends. She was very proud of her home. She had a large kraal for her cattle and dinner was cooking in pots next to the kraal. The view from her home was beautiful. The Transkei land was lush and just over the last mountain you could see the Eastern Cape Coast.

From the Xhosa home we went to a traditional village. The village gave tours and sold crafts from local artists. Our tour guide was the daughter of the woman's home we had just left. She was in her mid-twenties and proud to share her heritage with all of us. The highlight of the visit was the Sangoma. A sangoma is a traditional doctor or witchdoctor. Sangoma's have been in the news frequently since I have been in South Africa. There have been at least two children murdered in order to get the most valued body parts (genitals, nose, fingers, ears, brain) which are used in traditional medicine. A sangoma does not pick his or her profession. They are chosen by the community. Members of the community will begin to have dreams of the person who eventually becomes the Sangoma. One of the rituals performed by the Sangoma was to cure a headache. The ceremony began by lighting a handful of specially chosen herbs that are meant to keep the evil sprits away. The Sangoma then gave everyone in our group a stick and we had to form a circle and dance to the beat of the drums while waving the stick in the air. At this moment I wished I had invested in a video camera! After the dancing the sangoma ground more herbs and then added them to a bucket of fresh water. The water began to foam. Everyone in the group had to drink from the potion. The bucket was on the floor and we had to kneel on a mat on our knees and place our hands behind our backs. Mysteriously my headache disappeared. After the ceremony I began to think about the purpose of the event. What my role was? And what my participation meant to me? In the end I decided that in order to studying, learn from, or assist people or a community you must first understand their beliefs. Participating in such a ritual by no means meant that I would start going to a Sangoma to cure my illnesses. However, it did allow me to have a better understanding of the people I was working with.

After visiting the village we headed to "the Gates". This is an area where the Kei river pours into the ocean. There are all sorts of interesting rock formations here, including waterfalls and gorges. Our guide, Grant, was keen on teaching us all how to cliff jump. I had heard of cliff jumping or kloofing before but had never been too excited about it. Cliff jumping is when you jump from a cliff into deep ocean or river water. We began by making a small jump and soaking under a fresh waterfall. The jumps began to increase in height and the highest I attempted was 15 meters! It was loads of fun but hitting the water was getting more painful with each jump! The hardest part was actually climbing out of the water. There were only sharp cliffs on both sides -I attempted my first mountain climb with wet, bare feet!

After leaving the cliffs we headed back to the coast to view a ship that wrecked into the shore in 1971. Apparently, the crew claimed that the captain fell asleep and by the time they could wake him a storm had blown in and forced to ship to wreck into the rocky coastline. However, the ships side did not hit the rocks, the ship hit the coastline straight on making the crews story a bit suspicious. Many believe that the captain purposely wrecked the ship to receive insurance claims. Others insist that the wreck can be blamed on bad ship ownership- the ship had been renamed. If you ask any sailor they will confirm this is bad luck. To this day you can see that the ship has different names on each side.

After viewing the shipwreck we got back in the Land Rover and began to head back to Cintsa. It was getting dark and the last ferry crosses the Kei River at 6pm so we were in a hurry. We were traveling quickly through all of the villages but the children still tried to chase our cars begging for sweets and money. In one village a farmer who was about my age was choosing the cow he would slaughter for dinner. He had spent the day herding the cattle and was pulling the one he would slaughter into the kraal. I couldn't help but think how differently my life at the age of 22 was from his life. The sunset on the ride home was amazing. Traveling through open fields and then rocky roads with an orange sherbet sunset was amazing.

October 4, 2004

Thabo Mbeki Letter

Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.
- Martin Luther King Jr (1929 - 1968)

Sawubona my friends! I have much to share after an exciting weekend but I am choosing to focus this email on a topic that is much more important to me- rape. Every Friday Thabo Mbeki, the President of South Africa, publishes a letter to his country. The letter addresses a current issue in South Africa. This past Friday Mr. Mbeki’s letter addressed the country’s crime statistics and focused on the frequency of rape. For years Mr. Mbeki has been accused of being a racist and sexist and his policies and statements continue to bring these issues to the surface.

Why is this important to you, as an American? Why should you continue to read an email about Mr. Mbeki’s views of rape? I was given the travel fellowship to practice and promote global citizenship. We, as Americans, must learn from other cultures; we must learn to combat the issues they have successfully combated, we must learn of their approaches that haven’t worked, we must examine how every culture in the world has made violence against women acceptable. In Mbeki’s most recent letter he accuses journalist Charlene Smith of suggesting rape is a crime committed by black Africans because of deep traditions that dictate many norms and beliefs in South African society. However, every culture has norms that promote rape and violence against women. Rape is a worldwide problem and does not flourish solely in areas where traditional African norms exist. The fastest growing crimes in the world are rape and the trafficking of women and children. The trafficking of women and children is now the most profitable crime in the world- more profitable that drugs. Rape is never acceptable- no matter what culture you live in or what traditions you practice. Rape is not a problem that is isolated in Africa; it is a problem that our world must combat, together.

President Mbeki is not the only person who holds such views. Friday evening I was cornered by an acquaintance who candidly expressed her dislike for my project. She formerly worked for the UN in the Human Rights Department. She stated that,

“There is no way you can do anything positive here. You don’t know our culture, our traditions, you come here as an American and judge us based on your traditions- which are obviously better than ours. You may understand rape in America but you will never understand it here. You are here to promote yourself and your culture- to further your studies and get a good job- you will not make a difference”.

I felt damned if I do and damned if I don’t. If I come to Africa to volunteer I am not going to help, I am an intruder. If I don’t come to Africa I am an ethnocentric American only concerned about the wellbeing of myself and other Americans. This is the first time I encountered someone who blatantly disagreed with what I was doing. I soon realized their position was not based on me or my project. It stemmed from their misunderstanding of rape as a crime and possibly even their frustration in our failure to prevent rape.

I must respond to my quittances belief that I will not understand rape in Africa and President Mbeki’s assertion that rape is not influenced by culture. I am not here only as an American. I am here as a young women who is fed up with rape and violence against women and children. I am fighting to end this behavior, period. Fighting to end this behavior at home in Terre Haute, Indiana, at school in Nashville, Tennessee. As a global citizen I chose to come to South Africa, where women are 40 times more likely to be raped then women in Europe. I am not here for the “tabloid effect”; I am not here (in South Africa) because rape is more graphic, the encounters more frequent and easier to describe. Such an approach would ignore the principle challenge with rape- it is pervasive. Your neighbor rape’s his wife, you daughter was raped at a party, your best friend was raped walking home from work. I am here because I believe that there should not be rape anywhere. In Africa I hope to begin to understand the female experience around the globe. I would be a hypocrite if I tackled women’s issues only experiencing life as a female in the United States. Please, in support of my project, take the time to read about rape in South Africa. The challenges I face in Africa on a daily basis are happening in every small and large city in America. Prove that I am promoting global citizenship in America, prove that Americans not only want to help others but we also want to learn from them. I have diverged in order to reveal the source of my anger and frustration and I must return to the issue at hand- Why does the frequency of rape continue to rise?

On Sunday, September 26, 2004, The Sunday Independent published an article written by Charlene Smith. Charlene is a journalist from South Africa. In 1999 she was raped and her throat was slit. After recovering Charlene has become an international advocate against rape and advocates for the distribution of post exposure prophylaxis, which prevent HIV transmission after rape. Charlene considers Mbeki a personal friend and she was formerly an underground operative for the ANC, Mbeki’s political party. Mbeki frequently attacks Charlene’s views on rape and in his letter to South Africa on Friday he states that Charlene’s position on rape illustrates her view of the African people as barbaric savages. I have had the opportunity to discuss these issues with Charlene and I also receive weekly emails which update the progress of her research. In my opinion Mbeki’s beliefs are far from the truth. False accusations of racism are being used to ignore the statistics. White women are not the only victims of rape. Anyone can be a victim- black men, Indian men, coloured women, white men- these are the victims of rape. Rape research must examine all the issues, including traditions and cultural norms, which may be partly responsible for fueling the rape crisis.

Smith outlines recent research statistics in her article to illustrate the prevalence of rape in South Africa. One such statistic is from Interpol which reports that South Africa has the highest incidence of rape in the world. The head of the Sexual Offences Unit at the National Prosecuting Authority states that 50% of all cases before South African courts are rape cases. The following is Mbeki’s response to this portion of Smith’s article:

“In simple language she was saying that African traditions, indigenous religions and culture prescribe and institutionalize rape. The ‘internationally recognized 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 to no surprise that she writes that, ‘ South Africa has the highest rate of rape in the world, according to Interpol.’ To her this assertion would have obviously been correct, because after all, we are an African country, and therefore have the men conditioned by African culture, tradition, and religion to commit rape.”

Mbeki must recognize that every man and every woman is a potential rapist. Smith is a citizen of South Africa and therefore her work focuses on the crimes in South Africa. She does not suggest that these crimes are committed by blacks, whites, Indians, or coloured people; she simply states that they are occurring much too frequently. Every human being has the potential to commit rape by using power over another human being to have nonconsensual sex. The power used to commit rape can be physical, emotional, financial, or chemical (date rape drugs). After attacking several other journalists Mbeki closes his letter by saying,

“For them (the people of South Africa who are influenced by the ‘psychological residue’ of the apartheid) our new democracy feels fraught with threats. They must continuously find negative superlatives to convey the story that South Africa is the world capital of all the negative things that effect all humanity.In this situation, fear of crime becomes the concentrated expression of fear about their survival in a sea of black savages, which they fuel by entertaining the mythology that whites are the primary targets merely because of their race”

How does Mr. Mbeki’s rhetoric address the rape crisis in South Africa? He merely tells us what rape isn’t: a product of culture and tradition. He suggests that examining culture as an influencing factor in the prevalence of rape is racist. He argues that the statistics are not accurate, rather than making any occurrence of rape unacceptable. A recent research study (Population Council) in South Africa revealed that: 27% of men believe that if a women has been drinking, it is her fault if she is raped, 42% say that a women who wears a miniskirt and drinks is asking for trouble, 29% say that a man needs sex with other women besides his wife, and 21% believe a flirting woman wants sex. These issues must be analyzed and discussed, how else will we change the inaccurate perceptions of rape and rape survivors. When will we begin to discuss how rape can be resolved rather wasting time trying to suppress criticism? We are fortunate to have journalists like Charlene Smith, who do not let letters such as Mbeki’s intimidate in order to restrict freedom of speech and stifle the discussion around women’s rights.

We, advocates for women’s rights, must learn from countries like South Africa who have outspoken women’s groups and advocates. One of the most significant lessons I have learned in the past ten weeks is that the act of rape and myths surrounding rape are no different in South Africa than anywhere else in the world. I have had identical discussions with police officers in Nashville, Tennessee as I had last week with police officers in Orange Farm. How can it be rape if the victim is wearing a mini-skirt? How can it be rape if she isn’t a virgin? How can it be rape if the perpetrator and victim are married? Around the world rape is a violation of human rights, a violation of the most private, intimate parts of a women’s body; no matter where rape occurs, or what circumstances under which a women is raped it is torture.

With the upcoming presidential elections we must make ourselves aware of the influence our leaders have. President, Mbeki published an article that was widely distributed, making rape a racial issue; rape is not about race. Such rhetoric is not only destructive to the women’s movement, but it is also destructive to the people of South Africa. The article easily turned rape from a violent crime against women (and men) to a tool used by racists, created through the traditions of ‘inferior cultures’. This rhetoric has the potential to reduce the fear of many South Africans who nonetheless are likely to be the victim of a rape (1 in 2 women in South Africa are raped).

Ending rape begins with a change in attitude; it begins by recognizing who rapists are and who rape survivors are. Rapists and rape survivors can be anyone, rape has no limits to race or sex, rape has no boundary. Rape is torture whether the rapist is a black male or a white female, the outcome is the same. Please consider the above information. As a global citizen use this information to better understand our culture and the rhetoric surrounding rape in the United States. In many respects South Africa is leagues ahead in openly discussing and fighting for women’s rights.

Thanks for letting me share my experience and the emotions that accompany my work with women and children. I have had an amazing few weeks and hope you are all following my journal entries and photos on my webpage. I look forward to hearing from you and learning if you will consider this information in you upcoming discussions of women’s rights. Please email me if you are interested in reading Charlene’s article and President Mbeki’s letter to South Africa.

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Read Uganda Journal, Part IV (June 2005)

Read Uganda Journal, Part III (April-May 2005)

Read Uganda Journal, Part II (January-April 2005)

Read Uganda Journal, Part I (January 2005)

Read entries from December 2004

Read entries from November 2004

Read entries from September 2004

Read entries from August 2004