Editorial: Desensitised to rape

There is an anecdote in Redi Thlabi’s new book, Khwezi (which details the story of Fezekile Kuzwayo, the woman who accused Jacob Zuma of rape), that tells of how a senior woman journalist was allegedly sexually harassed by the president himself. The anecdote was yet another disturbing “footnote” in a long history of men imposing themselves on women in unwanted ways — and getting away with it.

It’s not just a matter of rape, horrific though that is. It is the near-constant unwanted, unsolicited sexual attention to which women are relentlessly subjected by men. And it’s the sheer atavistic entitlement displayed by men who assume it is their right to dominate women in this fashion — presuming that women’s bodies are there at their disposal. This attitude manifests everywhere, even when a teenager is walking to school, as a recent article in this newspaper showed. It has become normalised, not even necessarily notable.

The journalist, who allegedly had an encounter with the president on the threshold of his bedroom, did not publicly denounce him for his behaviour at the time. These things are a part of women’s daily lives.

Perhaps we as a society are accustomed to men playing the role of aggressor and predator, because we have witnessed it time and again. We may not be surprised. Maybe we have become desensitised. But we will continue to prioritise and document it. 

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