A Global Perspective

              From a global perspective we can discern that there are many relevant issues affecting women throughout the world, all of equal importance, and occurring and progressing at different frequencies. By examining women’s issues through a global lens, a picture of confluence emerges. In that all the issues are interconnected and must be addressed on a global, multi-cultural scale. The U.S. is a country with a lot of power and influence in the world and sets standards in theory, practice, and denial. I say this to point to the U.S. actions in claiming full equality and treatment of women, and denying the discrepancies that exist. Additionally the U.S. has and uses the power to set standards of treatment of women, as well as expectations of women’s behavior. The United States women’s movement should turn this power into a positive force that acts to help women globally recognize their personal power of agency in their lives.
Examining Western Assumptions           

It’s important that Western women, in the U.S. especially, make effort to promote positive change without assuming that they know what’s best for all women. Women are oppressed and restricted in many ways, yes, but those oppressions differ based on location and goals. The idea that all women are the same and want the same things in life follows the vein of the androcentric ideal, that men are everyone and the male experience equals the entire human race’s experience. So putting all women in the same category like that leads only to more oppression, and more restrictions and expectations on already burdened women in the world. Therefore the issues that affect women should be addressed on a global scale, but it must always be taken into account the different needs of women in different regions.


Efforts To End Rape in Sub-Saharan Africa

            Actions and efforts to end violence against women and girls in Sub-Saharan Africa are being taken by the UN, the secretary General Campaign UNITE to End Violence against Women, and the African Union’s  Africa Wide Campaign to end Violence against Women . Women have tirelessly campaigned for CEDAW, the Convention to End All Forms of Discrimination Against Women. The convention views violence against women as a violation women's rights. Every country that signs and ratifies CEDAW is obligated to follow it’s policies. However, not all countries that have ratified CEDAW have taken the necessary measures to insure the safety of women. CEDAW is an action on the global level, whereas on a more local scale, women in countries with widespread violence against women work to advocate for victims rights and pressure police and government to take rape and domestic violence seriously and prosecute the perpetrators. 


U.S. and South Africa: Women’s Status

           South Africa is sometimes referred to as the rape capital of the world. This is because it is estimated that a woman is raped every 83 seconds. That means on average, every hour 43 women are raped in South Africa. That’s about 375,648 rapes a year, and that number is conservative. Such data is compiled from the number of reported rapes, and rape is one of the most underreported crimes in general. In comparison, in the United States it’s estimated that up to 700,000 rapes occur yearly. The number differs, because of different population sizes, but regardless of how you look at it, sexual violence is alarmingly prevalent globally. This is important to not, as such a violent crime is often perceived as wrong, but happening more in other parts of the world. This is the mindset employed by many Americans. That thinking leads to ‘othering’ or distancing from the victims of rape in other countries, as well as in the U.S. Rape emerges from tendencies towards violence, imbalances of power, and misogyny; and there is not a place in the world where these elements emerge.

            When examining how women in South Africa are fairing in general, when compared to the U.S., women are at the same stage in many issues. The following tables compare women’s status in South Africa and the U.S. using the data in “The Penguin Atlas of Women in the World” by Joni Seager.

Women In the World
United States
South Africa
Lesbian Rights
Homosexuality is legal
1st country to include protection for LGBT people in constitution
Domestic Violence: % experienced physical abuse by partner
42% murdered by intimate or family member
40%-70% of female murder victims killed by husbands/boyfriends
350,000 women in North America
22.5 million people in Sub-Saharan Africa infected; over half are women
Global Sex Trafficking
About 50,000 trafficked in per year; source and destination country
Source and destination country
About 700,000 per year; high occurrence rate
Rape every 83 seconds; high rape occurrence
Women in Government: Elected officials
25% and over
Crisis Zones
At war- no conflict in U.S.
Internal conflict, political upheaval (2000-2008)

War: Women in Crisis Zones

         Women in countries experiencing conflict are especially vulnerable to acts of violence in addition to having to deal with taking care of families in unstable conditions. “Most armed conflicts today are civil wars, and most of these involve the deliberate targeting of civilians,” (Seager, p.100). Women are often subjected to wartime rape. This is “endemic and often systematic,” (Seager, p.101). Military forces will fight in an area and “systematically’ rape and kill as a show of force and power. Wartime rape is used as a military tactic to terrorize the population “through the symbolic (i.e. destruction) of the community, culture, or nation,” (Coomaraswamy and Kois, p.213). Countries in Sub-Saharan Africa have experienced systematic rape of women by soldiers in armed conflict from 1980s to 2008 include: South Africa, Rwanda, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Burundi, and Somalia, among others (Seager, p. 101).

Coomaraswamy, Radhika, and Lisa M. Kois. "Rape of Women in Situations of Armed Conflict." Women
and International Human Rights Law. Ed. Kelly D. Askin and Dorean M. Koenig. Vol. 1.
Ardsley: Transnational, 1999. 213-14. Print.

Seager, Joni. The Penguin Atlas of Women in the World. 4th ed. New York: Penguin, 2009. Print.

Health Consequences

            There are several health consequences resulting from sexual violence against women. Women who are attacked may be physically beaten or killed during the attack, or possibly after by family depending on where they reside and if that area considers rape to be a blow to the family’s honor. Women can contract HIV and other forms of STDs, and have to deal with unplanned and unwanted pregnancies. Healthcare for rape victims depends on the healthcare offered in their region. If a woman is raped, she then has to deal with the aftereffects, which can be life threatening, and her access to a women’s clinic or victim’s services depends on her location. So women are left to their own devices and must deal with the aftereffects without outside services. How such a situation can be dealt with ties in greatly to the “politics of location” (Rich, p. 47) meaning the privilege or inequalities women experience based on their location.
Freedman, Estelle B., and Janet Lee. "The Global Stage and the Politics of Location." Women's Voices, Feminist Visions: Classic and Contemporary Readings. Ed. Susan Shaw. 4th ed. Boston: McGraw-Hill Higher Education, 2009. 47. Print.


Introduction: The Occurrence of Rape in Sub-Saharan Africa

The purpose of this blog, “Rape in Sub-Saharan Africa”, is to examine the issue of rape of women in Sub-Saharan Africa and inform others. The issue of rape is important to the Sub-Saharan African women’s movement as well as the global women’s movement as it affects the emotional and physical well-being of numerous women in Sub-Saharan Africa and is an act of violence that occurs throughout the world, adversely affecting countless women.  So perpetuating the belief that rape is something that happens in less democratic countries where women have less rights acts against the fight to end violence against women. Therefore the tendency by the mythical norm-white, educated, young, middle-class, men- and mainstream society to ‘other’ the issue and victims of rape is alarming, given it’s global status as a violent crime issue.

            What is rape? Rape is a sexual attack.

            Rape is a sexual attack, however a more women’s studies definition is that rape is a “crime of aggression” and the “focus is on hurting and dominating” (Shaw and Lee, 563). This form of violence committed by men against women is used in many ways. In sub-Saharan Africa rape occurs in each form, such as child rape, acquaintance rape, wartime rape, corrective rape of lesbians, and stranger rape.  Rape as a weapon of violence in war is prevalent in counties at conflict. Rape as a method of torture or retaliation in conflict is a war crime. Committing such a heinous crime as rape and justifying it as a part of war is misogynistic thinking reinforced by the sexist and patriarchal ideals that permeate global culture, even more so when in situations where violence and war are the normal state of the day-to-day for the duration of the existing conflict.

Shaw, Susan M., and Janet Lee. "Ch 10: Resisting Violence Against
Women." Women's Voices, Feminist Visions: Classic and Contemporary
Readings. Boston: McGraw-Hill Higher Education, 2009. Print.