No Past To Speak Of: A Story Of Infant Rape In South Africa

10 12 2007

No Past To Speak Of: A Story Of Infant Rape In South Africa” was on ABC Television last night. The documentary follows a story of a five-month-old girl raped in a Johannesburg slum and tries to explain the reasons why infant rape occurs so frequently in South Africa.

There is no other way to describe this documentary other than heart-wrenching. Some of the stories told in the film were so morally repugnant that it was impossible to imagine any human being being capable of such abhorrent evil.

I was completely surprised that blacks and whites saw the problem of infant rape in South Africa so very differently. Blacks saw the problem as one of general ignorance and ingrained backward attitudes of complete male dominance and sexual violence common in black South African culture.

Whites were mainly talking in abstract phrases about apartheid, oppression, conflict and brutalisation of blacks by whites while mentioning very little about black culture and black ownership of the problem. This was rather curious. Firstly, it is hard to picture how oppression and brutalisation turns into infant rape. It is hard to imagine a culture more oppressed, discriminated and brutalised than Jews during the WWII era. Did we see the epidemic of child rape in post-war Israel? No. Secondly, no country was exposed to more death, oppression and conflict than USSR. Officially 20 million Russians lost their lives in WWII with another estimated 10 – 50 million losing their lives in Gulags during Stalin’s brutal reign. Did Russia experience excess child rape? Again, the answer is – no.

In one part of the documentary a white social worker tried to equate infant rape to the sort of abuses that took place in Abu Ghraib prison in Baghdad. Ho can anyone can equate taking photos (no matter how gruesome and disgusting) of adults to physical rapes of infant girls that are so common place in South Africa? It was a truly disgusting moment that said so much about the perverse political correctness and apathy of white South Africans.

Such perverse political correctness is a hallmark of modern multiculturalism and by no means confined to South Africa. Multiculturalism insists that all cultures are equal and likens criticisms of culture (no matter how valid) to racism. We see such outcries of racism time and again whenever there is any mention of high rate of single parenting in Afro-Carribean communities in UK, discrimination of women in Islam or the epidemic of sexual abuse in Aboriginal communities in Australia. It is a small wonder that a social worker in South Africa would rather construct an absurd moral equivalence than dare criticise black culture and be labelled a racist.

This begs an obvious question. What does this say about our multicultural societies, when it is more important to so many of us to be seen as non-racist that saving a child from brutal rape? Surely something stinks here…

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8 responses

6 05 2008
criticaldemocracy

Shocking and sad. I wonder what the true roots of these sexual attitudes are?

3 01 2009
sherry Clyburn

Could you please tell me where I can purchase this film?

Thanks

4 01 2009
Mike Mills

I was involved in the production of this film – both behind the camera (ie in South Africa) and during the intensive editing process back here in Canada. I am saddened by your read on the film – not because you didn’t agree with the overall thesis….but because you seemed to have allowed your own filter and agenda to distort the message of the film entirely.

There are several key (black and white) characters in the film that accept and denounce the troubling and abhorrent aspects of the “black culture” – if you can use such a vague term to include all of the wide ranging and disparate beliefs of the many different tribes across South Africa. (South Africa has 7 official languages, and many more are widely spoken). It is a remarkably vibrant and chaotic society coming to terms with its own sins and shortcomings. I truly don’t believe we tap danced around the “black” issue – those responsible for violence and unspeakable acts were roundly condemned for their behaviours. We featured two black men who live in the townships and who have dedicated themselves to educating their peers to accept women as their equals. (Women are denied equality in every avenue of South African culture). They discuss freely their own sins and violence – one even confesses to killing another in the tribal warfare that broke out after apartheid. They are not pointing fingers, nor are they hiding from their actions. They are telling us their story – and it’s important that we listen. We also have the (black) editor of a prominent newspaper recounting the horrors of the violence that has touched his life personally. They are angry at their peers, but they also, justifiably, have some compassion.

But we (and by we, I mean now my peers, ie white people) must be allowed to discuss “root causes.” To avoid discussion of these causes – the human motivations that lead to depravity – we run the very real risk of allowing the violence to continue. It seems to me your argument mirrors those who won’t allow discussion about why Al Qaeda wanted (or wants) to attack America. For many, any discussion that even hints at examining the terrorists’ motivations were / are, in this view, deemed to be unpatriotic and even treasonous. Perhaps you believe the same. Perhaps you believe that we shouldn’t discuss why those living in Gaza want to hurl rudimentary rockets at the Israelis – perhaps you believe that the Palestinians are simply terrorists, period. Although we can never excuse the actions of Al Qaeda or the Palestinians or those who perpetrate violence against children in South Africa – we must allow ourselves to try and comprehend. To avoid this conversation means that we accept that all of these people are simply evil, inherently inhuman. I do not accept that idea. If that makes me a latte sipping liberal, so be it. Do you not want to have hope and faith in your fellow man? Or has your experience with totalitarianism, as described on your home page, hardened you to use the concept of “pure evil” to help you cope with your difficult past? Truthfully, I have lived a privileged life in an extremely prosperous and peaceful nation – Canada – and have no first hand experience with such oppression and violence. Perhaps you will now decide that I have no right to discuss these issues. Hopefully not – you seem like an intelligent and engaged individual.

Moving on. Your arguments comparing the USSR and Israel to South Africa are deeply flawed. First of all – there are no statistics to track whether child rape occurred during the Stalin regime. They simply aren’t available. However, it is widely accepted by most historians that sexual abuse and degradation (including infant rape) are and have been a part of all wartime cultures. It is a by-product of the chaos of war. And yes, one character in the film used this fact to highlight a topical issue – the abuse of prisoners in Abu Gharib. It is not equating the actions with child rape. But is is meant to attempt to help us understand why people were driven to commit these actions. More recently, UN soldiers have been raping children in Sudan – the very soldiers that we are entrusting to prevent the genocide in Darfur. There are no reports of infant rape per se – the soldiers are mostly targeting children: 12 – 15 year olds. But why? What is driving these soldiers to abandon all of their sworn objectives to harm the most innocent among those they are meant to protect?

So…… you simply can not state emphatically that the USSR did not produce these atrocities. I would say that it’s very safe to say that they did not occur with regularity – infant rape always been regarded as an extreme anomaly – in every country except South Africa. As to the Israel example – this is not even analogous. After WWII, the Jewish people were given providence over Israel – many of them no longer lived side by side with their German oppressors. They did not have to try and create a society side by side with the cowards who tried to deny them their humanity through violence. In South Africa, however, the blacks were freed and encouraged to just forgive (by Mandela, no less) – and pursue a new life hand in hand with their oppressors.

One of our main objectives was to shatter the virgin myth – the idea that men rape infants because they believe it will cure themselves of AIDS. This myth was repeated, advanced and given legitimacy by every major media outlet that covered the story when it first surfaced. However, this is the very definition of “lazy journalism” – a tendency of those in the media to simply accept as fact those ideas that have been propagated by their colleagues. Surely – this would be a convenient theory to help us wrap our heads around the shocking story – the rapes are caused by widespread ignorance. That would help us all sleep at night and put the issue in a tidy little box. But the reality is that there is no proven connection between that myth and the actions of the rapists in South Africa. In fact, the virgin myth was first prevalent in Victorian England – at that time it was syphilis that men were purportedly trying to heal. The virgin myth is simply not relevant to the situation in South Africa, and you can find the definitive paper on this in the Lancet online. I will dig up the link if you want….there are many interesting academic papers on the subject.

So – if we are to get at the issue, to try and understand the issue (not so that we can excuse it, but so that we can solve it), we must allow ourselves to look at all sides of the issue. And one of the major issues is that yes, white people must accept their role in creating a society where someone can be driven to such a depraved act of violence.

I must repeat again that I believe this film does not in any way excuse the actions, or the cycle of violence, shame and inaction that is prevalent in South African culture today – both black and white. It intends to examine the issue from an objective viewpoint. If we erred on the side of compassion, I am ok with that – I think film makers do generally skew towards hope over fear. But I do believe the film raises very difficult questions – questions that must be answered by all South Africans (black, white, Zulu, Afrikaners) in order to chart a new path forward.

19 01 2009
Antoinette

Oppression and Apartheid do not matter you have to be a sick animal to rape a baby. Those men should be castrated

18 06 2009
One in four South African men are rapists - BBC survey - Page 2 - Politics.ie

[…] Irish people are about the level of sexual dysfunction in Ireland and where that stems from. No Past To Speak Of: A Story Of Infant Rape In South Africa Lattenomics […]

2 08 2010
Ivin

Was this article written because of something that happened in Sa and does someone have a date for one of these baby rapes or even the date of this article will help.

Thanks

Email ivinv@uskonet.com

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