African culture should stop pussyfooting about rape

South Africa has one of the highest rates of rape in the world.

South Africa has one of the highest rates of rape in the world.

It is rated among the most violent countries, rape being a most violent crime. Other statistics suggest "rape" in such cases has been taken out of context.

There are cases in which a woman ends up alone with a man in his flat, hotel room or house after a night out. There is no argument about alcohol consumption by both parties.

Even if she were stone sober, the question asked of her is: "Weren't you asking for it?"

"Good grief!" you can hear women's rights advocates exploding.

"How in heaven's name does a woman ask to be raped?"

The male chauvinists of old used to suggest that a woman who dressed "suggestively" was asking for it. That held water only until logic gurus said this was like saying a bank that didn't have armed guards was asking to be robbed.

Would a court acquit an armed robbery on those grounds alone?

Now there is a debate about date rape, sparked by Helen Mirren, an actress to whom I first reacted in a film with the late Peter Sellers.

She said "date rape" was, under certain circumstances, not an issue for the courts but one that needed to be "worked through as part of the subtle negotiations of modern gender manners", according to reports.

"Dame Helen's contention was that a woman who voluntarily ended up in a man's bedroom and engaged in sexual activity - but then said no to sexual intercourse - could not seriously expect to take that man to court on a charge of rape if he ignored her last-minute insistence that she did not want full sex."

Jacob Zuma is still remembered for something like that. He is standing for president in the next election, I am sure. Is this something right up his street as a campaign strategy?

In urban Africa statues will be erected in honour of Mirren - by men. Africa's regard for its women is pregnant - pardon the pun - with inconsistencies. On the one hand they are placed high on a pedestal as mothers to whom the popular jazz standard I am A Woman ought to be sung night and day.

On the other hand their mission is to marry the highest bidder and bear him many children.

Those who escape this persecution have enlightened parents who let them choose their careers, marry men of their choice and decide how many children they want and when.

In nations where Islam is the religion of the majority there is Sharia law, in terms of which women can be stoned to death for adultery, among other "crimes".

But it is "date rape" that fascinates me as a city-bred man. I never came across such women in the ghetto. You could say we both knew what the score was.

One problem I came across in researching for a feature article years ago was related to culture.

Boys growing up in the village are tutored in a form of wooing that includes how to wear down a girl's resistance. Some of the techniques are pure violence.

The boys are told no girl gives up her virginity voluntarily. So this "persuasion" is perfectly permissible. Even worse, for the girls, is that boys are told when the girls say NO they are actually saying YES.

They play so hard to get, getting them is hard work. All this is steeped in the latent male chauvinism of African culture.

Someone ought to do something - the African Union or Jacob Zuma?