Ramaphosa’s Women’s Summit

SOUTH AFRICA - Pretoria 01/11/2018. Protesters outside the Pretoria Magistrates Court where rape accused Nicholas Ninow apeared. Picture: Jacques Naude/African News Agency/ANA

Rape is the worst form of invasion ever to be inflicted on a woman. I cannot even begin or pretend to really fathom or be able to illustrate the horror of it all. But I am born of a woman, breastfed, and raised with hands of motherly care and cannot but be outraged by the violation of dignity and humanity inflicted with stark regularity again and again on our women and children.

But even against this desperate moment, our response to this debasing, defiling beastly act to women’s bodily integrity, there should still be room left to retain the modicum of common decency. The maddening impact of nothingness imprinted on those so violently invaded, leaving them with nothing left to hide, for privacy’s sake, I am afraid to say, but, is probably the reason behind exposure that one survivor resorted to, in a meeting least expected to witness the shocking spectacle.

The predicament that the act of exposure imposes on those who still care, to the plight of those so invaded, injects a disarming degree of helplessness. It dis-empowers at that appointed moment intended to provide for deeper reflection of what is best for society and its leaders to do to end this scourge afflicting us.

Again, I do not underestimate the sense of extreme shame, total frustration and sense of hopelessness to which survivors have been driven to resort to such exposure. I must, in earnest, add my profound sense of helplessness that leaves me horrified and dislocated, not knowing where to look when confronted with one exposing oneself to illustrate the degrading violence that one has gone through.

It is as if I’m challenged to plunge my fingers in the wounds of one that has survived to develop greater belief in the factuality of the recurring horror our women and children are facing. This probably was the position that President Cyril Ramaphosa could have found himself in when confronted by such a situation.

But then again, I am least qualified to prescribe how best the point could have been driven home. I have no clue how best the beastly craven urges that spur rapists amongst us could be tamed and ultimately extracted to reawaken their sense of innate self and restoring their humanity.

But when exposure is all that is left to drive home the point to those still willing to listen, does one close one’s eyes not to see further the shame women have gone through and are still facing? Or does one keep one’s eyes open to encounter the continued scarring of women as to have greater understanding of this terrible affliction that brings them down as though they were prey in a bestial netherworld?

Even the underwear raising statement may come across as grotesque to non-comprehending onlookers, including me, to be more out of place in an invited indoor meeting called, inter alia, to address our sickness.

Perhaps in another public demonstration of picket lines it can arguably be understood to be an expression of outrage meant to shock, shame and raise the bar of disgust of a society that seemingly has become desensitized with no prospects of much redeeming action in sight. But when shame has cut one’s soul so deep, what best behavior can apply in this hour of women’s debasement?

There evidently are more questions than answers. Yet the wish for my country not to give in or give up in affording its men, women and children a fighting chance, to be human again, must still prevail. I hope the summit President Ramaphosa hosted has helped to raise the resolve than diminish this fighting chance.

Oupa Ngwenya is funding secretary-general of the Forum of Black Journalists (1997-2002), a freelance writer, columnist and projects co-ordinator of the 70s Group.