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SOUTH AFRICA: From Victim to Victor


Oyama on beach

Oyama on beach

At the deserted end of a beach east of Cape Town, the waves crashing in front against a backdrop of the city’s most famous landmark, Table Mountain, Oyama Mbopa danced. In her head, she sang the Brenda Fassie song “Memeza”, about a woman’s cry for help when she is attacked. Oyama, herself the victim of brutal sexual violence years’ ago, is practicing for a one-woman show on violence against women which she hopes to take around the country. She comes to the beach to practice for economic reasons – she can’t afford to rent a rehearsal space – and also because she feels free here – “Nobody judges me, nobody tells me I am right or wrong.”

Being judged for who she is is a daily occurrence for Oyama – and as a black lesbian living in a township, the judgment is harsh. Women like her, she says, are targeted for their sexuality.

I was in Cape Town, with local cameraman Al Lyne, to make a feature for “21st Century” on what’s known as “corrective” rape, the shocking crime of men raping gay women to “correct” their homosexuality. Sadly, in South Africa, it is a crime that is increasing, sometimes with tragically fatal consequences. And this in a country that already has the highest incidence of reported rape in the world.
We filmed in the townships around Cape Town where crowded, poor living conditions,scant opportunities and bubbling frustration have created an environment where violence is common, particularly against women. To ensure our safety while filming, the authorities allocated us a team of 10 police bodyguards.

SA with Police

SA with Police

But Oyama and others like her are not so priveleged – and have to take their chances alone.
Yet despite the brutality and frequence of these homeophobic attacks – some claim as many as 10 lesbians are raped per week in Cape Town alone – inspiring women like Oyama, and some men, are fighting back.
UN Women, which has as a priority the ending of violence against women, supported this feature.
See the feature “From Victim to Victor” on the UN’s magazine series “21st Century”.

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