Today's Big Stories

New anti-rape device begs the question: Has SA done enough to stop rape culture?

The North West government has piloted a project to arm women and child-headed households with anti-rape devices.

This comes following a spate of rapes and murders in Tshing, Ventersdorp.

North West Community Safety MEC Gaoage Molapisi says the small gadget makes an alarming sound at the pull of a string attached to it.

We are targeting the defenseless and vulnerable, particularly pensioners and school-going children. We would like to develop a criteria on how to distribute the device to Saps stations in the future.

Gaoage Molapisi, North West Community Safety MEC

According to Molapisi, the anti-rape alarms are linked to different contacts and organisations, including the South African Police Service (Saps), for quicker response in emergency cases.

Who carries the responsibility of rape prevention?

The initiative has been launched in some identified communities as a weapon to repel the threat of rapists.

However, journalist, gender activist and rape survivor Michelle Solomon cautions that the technology needs to be coupled with improved support services, other preventative solutions and ongoing education.

Without additional measures, Solomon says the device perpetuates the idea that rape is caused or prevented by the victim alone - creating the opposite effect of empowerment.

These devices don't defend the defenseless. This is basically a glorified rape whistle and it makes rape prevention the responsibility of victims, that's the problem. There needs to be more. We need to equip them with education.

Michelle Solomon, journalist and gender activist

The idea of arming women with a device to prevent rape is not a new one, and according to Solomon the gadget assumes that the rape perpetrator will always be a stranger to the victim; whilst many cases of sexual abuse are coercive and involve acquaintances.

This specific area of rape culture is constantly addressed, to the neglect of all other aspects. I find the discursive issues that come with the device problematic.

Michelle Solomon, journalist and gender activist

Responding to criticism, Molapisi advises that the device is not the only preventive effort initiated by the government.

The device is supported by a home alarm that alerts the community of intrusions; once the alarm is set off, the affected house is identified by a flashing red light.

It also sends short text message alerts to the cellphones of the local police stations, community crime initiatives as well as chosen family members, neighbours and friends.

Listen to the full conversation from The Redi Tlhabi Show:

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