“We must unite. Violence against women cannot be tolerated, in any form, in any context, in any circumstance, by any political leader or by any government.” – United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon
This is an interesting interview with artist and activist, Zanele Muholi, in which she discusses her documentary “Difficult Love”. She is brave enough to confront the issues that black lesbians encounter in South Africa. It is common for these women to experience hate crimes such as corrective rape. This issue is serious, as no women should be punished for her sexual orientation. Through her photography and numerous other projects, she aims to create a visual activism that will raise awareness for black lesbians. Read more about this courageous woman on her website: http://www.zanelemuholi.com/index.html
Gender based violence is a severe issue in South Africa today. The two events that have been high on the South African news agenda in the last two months have been the tragic shooting of Reeva Steenkamp and the terrible gang rape, disembowelment and murder of seventeen-year-old Anene Booysen. The scary fact is that there is so much domestic violence that goes unreported everyday in our country. I was lucky enough to interview Dr. Adelene Africa, who is part of the African Gender Institute, and lectures and convenes gender related courses at the University of Cape Town. According to IOL News there could be up to 3600 rapes everyday in South Africa. Is it the way we teach our children? Or is it due to our violent past? Why is South Africa a society and culture of violence?
I believe that it is a result of social factors and the normalisation of violence. Factors such as poverty, patriarchy, lack of education and substance abuse are contributing to this violent nature in our country. Poverty is a serious issue, as half the population lives below the poverty line and are trapped in the poverty cycle. Poverty results in exacerbating other issues such as lack of education, because children cannot afford to go to school. Thus children are brought up in hostile environments where violence seems to be the only option and mechanism of survival. Often, children who are abused grow up to be the abusers, which seems to create a hopeless cycle of abuse.
Alcohol and drug abuse also contributes to the issue. In the Anene Booysen case, the suspect Jonathan Davids was described as a “nuisance” when he was drunk that night at the pub. Whilst Africa agrees that there are “several structures which create a context within which violence becomes normalized” she also believes that “there are particular images of masculinity which play an important role in reproducing particular ideas of what it means to be a man in South African society”.
I also find that gender roles and patriarchy seems to be embedded in our society’s mentality. The media emphasises gender roles and stereotypes. Africa states, “These ‘images’ or messages are often created in opposition to women and other men who do not conform to masculine stereotypes”. We grow up learning what a man’s duty is and what a woman’s duty is. It is a very lethal ideology as it could contribute to gender based violence. Africa also mentions that although this is true, “violence is not inherently consistent with masculinity, it has come to be viewed and perhaps also practiced in that manner”. Men are viewed as strong and virile, while women are seen as weak and soft. This could lead men to think that they are the ones who hold all the power. Sometimes a man who lives in poverty and cannot provide for his family feels like he is not fulfilling his duty as a man. This is rife in South Africa considering the lack of jobs and high rate of unemployment. He could turn to substance abuse or take frustrations out on a woman.
Power and who holds this power has always been an issue in our country. The history of this power struggle still seems to be with us today. We are a nation that has risen out of violence to get to where we are. Violence has become so normalised in our society that it is as if we have become almost numb to the seriousness of the matter. “In some sense, we are desensitised while in others there is always a huge outcry when the brutality of the attacks is highlighted by the media. It seems that it takes such attacks to ‘shake’ us out of this desensitization” says Africa.
Mail & Guardian reported about a man named Dumisane Rebombo who now works for the gender equality organisation Sonke Gender Justice Network. He grew up in the village of Blinkwater in Mpumalanga, where violence against women was normalised and even enforces a man’s status of power. Rebombo said that no one in the village talks about or deals with the issue. It is terrible that women have to live in communities where they feel threatened and are hurt.
As the general public of South Africa, we hear about terrible incidents that occur on a daily basis. This also makes violence normal to us. This is a dangerous path for South Africa to head down because it makes one wonder what the breaking point will be. The Anene Booysen case did however cause an uproar from the public and activist groups, and rightly so. The government, who has been under pressure to take action in light of all these recent events, have launched a programme to assist sexual assault survivors. It was reported by City Press that Justice Minister Jeff Radebe has launched this programme in Phoenix in Kwa Zulu Natal. The programmed aims to deal with the sexual and gender based violence that has become a “pandemic” in our country.
It is crucial that the social factors are dealt with in our country in order to break this normality of abuse and violence. Women and children should not be victims of men trying to assert power and dominance. It should be taught in schools to young boys that real men do not rape or hurt women. Those who have suffered rape traumas and abuse need to be provided with care and counselling. South Africa needs to stop being such a “rape-friendly” society.
The Mail & Guardian’s article titled “Anene Booysen: Flowers and rage in Bredasdorp” written by Glynnis Underhill (http://mg.co.za/article/2013-02-28-gender-violence-flowers-in-bredasdorp-and-rage) gives the reader quite a detailed view regarding the terrible rape and murder of Anene Booysen. It is an article that seems to cover plenty of relevant information in a short space, and it even mentions the Oscar Pistorius case in relation to the tragedy. Glynnis Underhill’s opinion still seems to be slightly present in the article, thus not making it an entirely objective piece. She manages to frame her article in a way that evokes obvious sympathy for such a tragic story. Framing is defined by Gamson & Modigliani (1987) as “a central organizing idea or story line that provides meaning to an unfolding strip of events… The frame suggests what the controversy is about, the essence of the issue” (Scheufele, 2000: 306).
Underhill makes the reader question the innocence and character of the suspect Jonathan Davids by the way she has written about him. Although she does include in her report that members of his family think he is a good person and that “he could never do something like this”. This is also shown by the way she has used subheadings such as “good boy”. This has an ironic tone to it, which makes the reader very doubtful of Davids’ innocence. Underhill mentions the fact that there was some speculation about the year in which his mother died. This portrays Davids as a man whose words cannot be trusted. He said his mother died in 2003 but there were “whispers” among the family that she died in 2000. A reader can tell that Underhill is outraged and thinks that punishment needs to occur immediately.
Underhill has included facts such as the sexual crime statistic in South Africa. This shows the reader the seriousness of the issue, placing it higher on the news agenda in South Africa. Priming according to Iyengar & Kinder’s (1987) definition is that by making some issues higher on the news agenda it influences “the standards by which governments, presidents, policies, and candidates for public office are judged” (Scheufele, 2000: 305). In this article the importance and severity of this issue is shown, but it states that “high-profile” politicians were not present for some crucial moments in this case such as the bail hearing. This is makes the reader feel angry with the government for not taking more action and responsibility. Bredasdorp battles with social issues such as poverty and alcohol and drug abuse, and this calls for attention from the government. The article shows that this area is not getting the help it requires. The visual above the article shows the grave of Anene Booysen and this adds to the sombre tone of the article.
The article published on City Press titled “Anene: Bredasdorp divisions deepen” by Illham Rawoot (http://www.citypress.co.za/news/anene-bredasdorps-divisions-deepen/) is written in a way that portrays the suspect Jonathan Davids in a sympathetic light. Rawoot has spoken to Davids’ family and gathered background information about the suspect that evokes sympathy in the reader. It does not justify any behaviour, however it just makes the audience more mindful of the other side. This article is a contrast to the Mail & Guardian article, as it seems to show the other side of the story. This article has more quotes from the family saying what a pious, “kind”, and “gentle” man he is. Even though Underhill’s article mentioned that his family and friends thought he was innocent, it was still framed in a way that made the reader seriously doubt it. This article by Rawoot allows the reader to consider the possibility of Davids’ innocence. The article states that the arrest of Jonathan Davids has “torn the community apart”. This shows that he is perhaps a respected man among the community.
Rawoot also mentions the fact that his mother was beaten to death when he was just a child. Moreover he mentions the fact that Davids was involved in a car accident that altered his physical strength for the rest of his life. All these factors make the reader feel sorry for Davids. This shows that framing changes the way that the audience creates meaning of the issue that is being presented. The visual of Davids’ uncle Nico September and “Oom” Simon Europa outside their “modest” home also adds to reader feeling sympathetic and more understanding. It makes the reader question whether Davids is in fact innocent.
The article also states that there is ambiguity regarding what was meant when Booysen said “Zwaai”. This was also mentioned in the Mail & Guardian article, however it was said in a way that still made Davids sound guilty. This article causes the reader to question who Anene Booysen was referring too and what she actually meant. This article portrays a different side to the story and focuses on Jonathan Davids. This shows that the reporter has framed this article in a completely different way to the previous article mentioned.
News24’s article titled “Rumours Fly over Anene Booysen’s attacker” (http://www.news24.com/SouthAfrica/News/Rumours-fly-over-Anene-Booysens-attacker-20130304) is much shorter than the other two articles mentioned. It is much less opinionated than the others as well. It states facts without including any emotional diction, thus making it more objective. It gives the reader the facts quickly, which is what an online reader wants. The article explains that there is some speculation over Jonathan Davids’ arrest. However, unlike the City Press article it does not have a deeper look at Davids as a person. It does not encourage the reader to feel sympathy for him. It also different to the Mail & Guardian article that makes the reader think that Davids is still suspicious and immediate punishment must take place.
The image included with the article is also objective as it shows Jonathan Davids from a side profile view. This does not have any emotional tone or link, such as the other visuals from the other articles. This article is based on fact and allows the reader to create his or her own view, without the underlying view of the reporter.