Dear Rihanna (@Rihanna)
Welcome to South Africa!
I am a big fan of yours. So is our two-and-a-half-year-old daughter. She sits in the back of the car and yells “shine bright like a diamond” at the top of her voice every time Diamonds comes on the radio.
I have always enjoyed your music and I am certainly not one of those who would damn you for using sex to sell records.
This has been going on for decades and as you correctly said in a recent interview: “The music industry isn’t exactly Parents R Us.”
I also agree that to expect megastars like you to be role models for young people is not fair or realistic.
That said, South Africa has extreme social challenges that I would suggest you could help us with. And this is the reason I am writing this letter to you; to ask you for your help while you are here in our country.
You may have heard the allegation that South Africa is “the rape capital of the world”. It is also speculated that a South African girl is raped every 17 seconds.
While these statements may be conjecture, they will give you a sense of how women are viewed here; they are meat; objects to be penetrated, punctured, broken, torn apart and discarded – for the power and the pleasure of men.
Here in South Africa we glamourise the rape and abuse of women and children; our kids use rape as a rite of passage; gang rape is seen as the thing to do; we elevate men under suspicion of rape to positions of high office.
We are also disturbingly fond of raping infants, some as young as just a few months old. Here in South Africa, animals are treated far better than women.
This issue comes in and out of the media spotlight depending on how shocking and grotesque the most recent rape happens to be.
You will no doubt have shared the world’s outrage at the story of Anene Booysens. This 17-year-old girl was out with friends one evening in a town not far from where you will be performing in Cape Town.
She was found on a housing construction site the following day – lying in a pool of blood and barely alive.
She had been gang-raped and disembowelled and died from her injuries soon after being found.
Her story has been told.
Thousands upon thousands of girls have met or will meet a similar fate and they will simply become faceless statistics.
So what does all this have to do with you? I believe you could help stem the tide of rape and abuse in South Africa.
First, you have a major fan base; you have a Twitter following of over 30 million people and at the time of writing this letter, the video for your latest single Pour It Up had over 37 million YouTube views.
Second, you have a voice and you have first-hand experience of what it feels like to be abused. This is very powerful in itself.
Along with this, some of your recent videos have attracted a great deal of attention, and the claim is that you use sex – fairly rough sex – to sell records. I am not judging that.
But I do ask you this; having made so much money; having garnered so much power; having achieved so much attention using – as one of the tools of your success – sex, consider helping those for whom “sex” has not been so profitable; those whose lives “sex” has destroyed; those who have had their minds, spirits and bodies killed by a strikingly similar act to that which you have used to enormous effect to make you a global megastar.
By all means get up there and do your thing, but then use your powerful position and speak out against the exploitation, rape and abuse of our women and children.
Would this be hypocritical of you? I don’t believe so. For me, it adds up to the same thing as booze companies educating people on the safe and responsible use of alcohol.
Finally, I ask if you would consider donating the ticket sales from one of your South African shows to help fight the scourge of rape and abuse in this, the “rape capital of the world”.
Organisations such as Childline, Rapcan, The Teddy Bear Clinic, Operation Bobbi Bear and the Jes Foord Foundation are all doing exceptional work in this field and desperately need funding.
Your legacy can go way beyond your place in entertainment history – it could surely surpass it.
I wish you well on your journey through South Africa and beyond.
* Foxton is the founder of The Peace Agency. This column is dedicated to the memory of 17-year-old Anene Booysens, who was gang raped, mutilated and murdered.
** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Newspapers.