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ZIFF 2011 review: A Country For My Daughter
A Country for My Daughter follows Nonkosi Khumalo, a woman who imagines a safer country for her daughter and for all women in South Africa in light of her own personal experience with domestic violence and the legal system. After a fruitless attempt to report her abuse, passed off as “common assault” by the justice system, Khumalo investigates the struggle many women face when attempting to report domestic and sexual abuse in South Africa.
Khumalo explores the cases of four women in recent years in South Africa who experienced brutal sexual abuse and even death. These cases, such as S v. Abrahams (1999), a case in which a 14 year old girl was raped by her father, made headlines in the past decade and brought to the media’s attention the growing issue of sexual violence and inadequate legal assistance.
Their respective fights for vindication helped to raise awareness surrounding the lack of legislative implementation for survivors of domestic and sexual violence and inspired the local communities in South Africa to come together to put an end the injustices. Laws that protect women and punish their abusers are effectively in place in South Africa.
The implementation of these laws, however, is not. The film pauses on the question “Why?” almost too quickly and delves in to the seemingly more pressing focus of ensuring that the voices of women are heard.
Although the film is narrowly devoted to inspiring further implementation of laws already in place, it would do the entire world a service to take a deeper look at the societal ideologies that not only breed gender inequality, subordination, and power over women, but create a justice system that systematically exonerates abusers.
With sharp images and engaging angles, this film offers an intimate discussion between lawyers, judges, families, and the survivors, as they recall their respective cases and debate their outcomes and what their effects will mean for the protection and justice of women in South Africa.
In the film, we see a discussion between a lawyer and Khumalo regarding much-needed legal assistance for a case. During the discussion, the camera moves in to highlight the following quote: “Sexual violence and the threat of sexual violence goes to the core of women’s subordination in society. It is the single greatest threat to the self-determination of South African women.”
In my opinion, this quote perfectly describes how violating and threatening sexual violence is to woman’s autonomy.
Although the film could benefit from a lengthier consideration of why this struggle exists, in addition to posing ways for women’s voices to be raised, “A Country for My Daughter” remains a thoughtful and inspiring documentary, one that instills in its audience a drive to rise against such injustices and the hope to do so.