In a statement on Thursday, the Commission for Gender Equality (CGE) said that Zapiro’s cartoon on Tuesday that used the theme of rape as satire was not an appropriate way to drive a message.
They said that even mentioning rape could open the scars of rape survivors.
Zapiro, real name Jonathan Shapiro, had earlier explained that he was aware that rape was the most “violent and disgusting” crime that could be done to a woman, but it captured his feelings towards President Jacob Zuma, the Gupta family and attempts at state capture.
The commission said: “In a country where sexual violence and rape are endemic, the Commission for Gender Equality (CGE) finds the latest work on Lady South Africa by cartoonist Jonathan ‘Zapiro’ Shapiro in a bad taste.”
“The Commission believes the metaphor of using rape to drive the message across is not appropriate. Equally so, it is our view as the Commission that going forward people should not use the word ‘rape’ loosely as it invokes emotion and rescars survivors of rape. The CGE understands that there is freedom of expression, however, that freedom comes with responsibilities particularly when it comes to symbolisms that are being used in this regard to communicate a message to the broader society.
“The CGE believes that rape cannot be normalised regardless of the situation. As the Commission, we constantly conduct legal clinics and outreach programmes as a way of educating citizenry about the scourge and what to do in instances where rape has taken place. The prevalence of rape as per the 2016 Crime statistics on Sexual Offences was 51 895, more so with views that this area of crime statistics is prone to under-reporting by victims of crime, which suggests that the SAPS crime statistics relating to sexual offices might not be a true reflection of the current state of sexual offences in the country. Clearly this indicates that the symbolism or the metaphor of rape cannot be used to equate the two as mutually inclusive.
“Rape dehumanises human beings. It is a trauma that those that have not been subjected to it may think little of it. The CGE therefore is asking Zapiro to reflect and ascertain whether given our diversity this type of symbolism is helpful without restricting freedom of expression. We hope out this he will reconsider the use of rape as symbolism to express his view.”