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In the year 1999, a woman was raped in South Africa every 26 seconds.

Right now, South Africa is in the midst of nation-wide protests against gender-based violence — sparked by outrage over several high-profile cases of deaths of women in recent weeks. 

Yet current talk about gender-based violence in the country often implies that it’s a new phenomenon — that there was once a time where women were safe from abuse.

This reemerged video of Hollywood actress Charlize Theron talking about rape and sexual assault in South Africa 20 years ago shows a different reality.

“People often ask me what South African men are like,” says Theron.

She continues to cite shocking statistics such as the fact that more women are raped in South Africa than anywhere else in the world, as well as the fact that one out of three women will be raped in their lifetime in South Africa. 

Also adding that the rest of South African men don’t think that rape is their problem.

"It's not that easy to say what the men in South Africa are like because there seem to be so few of them out there," she remarked.

The video was reportedly created as part of a campaign called Real Men Don’t Rape, which featured South African-born Theron and aimed to highlight the scourge of rape and sexual violence in the country at the time.

But the commercial received backlash from an organisation called A Group of Concerned Men — who claimed the advert implied that all South African men are rapists.

It became a case for the country’s Advertising Standards Authority and, while the ASA disagreed with the group about the implication that all men are rapists, it ruled to ban the advert on the grounds that it was discriminatory on the basis of gender because it criticised men as a group.

However, the video has now re-emerged on social media — with activists highlighting the video as showing that not enough has changed in recent decades to better protect people from sexual violence.

According to the Minister of Women, Youth, and People with Disabilities, Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, 30 women were killed by their partners in South Africa in the month of August alone — which also happens to be Women’s Month.

“We, all of us, are hanging our heads in shame because of what is happening in our country,” Nkoana-Mashabane said at a media briefing last week. 

Meanwhile, South African women have also been taking to social media to share horrifying stories of their own experience of sexual abuse using the hashtag #AmINext, after the death of University of Cape Town student Uyinene Mwretyana.

A man has been charged with the rape and murder of the 19-year-old, after she went missing on Aug. 24.

And Charlize Theron has taken to Twitter this month too to express her frustration at how slowly — if at all — things have been improving.

“When I made this ad in 1999 I hoped things would change,” she said. “They have not.”

She also added that the system is clearly failing to protect women and girls.

“Our leaders can’t continue to turn a blind eye, as they did with this ad,” she tweeted.


Demand Equity

Watch Charlize Theron’s Banned 1999 South Africa Anti-Rape Ad

By Itumeleng Letsoalo