International: Rape is no game

International: Rape is no game

Date: November 29, 2011
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Johannesburg, 29 November: This time last year a sordid cell phone video recording of a young woman allegedly being raped on the grounds of Jules High School hung heavily over the Sixteen Days of Activism campaign that runs from 25 November to 10 December.

This year, the case of a face book rapist, who gloated about his crimes in this social networking medium, forced even the most ardent proponents of free speech to question the limits to using such platforms for blatantly violating women’s rights.

The past two decades have witnessed a proliferation of media technologies including several television channels, video games and the Internet.

Many parents have argued that video games provide harmless entertainment and only make children’s minds sharper. However, the content of the video games suggest otherwise. In 2006 a Japanese company called Illusions produced a video game called RapeLay. Users could freely download the game from the Internet or purchase it from such Internet sites as Amazon.

Controversy around its content only came three years after its production. The company has since ceased distribution of the game. It is important to scrutinize this new form of media and the challenges it poses on the gains made thus far on women’s empowerment.

In 2010, Cable News Network (CNN) reported about a game that involves the player stalking victims and then raping them in a virtual world. The game begins with a teenage girl on a subway platform. She notices you [the player] are looking at her and asks, “Can I help you with something?” The player then chooses a method of assault. With the click of a mouse, the player can grope her and lift her skirt.

Then the player can follow her aboard the train, assaulting her sister and her mother. As one continues to play, “friends” join in and in a series of graphic interactive scenes, the player can corner the women and rape them again and again. The game allows the player to even impregnate a girl and urge her to have an abortion. As the pregnancy becomes more and more visible, the “player” will be thrown from the train. The reason behind the players’ assault, explains the game, is that the teenage girl has accused you [the player] of molesting her on the train. The motive is thus revenge.
There are many games like RapeLay which promote and simulate sexual violence. Can this be regarded as freedom of expression?

Rape is no joke! Research done by Gender Links on gender based violence in Gauteng titled The War at Home: Gender Based Violence Indicators Project Gauteng Research Report South Africa found out that 51.3% have experienced some form of violence (emotional, economic, physical or sexual) in their lifetime and 75.5% of men in the province admit to perpetrating some form of violence against women.

In the book Persuasive Games: The Expressive Power of Videogames, Bogost (2007) argues that video games have a uniquely persuasive power that goes beyond other forms of computational persuasion. Not only can videogames support existing social and cultural positions, but they can also disrupt and change those positions, leading to potentially significant long-term social change.

As the world celebrates twenty years of the Sixteen Days of Activism, we need to come to grips with how new media technologies are undermining the rights of women.
Internet Governance discussions should encourage governments to put in place laws that govern the production of gender sensitive video games and other forms of new media entertainment. Men should also appreciate the fact that for as long as they do not lead by example and encourage a violent free society, incidences of gender based violence will remain high.

Efforts by such organisations as UN Women that just released a cellphone quiz that educates young people about gender based violence should be encouraged and extended to the entertainment industry. Parents should also encourage the production of games with messages that challenge gender stereotypes. Now is the time to make IT work for gender justice!

Saeanna Chingamuka is the Gender and Media Diversity Centre Manager at Gender Links. This article is part of the Gender Links Opinion and Commentary Service and African Woman and Child Feature Service special series for the Sixteen Days of Activism on Gender Violence and COP 17 Conference.


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