Dros rape case points to flaws in how boys and girls are socialised

MBUYISELO BOTHA Gender Imbizo
Nicholas Ninow, accused of raping a seven-year-old child in the bathroom of a Dros restaurant, appears in court. The writer feels the tragedy could have been averted.
Nicholas Ninow, accused of raping a seven-year-old child in the bathroom of a Dros restaurant, appears in court. The writer feels the tragedy could have been averted.
Image: Thulani Mbele

The Dros rape saga made me reflect on the different, powerful ways in which we socialise boys and girls.

We say to girls don't walk at night, don't talk to strangers, don't drink anybody's alcohol without knowing them, don't dress in short dresses or revealing trousers.

We continue to say to girls always sit properly and make sure that your legs are not wide open. We say to girls speak in measured, respectful tones and don't raise your voice because doing so is "ungirly".

We say to girls don't sit on your uncle's lap, be careful how you talk to him, don't send confusing and conflicting messages to boys, especially when it comes to matters of the heart.

Don't get involved in casual sex, don't have more than one partner, remain a virgin, don't drink alcohol, be respectful, be obedient, be afraid of boys or any of the male species.

You are a girl, know your place, know when to smile and with whom to smile and always remember that boys are dangerous. We say to the girl don't aspire to be a leader, know that you were created to be subservient and be a follower.

Again, what do we say to boys? We say to them it is OK to have more than one partner because that's what boys do. In that way you will prove your sexual prowess. We say to boys the world is your oyster, be adventurous, go out into the world and conquer.

It's OK to drink alcohol because doing so makes you belong.

We say to him you were born a leader so girls are in the world for your taking. We say to the boy child it's OK to walk at night, to drink alone or with other boys because that's what boys do.

So, our society believes in socialising boys and girls differently but, more importantly, it is a society that polices girls' behaviour and allows boys to do whatever they want to because this is a man's world.

I imagine a world where we would be teaching boys from an early age that it is important to respect girls' bodies and not look at them as just sexual objects existing to please men.

Imagine a world that says to the boy child don't walk at night, don't drink with strangers, don't smoke, don't be violent, don't abuse anybody - and that includes other boys.

Imagine a world where girls will grow up understanding that they are not in the world to please men but to be who they must be, should be and can be.

It is the mendacious teachings that create a society that is fundamentally unequal and, to a larger extent, oppresses women.

In her book, Reflecting Rogue: Inside the Mind of a Feminist, Phumla Dineo Gqola says: "Girls had to wait for boys to approach them rather than initiating contact."

She adds that boys could have several girlfriends and be admired for such prowess, but girls have to keep their virginity in check otherwise they would have to leave school if they were impregnated, even it is by well-known sexual predators.

There you have it. We are a society that instils fear and insubordination in a girl child at an early age and does nothing or looks the other way when it comes to the boy child's sexual behaviour.

Reading about how events unfolded in the Dros rape saga, I wondered that if this young man would have been socialised from an early age to respect women's bodies, how that day would have turned out.

Surely, he would have known that the girl's young, tiny body does not belong to him - or anybody, for that matter.

Surely, Karabo and the millions of women who have been killed by their partners who professed to love them would still be with us.

I firmly believe that we need a radical mindset shift if we are to create boys who would look at girls as their equals and not as just objects at their disposal.

Finally, my heart goes out to a young, innocent seven-year-old girl who is scarred for the rest of her life. She will grow up understanding that boys and men must be feared and not loved. Sad that our society violates its children who expect only to be loved.

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