A friend of mine who lives in Italy recently sent me the link to a WordPress blog out of Cape Town, South Africa. To check the veracity of the information it contains, I bounced it to my friend Sue who lives in Cape Town and happens to work for an NGO.
If you take the time to click on the link at the bottom you will read in detail what happens to gay women in a society still steeped in tribalism and who strongly denies homosexuality. Women are raped in an effort to change their sexual identity. Sue widens the subject to encompass all women who, being victims of poverty, ignorance and few prospects, struggle to maintain their dignity, let alone their identity.
When I come across stories like these I am reminded of how fortunate I have been. Yes, I, and women like me, probably encountered sexual discrimination along the way but, in many instances, we had the instruments to recognize it and fight it where necessary. Fifteen years in the rock ‘n roll industry at a time when women were few and far between, exposed me not only to sexual discrimination but to sex in all its forms – narrated, joked about, offered and if, for a time, the openness men displayed on the subject in my presence made me feel like I was part of the boys’ club, I have since come to recognize how demeaning it all was.
The following are some comments Sue offered on the subject of what black South African women face on a daily basis. At the bottom is the link if you would like to know more about a subject that seems so far-fetched while sitting here in LA. And to read more about South Africa, you can check out her blog www.fastapproaching50.blogspot.com/.
“There was a survey carried out here amongst young black men living in townships (a specific demographic). The men reported that 25 percent of them had raped a woman at some time. The overall feeling being “when a woman says no she really means yes”. As an addendum – of 1000 women surveyed in the same survey – 1 in 3 of them reported having been raped. The townships have a huge problem with gangs – and there’s this practice called ‘jackrolling’ which is basically gang rapes after you have had a couple of drinks.
And then, of course, our President was accused of having sex with a HIV positive family friend who was staying with his daughter in their home. And he took a long shower afterwards to ensure he washed the virus off. She lost her case …. surprise!
Black women have few rights because of male supremacy in the tribal set-up. Women’s rights in Africa are seldom enforced. Religious and Tribal customs further reduce their power, as does poverty, the practice of having children with each man you have a relationship with, little enforcement of child support, male physical and economic strength etc. Homosexuality is seen as an abomination – regardless of what sex you are. The men are beaten and for lesbians – the corrective rape issue is a real problem.
Think about the challenges you and I have experienced as women in the world, and still experience because of male attitudes. Now multiply that by an infinite number – and you get the good picture on where African women really stand with regard to equality and protection. One of the greatest unspoken myths of our ‘civilization’: women are equal to men.
Young women are the fastest growing group within the HIV/Aids area. They have no power to force men to wear condoms. Them wearing “femidoms” (female condoms) is a laugh. The barrier cream is not yet approved or on the market. And saying no is impossible. In addition, men often have multiple partners – so one man can infect many more women than the other way around. (A man I know, who holds a very senior position in a huge corporation told me the other day that some of his friends, when they want to test for HIV – send their girlfriends to be tested. If she is positive – he kicks her out and finds a new girl.)
Economic empowerment is the only way that change is going to happen.