Do we need to be declared “a country at war” for sexual violence to get attention?

Sexual violence in war: Jolie opens summit in London

Yesterday in London, actress Angelina Jolie opened a four-day international summit on ending sexual violence in war. The actress and UN special envoy said that the summit must send a message that there is no disgrace in being a victim. Ms Jolie was speaking alongside British Foreign Secretary William Hague, who is co-hosting the London summit with her. More than 140 nations are participating at the summit.

Ms Jolie urged that: “We need to shatter that culture of impunity and make justice the norm, not the exception, for these crimes.” Mr Hague said rape was one of the “great mass crimes” of modern times. To illustrate this, Mr Hague cited the estimated 50,000 women who were raped during the Bosnian war two decades ago, virtually none of whom have received justice.

South Africa is not considered a country at war.

MOSAIC wishes to remind society that although rape is severely under-reported in South Africa, at least 60,000 rapes are reported in our country every year according to the South African Medical Research Council (MRC) . That is more than 160 rapes reported each day! Most sexual offences committed against women are at the hands of someone they know. One in four men in South Africa has admitted to raping someone he knows. At least one out of every four women in South Africa is impacted by some form of abuse. Every eight hours a woman in South Africa is murdered by her intimate partner. Couple these statistics with our rate of HIV/Aids infections, and you’ll appreciate the alarm.

MOSAIC supports and encourages discussion of any of these issues on whatever level as this facilitates thinking, talking, and consideration of the issues across society. Platforms such as this summit also greatly assist those of us facing up to the challenges of gender-based violence on a daily basis by getting the message across to the broader community.

While critics have described the summit as a potential high-level photocall, MOSAIC salutes those celebrities and politicians who are prepared to put their name to this cause, thereby garnering widespread and high level interest, and keeping issues such as gender-based violence on the global agenda. All over, organisations are losing much needed funding, simply because donors and partners do not understand the extent of the challenges, or because there is another issue that photographs better!

Since 1993, MOSAIC has worked towards putting an end to all forms of violence and abuse. Over the years, we have developed a holistic response that balances the need for prevention, prosecution, care and eventual healing and empowerment.

MOSAIC feels that all forms of violence and abuse should become unimaginable in society through a sweeping change of societal attitudes. We as a nation must exercise total commitment to implementing our laws. Should violence and abuse occur, appropriate and lasting support should be available to survivors. Lastly, it is time for the system and society to stigmatise perpetrators not victims.

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