Tuesday, June 2, 2015
South Africa has one of the highest rates of rape in the world: Of the estimated 500,000 rapes that take place every year, only one in nine are reported
For every 25 men brought to trial for rape, 24 will walk free - a poignant reminder of the aggressive masculinity that colors the social and political landscape of South Africa. Several studies have highlighted the problem of gender inequality that pervades South Africa. According to research by the anti-violence NGO, CIET, 20% of men said that the victim “asked for it”. In a related survey, a quarter of Soweto schoolboys described “jackrolling” – a local term for gang rape – as “fun”. Recent studies show that homophobia is also a major problem – a 2013 study by the Pew Research Center found that up to 61% of South Africans believe that society should not accept homosexuality. The majority of attacks on lesbian women go unreported, but many are exceptionally violent – proof that attitudes towards lesbians are yet to change. In August 2014, 18-year-old Gift Makau was gang-raped, strangled with wire and left with a hosepipe in her mouth. Another woman, Noxolo Nogwaza was raped and stabbed to death with a shard of glass in 2011. Nomawabo, from the northernmost province of Limpopo, has been sexually assaulted twice. At the age of 15, she was raped by a school friend and two years later, she was abducted by a group of men and sexually assaulted for three days. Despite these horrific attacks, she is one of the luckier victims: she survived. Yet despite reporting the crime to police, the case disappeared and her attackers were never caught. “At school I was betrayed by my best friend. He told me to come to his house for a school assignment but when I got to the house we fought until he hit me so hard I collapsed, and then he raped me because he said I needed to stop being a lesbian,” Nomawabo said. “Afterwards I got pregnant and had a baby. The second time, my soccer friends and I were kidnapped at gunpoint and they took us somewhere far away and did what they wanted with us for three days. We told the police but the case just disappeared. Nothing happened because they all thought I deserved it.” Up to 40% of South African women will be raped in their lifetime according to the South African Institute of Race Relations, but estimates very widely due to under-reporting. Further statistics from the South African Police Service state that between 2013 and 2014 there were a total of 46,253 rapes were reported to police countrywide. However, due to under-reporting, the figure is likely to be much higher per year. The Medical Research Council estimates that only one in nine rapes are reported to the police. Moreover, only 14% of perpetrators are convicted.