Academic journal article Gender & Behaviour

The Challenge of Personal and Universal Rights When Dealing with Pregnancy Due to Rape in Rural KwaZulu-Natal

Academic journal article Gender & Behaviour

The Challenge of Personal and Universal Rights When Dealing with Pregnancy Due to Rape in Rural KwaZulu-Natal

Article excerpt

The concept of Ubuntu has an ancient pedigree. Yet, it has always been discussed and related to matters of education (Letseka, 2012), and justice and fairness (Letseka, 2014); right action (Mertz, 2007); moral values/ethics (Pityana, 1999); crime and violence (Louw, 2004); media ethics (Christians, 2004) and legal practice (Mokgoro, 1998) but rarely has it been used to frame matters of rape related pregnancy. Manyonganise (2015), a Zimbabwean womanist, attributes this dearth of research on Ubuntu philosophy's response to rape related pregnancy to the failure of various Ubuntu scholars to traverse Ubuntu with gender. Ellis-Williams (2003) also highlights that women's experiences are shadowed by the alliance that exists with 'multiple marginalized status of race, class and gender'.

Equally, Uchem (2003) points out the same paucity by stating that Ubuntu discourse tends to focus more on the role of women in upholding dignity and humanness in society rather than highlighting how Ubuntu principles could be used to inform and frame the protection of women's rights. Mbiti's (1969) take on African communal interdependence resonates with the underlying Ubuntu maxim of ' Umuntu ngumuntu ngabantu '. Mbiti writes: I am because we are. And since we are, therefore I am. Ubuntu advocates justice against injustice; freedom against oppression; discipline against unethical behaviour. Ubuntu is to elevate people to humans so that they can relate well. But it is also about reducing the super-humans, the errant, and the unethical down to humans. This process of creating equality is always painful and difficult.

When a woman is raped and informs her family for support and guidance in dealing with her trauma, her family decides how she has/is to deal with her emotional and physical pain. Ramphele (2012) and Theron (2013) confirm this communal approach to dealing with individual pain. They argue that this approach obscures the victims' processes of dealing with the rape ordeal and unwanted pregnancies as a result thereof. Interestingly, research on rape shows that most women are advised "not to talk about the abuse due to the fear that it may bring trouble on the family" (Theron & Phasha, 2015). They are also advised to forget the incident and focus on the future. This practice of encouraging rape survivors to forget is evident in the Truth and Reconciliation women's hearings held in July 1997 where women were encouraged to share their painful stories with an aim of forgiving and embracing Ubuntu (Oboe, 2007). Oboe (2007) points out that women always endure social and political control because of the customary and legal patriarchal system. She argues that women hide and are mute on their violent and traumatic sexual experiences. Further she attributes this silence to how Ubuntu interprets the value of women who are taught to refrain from talking about their bodies and bodily functions.

Due to the notion of family honour, women are discouraged from talking about any sexual violation as any sexual activity outside marriage is frowned upon (Mmualefe, 2014). Mmualefe highlights the African teachings that place importance on women enduring pain, sacrificing themselves for the happiness of others. Potokri (2015) also highlights this tendency to sacrifice oneself and argues that women sustain culture as it helps them form their identity. Both Mmualefe and Potokri view this silence and self-sacrifice as products of social learning that a woman should protect the dignity of her family, her clan and her community. The promotion of self-sacrifice is evident in Tutu (1999), who states:

A person with ubuntu is open and available to others, affirming of others, does not feel threatened that others are able and good, for he or she has a proper self-assurance that comes from knowing that he or she belongs in a greater whole and is diminished when others are humiliated or diminished, when others are tortured or oppressed. ... To forgive is not just to be altruistic. …

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