Cross-Border Observations from India and South Africa
In early 2013, two young women were brutally gang-raped and murdered in different parts of the world: Jyoti Singh Pandey, a 23-year-old from India and 17-year-old Anene Booysen in South Africa. Both cases received uncharacteristic attention but what were the dynamics and specific factors and circumstances that propelled them into national and international prominence and can unpacking this influence the development of enhanced strategies to tackling endemic violence against women?
“Sexualised Violence in the National Debate: Cross-border observations from India and South Africa” is a joint project between the South Africa and the India offices of the Heinrich Böll Foundation. The project, which commenced in 2013, produced two comparative studies – one on South Africa co-authored by Joy Watson and Vivienne Lalu and the other on India authored by Urvashi Butalia. The studies analyse the political, media and community responses to the rape and murder of the two young girls in the context of perpetuating violence against women in both countries. The studies also assess to what extent the unprecedented attention to these two cases led to any tangible social transformation processes.
What the comparative studies revealed is that although the cases were somewhat similar in nature, the social and political reactions to the rapes and murders of the young girls differed. In India the government’s response to the mass eruptions of social protest was to initially curtail it rather than to respond to what its citizens were calling for. In South Africa, while some marks of social protest were made across the country, it was politicians who took the centre stage. Almost as soon as news of Anene’s death hit the media, politicians descended onto the small town of Bredasdorp, using any opportunity as a forum for party politicking. Despite these initial problematic responses, some positive remedial measures did emerge. Although some concerns remain on the implementation of these measures what the responses to the rape and murders of these young girls proves is that the state can prioritise addressing violence against women particularly when media influence and/or just the right amount of public pressure is placed on it to do so.
There are however 'no quick-fix solutions' say the authors of the South Africa study, “strategic thought needs to be invested in the prevention of sexual violence. Otherwise, both private and public spaces will continue to be sites of potential danger for women and girls.”
The studies can be downloaded by clicking on the above links. More media articles on this project can be found on the Heinrich Boell Foundation website.
For more information or to request hard copies of the publication contact: Claudia Lopes, Tel: 021 461 6266, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.