A few weeks ago I ‘checked-out’ of reading the news online and watching on TV. It wasn’t anything specific; rather it was the ongoing trauma I was experiencing as a result of reading about the brutal rape and murder of children, increased child violence and female genocide daily. The South African media in their frenzy to sensationalise news reports, manage to traumatise an entire nation into a state of desensitisation and acceptance of sexual violence as normal. As I was reflecting on these issues, my mind kept revisiting the well-known African proverb:
It takes a village to raise a child
I’ve always wondered who lives in that village and what messages those villagers transmit, directly and indirectly, to the children they are raising. In South Africa, we have villages made up of silent observers and do-gooders working among rapists, murders and homophobic misogynists all intent on putting women and children in their ‘place’.
As we begin the 16 days of Activism for No Violence Against Women and Children, I’m grappling with how relevant that proverb is in this context. How does it hold true for those women and children experiencing systemic and personal violence? Are we happy letting murders, pedophiles and sociopaths raise our children? Are the villagers content with the violent siege on female and little bodies? Are we, as villagers, happy that 3 month old babies are hyper-sexualised and can be raped with impunity? Are we, as villagers, content that lesbian girls are raped as a ‘corrective’ measure? Are we, as villagers, accepting of the harassment of homosexual boys who are beaten and killed for living their truth? Are we, as villagers, accepting when old women are raped, beaten and burnt when they should be ageing peacefully?
If we are, then I don’t want my daughter raised by this village. If we want something different for your child and those in your life, then we need a different way of living in the village. We need to give voice to our discontent. We need to let perpetrators know that in this village of ours, there is no room for their behaviour. We as villagers need to let survivors know that it is NOT THEIR FAULT and that we collectively support them. We must hold the perpetrators to justice and a higher moral system.
I will mark my 16 Days of No Violence Against Women and Children by supporting women as they find and use their voices to reclaim their village. How will you mark your 16 Days and the subsequent 349 thereafter?