Amazing news coming out of South Africa this morning!
Last year we highlighted our amazing South African partner Sonke Gender Justice Network in our annual Top Ten Wins for their work in filing a hate speech complaint against Youth League leader Julius Malema. They took Malema, of the progressive South African resistance organization the African National Congress, to court after he told a group of 150 University students that South African President Jacob Zuma’s rape accuser must have enjoyed having sex with him.
“When a woman didn’t enjoy it, she leaves early in the morning,” Zuma said. “Those who had a nice time will wait until the sun comes out, request breakfast, and ask for taxi money.”
As an organization that supports men and boys to act against domestic and sexual violence, Sonke formalized their hate speech complaint against Malema in Equality Court in May. Back in December of 2009, we celebrated this decision as a symbolic victory in and of itself.
This morning, I am elated to report that this victory is no longer just symbolic.
The Equality Court has ruled that ANC Youth League President Julius Malema is, in fact, guilty of hate speech and discrimination, the two charges Sonke leveled against him in the Equality Court following his hateful comments. Malema has been ordered to issue a written apology within the next two weeks and instructed to pay R50,000 (approx. $7,000) to an organization serving survivors of gender based violence.
More from Sonke’s press statement:
“This case makes it clear that our country’s leaders need to be more responsible in their public statements and that civil society can and will hold them accountable. We hope that this ruling will alert public figures to the potential repercussions of their words, both in terms of the impact that public statements can have in perpetuating gender-based violence and other forms of discrimination, and in terms of the legal implications.
“In a country where it is estimated that one in three a women is raped, we need to take strong action to counter myths and stereotypes which can lead perpetrators to believe that they can act with impunity, and which can dissuade rape survivors from seeking health care or justice.”
The press statement goes on to outline next steps for continuing the fight against stigma, discrimination, and gender-based violence in South Africa:
“It is not sufficient, however, for leaders to refrain from making irresponsible comments; we need proactive leadership to mobilise men and boys to take action against gender-based violence. We reiterate our call for men in public positions to be clear and consistent in their explicit support of gender equality and to condemn openly and unequivocally all forms of gender-based violence.
Instead of perpetuating rape myths, public figures should make it clear that rape can happen anywhere, and that the rapist could be anyone: a stranger, a friend, a boyfriend, a husband. There are no rules that say a woman who has been raped will behave like this or like that. We need to make sure that women who have been raped are not stigmatised and are not made to feel like the crimes against them were their fault.”
IWHC will continue to support and partner with Sonke as they continue their incredible work generating support for women’s rights and gender equality – and specifically to educate men and boys about the role they can play in advancing gender equality.
Truly a cause for celebration!
For more on Sonke and combatting violence against women in South Africa: