May 9, 2006
Protecting African Sisters Protects Africa’s Future
I have written a couple of posts before on HIV/AIDS in South Africa. The verdict for SA’s former deputy president Jacob Zuma was reported yesterday. AllAfrica.com picked up the story from IRIN. No surprise really that he was acquitted on rape charges. While the judge believed the sex was consensual, he did chastise Zuma for not using protection even though he knew the woman was HIV-positive. In Blogher’s post she excerpted this bit from the NYT. It’s upsetting that this attitude still exists:
“AIDS hotlines were briefly besieged after his testimony with queries from men asking whether soap and water could prevent AIDS infections. Judge Van der Merwe said today that Mr. Zuma’s remark was beneath comment.”
What this trial has done is draw attention to sexual violence in South Africa, which IRIN reports as having one of the highest incidences of reported rape in the world. Women’s rights groups like People Opposing Women Abuse (POWA) protested outside the courthouse during Zuma’s trial. POWA was part of the “One in Nine”campaign. This is in reference to the number of women who have reported being raped. Between April 2004 and March 2005, 55,114 cases were reported to the police.
“If you acknowledge that only seven percent of rape cases are successfully prosecuted, I can’t say I’m surprised” -Carrie Shelver, public awareness manager at POWA.”
It was also reported that during the trial Zuma supporters carried posters reading “Burn The B****.” This verdict will come as a terrible loss and deterrence for women to report rape in the future. The odds of a conviction are against a woman who was raped, and she has to endure public humiliation and harassment on top of that.
Blogger Two and Two Makes Five posted a chart used by the World Bank in 2004 as an indicator to measure HIV/AIDS prevalence rates. Do check this out if you get a chance. The figures are astounding. If I’m reading it correctly, the average life expectancy for a South African in 1993 was 63 years and for 2003 dropped to 48. This fits into sub-Saharan Africa being far behind target in reducing HIV/AIDS under the UN’s Millennium Goals
It would be interesting to see what is the correlation between the spread of HIV/AIDS in South Africa and women being forced to have sex. But I’m not sure if there is data kept on sexual violence against women.