The evidence presented at the bail application of pastor Tim Omotoso in Port Elizabeth this week has been sordid.
The pastor is accused of sexual abuse and human trafficking and, of course, these allegations must still be tested in court. However, they do also highlight a particularly South African problem: the exchange of sexual services between vulnerable young women and powerful older men.
Evidence was led that most of the teenage girls alleged to have been abused lacked a father figure and turned to the pastor to fill this role. Whether or not he abused this role is over to the law to decide.
However, The Herald on Friday also reported on the good work done by the First Things First movement which is taking a firm stand against lecturers who hand out higher marks to students who sleep with them.
That campaign criticised blessers and spice mommies – yes, our young men are also affected – and reported a significant percentage of students may be involved in transactional sex. It urged students to avoid relationships with older men (and women) offering material benefits such as cash, cellphones and other goods in exchange for sex.
Young women may and do joke about needing a blesser or a sugar daddy but the objectification of women is no laughing matter. There are important issues here which need to be examined.
While impoverished teens are desperate for money for food or university books, let alone luxury items, sex transactions will continue.
South Africa already has a massive gap between the wealthy and the poor. However, we have another disconcerting disconnect in gender relations.
Of course, we must draw a distinction between buying marks by selling sex and the nasty crimes of which pastor Tim stands accused.
However, the bottom line is that young women need to be empowered to view themselves as more than a sexual commodity. Let’s not wait for Women’s Month. It must change now.