Like watching an accident

The Zuma trial is a little like watching an accident happen.  You don’t really believe what is going on but you can’t help watching.  News24 has published a few quotes that have been attributed to the ex-Deputy President as well as to a number of commentators on the rape trial:

Johannesburg – A selection of quotes made by former deputy president of South Africa Jacob Zuma and others during his rape trial in the past week.”You cannot leave a woman if she is already at that stage (of sexual arousal).” – Former deputy president Jacob Zuma, giving evidence in the Johannesburg High Court during his rape trial.”Under normal circumstances, if a woman is dressed in a skirt, she will sit properly with her legs together. But she would cross her legs and wouldn’t even mind if the skirt was raised very much.” – Zuma.”I had no problem having sexual intercourse with her, bearing in mind that she had needs.” – Zuma.”She consented. She actually took the initiative. When she got into that bed she encouraged me.” – Zuma.”Negative”. – Zuma, on his HIV/Aids status.”It would minimise the risk of catching the disease.” – Zuma, explaining to the Johannesburg High Court why he took a shower after having sex with an HIV-positive woman.”She had ulterior motives.” – Jacob Zuma’s daughter, who believes her dad’s rape accuser had ulterior motives when she arrived at his Johannesburg home last November.”As most South African men will tell you, if a woman says ‘knee’, she actually means ‘ja’.” – Chris Roper in his column on News24 ‘Zuma: She had knees’.”I still firmly believe that the chief propagators of the anti-Zuma political conspiracy are firmly located within the national executive committee of the ruling party.” Jon Qwelane in his column on News24 ‘Media pawns in plot to get Zuma’.”Nowhere in our culture are we taught that by wearing a skirt, we are asking for “it” – sex, that is”. – T Gule from Randburg in her letter on News24 ‘Power to the G-string’.

While this trial seems to have a considerable amount of political significance and it would be unfortunate if the politics of the trial overshadowed the trial itself.  While it remains to be seen whether Jacob Zuma did commit rape, what is frightening are the views that Zuma has expressed and implications these views have for women’s rights in South Africa.  Comments about how the length of his accuser’s skirt signalled her willingness to have sex with him and his view that the chances of becoming infected with HIV (and his subsequent shower to further reduce the risk) are sobering to say the least.  What makes these comments worse is that they originate from a person of some authority and influence and from someone who was once charged with addressing the HIV/AIDS pandemic and educating South Africans about the disease.What can not be in doubt is that Zuma was irresponsible.  To quote News24 again –

Johannesburg – Former deputy president Jacob Zuma’s belief that a man could not contract HIV/Aids when having sex with an HIV-positive woman was irresponsible, said non-governmental organisation Soul City on Wednesday.”First, he continues to assert the untruth that men having intercourse with HIV-positive women are not at risk of becoming infected,” said the Soul City Institute for Health and Development Communication.”This is the height of irresponsibility in a country where one in nine people is HIV-positive.”Soul City also criticised Zuma for not using a condom during sex.In his testimony, Zuma told the court the woman was making “sexual overtures” to him even before the night he allegedly raped her.”If this was the case, the question that needs to be asked is, why then did he not make sure condoms were available?”The institute also said the risk involved with having multiple sexual partners had been ignored.Soul City called on the media to ensure that efforts to contain the HIV/Aids pandemic would not be undermined by reporting on Zuma’s testimony.

In addition to being irresponsible, Zuma has sent a dangerous signal to his supporters who may come to share his beliefs that when a woman says ‘no’, it isn’t necessarily ‘no’ if, for example, she is wearing a revealing outfit at the time.  These beliefs cannot be permitted to justify rape.  If they return to the collective consciousness then the efforts of so many to bolster women’s rights, including a woman’s right to bodily integrity, will be severely undermined.Technorati Tags: , ,






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