“CORRECTIVE RAPE”


Two days ago I met with two Swedish researchers for a discussion about their research. Their research is about “corrective rape”, thus the rape of lesbian women because they are gay. The focus of their research is on how therapists and caregivers do hope in the absence of safety and any guarantee that the rape survivors will not have to endure again such violence against.

Sarah and Calle wanted to speak to me about how South Africans understand sexuality, sex and sexual violence. During our discussion I had a profound realisation which I want to share with you.

Ever since I heard the term “corrective rape” it made me extremely uncomfortable. At first I thought it was about the incredible injustice of this violent act, but soon realised it was not only about that. There was more to my discomfort and anger with this term. In my conversation with Sarah and Calle it dawned on me what my discomfort was about.

It was about the term “corrective” rape. This term implied that there was something to be “corrected”. Men rape lesbian women to punish and to “correct” them. Such perpetrators believe that being lesbian is a choice and therefore it can be change. “They just need to have a real man, and then these gay women will change.” Thinking about this made me realise that if we continue to use the term “corrective rape” we are using the language of the perpetrator and therefore give credibility to this mindset. We should reject the term “corrective rape” outright. This kind of rape is not about “correcting” but intends to humiliate, violating and harm another human being. There is nothing “corrective” about this.

I came to the conclusion that this kind of rape is not only about supposedly “correction.” I believe that this kind of rape is rooted in fear and the indignant anger which results from patriarchal discourse. How could a woman even think of rejecting a man by wanting to be with another man? How can a women challenge the system of what is “acceptable” – thus that a women would want to be with a man?

I then thought about what other term could be used. The term needs to portray what this rape is actually about. I thought about the term “unjust rape”, but all rapes are unjust! It left me with the question: “Why do men rape lesbians?” It was not only about power: there is more to it – it is specifically because they are lesbian. It is because lesbians women are judged and find “guilty”. Maybe one should speak of judgmental rape, but this again might imply that there is something to judge. The same goes for discriminating rape.

Maybe we need to use the term homophobic rape, because that is what it is. A hideous and repulsive act of violence based on an irrational phobia of gay people!

We need to be aware that language is powerful. Words can give legitimacy to and even rationalise horrific acts. In future, when you hear the term “corrective rape” you have a choice, you can just accept it, or you can challenge it.

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Conversation on Liberation Theology – Why do we need feminist theology?


For my readers who understand Afrikaans: I participated in a radio programme on liberation theology, on Sunday, 18 March at 19:00. You can download this conversation at: http://www.rsg.co.za/images/upload/sound/klanke/20120318_KRUIS_EN_DWARS.mp3

For my English speaking readers – a summary of my ideas regarding feminist theology and  the relevance of it in the South African society follows:

WHY DO WE NEED FEMINIST THEOLOGY?

For centuries the church was (and still is) steeped in patriarchy. The church mostly speaks with a male voice, which often excludes women’s experiences. One needs to understand that when one deals with religious scriptures and traditions, context becomes of the utmost importance. In Biblical times men had absolute dominance over women as women were seen are possessions. Women had no access to education and only a few educated men determined what would be seen as scriptural and what not. Throughout the centuries this tradition continued, often to the detriment of women. This mindset continued in the South African society and was especially apparent in the structures of the Apartheid regime.

Within the South African context, the Dutch Reformed Church (DRC) played a major constituting role and was used to further the Apartheid ideology. White males were positioned as the rightful rulers over women and all other races within South Africa society. Women’s voices were absent in most power structures, especially in the church. It was only as recently as 1982 that women were allowed to the office of deacon, and that of elder and ordained minister since 1990 within the DRC. Gender role definitions and prescriptions were at the heart of female subordination and formed the basis of arguments for women’s exclusion from ordained ministry. Although the DRC recently celebrated the 20th anniversary of women in ordained ministry, at present there are only 68 women who work in congregations as DRC ministers, thus only 4,13% of the total number of ordained ministers in the DRC (DRC Yearbook 2011).

However, feminist theology is not only needed to ensure that more women are allowed to fully participate as ordained ministers. In South Africa more than half of all congregants are female, yet the male voice continues to prescribe, determine and enforce the way how women are allowed to participate. It is time that Christians move away from this patriarchal status quo in order to give women a voice which will enable them to participate and set their agenda with regards to their spiritual needs and insights. Moreover feminist theology is about inviting women to contribute to a social consciousness with which they will be able to identify.

Many patriarchs might ask, why should women participate and seen as equals. I answers with the words of Denise Ackermann ‘it is the right to human dignity that offers women in the church a powerful tool with which to challenge the church.’ In other words the fact that ‘human dignity and the idea that all humanity is created in God’s image, go hand in hand’, and therefore each and every human being, including women, should be able to participate in spiritual structures in ways that is unique and authentic to them.

However, feminist theology is not only about equal participation and giving women the space and a voice to engage in spiritual structures. It is also about addressing the social ills and injustice which the church has created with its prescriptions of very specific and rigid gender roles. I am in agreement with Denise Ackermann, who asserts that feminist theology should focus on firstly what is happening to women in their marriages and homes in the South African society; and secondly the widespread degradation of our environment.

If one look at the statistics of violence against women in South Africa, one can only but agree with Ackermann: ‘A war is being waged against the bodies of women and children in [South Africa] country. This is both a theological and a pastoral issue – one on which the church’s silence is obscene’. This is a vast subject and therefore I shall only briefly focus on how prescribed gender roles, which many churches still promote, contribute to the subordination of women and ultimately to the abuse of women on an economical, physical, verbal and sexual level.

Most patriarchal church societies focus on the creation story as portrayed in Gen. 2:18, which is interpreted that woman was created from a man, for a man and named by a man. Then this disobedient woman challenged the all male God and caused the Fall. Therefore women are seen as inferior to men and need to controlled by men, which rationalize the subjugation of women to the will and power of men.

From this mindset flows the idea that women are men’s possession to make with them as men please, especially once married. The most extreme outcome of this sexism and gender inequality is violence against women.

Feminist theologians believe that specific theological discourses continue to contribute towards violence against women and enforce the silence about this social ill. Many Christians see a husband’s authority as ordained by God and therefore it cannot be challenged, even if he is abusive. Good Christian wives are portrayed as obedient to and in service of their husbands. A pious woman is supposedly a silent woman who makes sacrifices on behalf of her family. This is linked to the suffering of Jesus and therefore many Christian women believe that to suffer in silence is to be Christ-like. Furthermore, Christian values of love and forgiveness help to maintain relationships of domination, as women should not challenge the behaviour of their husbands and they need to forgive seventy times seven. Feminist theology challenge these gender based ideas which continue to subjugate women in the name of God and the Bible and this is why the world is in desperate need of feminist theology.

South African women are in a war situation


The woman in this photo are one of the lucky ones – she survived the beating.

A conversation on Facebook yesterday, sparked so much passion and fire in my soul, that I need to blog about it. In my private practice I often hear stories of abuse and maybe this is why the conversation had so a profound effect on me.

A friend of my shared with me an article on honor killings of women in Canada. There was huge outcry in Canada because 12 women were murdered by their fathers or brothers to protect their family’s honor. This is appalling and I do not want to detract to the horror of it. However, it made me think about our situation in South Africa (SA).

In South Africa, every SIX hours a woman is murdered by her intimate partner. EVERY SIX HOURS. Let us do the math: that is four women a day, 28 women a week, 112 women a month, 1456 women a year. One thousand four hundred and fifty six women (daughters and mothers of someone) are killed by their intimate partners! Yet, our government and civil society look the other way. It is not spoken about. There are not daily news casts or paper headlines about this. It is almost as if we just accept this is how it is for women.

I believe that as long as we are silent about this, as long as we tolerate patriachal mindsets, as long as we look the other way, was long as we do not challenge, as long as we accept inequality, that is how long we are complicit to this atrocity – knowingly or unknowingly.

When we accept abuse, in which ever form, we are allowing it to continue unchallenged. Looking at the above mentioned stats convinced me that SA women are in a war, an unspoken war, and often the aggressors are the men who they love. However women have very little support and often no means to defend themselves:

  • By the time of death one out of two women in SA will be raped.
  • One out of three girls are raped or sexually assaulted before the age 18.
  • Women in South Africa have a greater chance to be raped than to learn to read.
  • The threat of “corrective” rape is very real for lesbian women in SA.
  • Every six hours a woman is killed by her intimate partner.

The vast majority of perpetrators of violence against women are their men, often their husbands. Yet our churches continues to prescribe the husband’s role as that of head, leader and priest of the home. Wives are supposed to submit and honor, to be subservient, and to accept the husband as the head of the home.

WHAT ARE WE THINKING? Or maybe I should ask what are we doing? Some call me fanatical, some call me a feminist, some call me a activist. Call me whatever you want but please MEN and women stand with me against this violence and senseless killing. Make people aware of the problem in our society. Start with ‘ant steps’ – i.e. when you receive a sexist e-mail, challenge it, when you hear a joke which demean women (or men) call it out, do whatever you can, but please do not be silent on this matter.

Read a previous post of mine:

https://nickispies.wordpress.com/2011/11/29/cleaning-up-the-mess-after-violence/

Please also look at these links:

http://www.powa.co.za/website/

http://www.hccac.org/abuse/myths.html

Cleaning up the bloody mess after violence


Today I listened to an interview on the radio about a book called: Bloedsusters (Blood sisters) by Ilse Salzwedelwhich. It deals with the work of two sisters, who are crime scene clean-up specialists. They are called in after the fact, after the violence: to clean-up the mess.

Sisters, Eileen de Jager and Roelien Schutte from Pretoria, South Africa, see their work as a service to the families of the victims and to society in general. In their book they share that they find emotionally, the most difficult to clean-up violent deaths due to family murders and attacks on farmers. Maybe it is because we are supposed to be safe in our homes and when we are with those we love?

Their work reminded me of my own work as a narrative therapist where I often work with sexual and gender violence. I, as many of my colleagues, are ‘call in’ after the fact. We witness the aftermath of emotional violence. We see the emotional blood and guts that economic, verbal, sexual and physical violence leave. The details of the ‘crime scene’ differ, but there is often a common factor: gender inequality and it leaves a legacy of shattered dreams and lives.

There is one main difference between an actual physical crime scene and that of gender-based emotional violence. A bloody crime scene shock most people and they will properly, if present when the violence is perpetrated, try to intervene. However, each and every day we all see acts of gender-based violence, without intervening. It might be as subtle as a demeaning comment about women, or as violent as a rape – yet we do not intervene or challenge it. Societies continue to turn a blind eye. Men and women continue to laugh at demeaning gender jokes, especially about women. We continue to support structures and products which depict women as less than men. We continue to accept the all too familiar life-denying gender stereotypes about men and women. We should not tolerate any form of gender-based violence whether it is a snide remark, economic abuse or the beating and eventual killing of a wife. By not taking a stand against the most subtle to the most violent gender-based acts, we contribute towards making violence against women and children an acceptable phenomena in societies.

Cleaning up the shocking mess …. this made me think: If all forms of emotional abuse left a physical bloody mess as physical violence do, will we still be so complacent and tolerant of it. If we could see the bloody, smelly horrible mess that gender-based violence cause, would we still need 16 days of no violence against women and children or will every day be a day in which this violence is irradiated from our society?