Recently, I attended a beauty contest. One of the contestants was asked a question about how to curb rape and violence towards women. Her response started with how women should dress more modestly; wear less revealing clothes etc. My blood began to boil. And this, coming from someone who not thirty minutes earlier was on stage in a bikini…
The truth is, I wish I could say that this was merely the misguided opinion of one young girl but, this is not the case. So many people in our country if asked, would give a similar response. Unfortunately, Namibia is still a country where people believe that rape is anything more than a crime of violence and malice. So many people still believe that our women, girls and even men are being raped because they wore “inappropriate” clothes so the rapist “couldn’t help himself”.
To be honest, I would understand supporting this argument if I believed that a) men are wild animals with no self-control and are unable to register the screams and tears of another human being begging them to allow them to keep their dignity or b) if the majority of rape cases were perpetrated by random men who just happen to run into some inappropriately dressed girl and not, as is the case, by men towards their children, nieces, nephews, girlfriends and wives. The fact that most rapist are related to or know their victim; that babies and old women are raped, makes the “inappropriate clothing” argument null and void.
The fact that we still keep telling women “don’t get raped” instead of telling men “don’t rape” means we are still making rape the victim’s fault. The reason the majority of rape cases go unreported is because women are afraid to be asked (even if not in as many words) what they did to “provoke” the rapist.
The sooner we stop perpetuating this mentality and we start shaming the rapist as opposed to the victim, the sooner victims will feel safe enough to report their attackers. It takes a special type of evil to rape someone but it takes a special type of ignorance to justify rape.
-Ndapewoshali Ndahafa Ashipala
Published: The Namibian Newspaper