Tuesday, March 04, 2014


Rape is so common in South Africa that we have developed a “rape culture” that allows us to dismiss, joke about or condone rape. Rape has been normalized to such an extent that victims - which now include little babies - are blamed when the crime has been committed against them. How did we lose our humanity to such an extent?    ----Deejay Manaleng

How many thousands of lesbians across South Africa are being terrorized by "corrective rape" is anybody's guess.  How many women and men have been raped and murdered because of their sexual orientation is unknown.   Whatever the legal codes may read, the reality is that in South Africa sexual violence has become a socially acceptable way of maintaing a patriarchal order.

This type of rape is not unique to South Africa, but sadly it is there that the rape statistics in general are off the charts.

Thembela is an open lesbian living in the Western Cape.  She is a 26-year-old filmmaker for the local documentary television series “Street Talk”  Thembela says:

Every day I live in fear that I will be raped...I live with my partner and we live alone. Many guys in my neighborhood know this and at any time they can come and kick down our door and rape us. They usually come in gangs and we would be powerless to stop them...Lots of my friends have been raped for being lesbian. It’s not an unusual thing...

On paper South Africa doesn't look all that bad. South Africa already had several progressive laws protecting the rights of LGBTI people, including the legalization of same-sex marriage. However, in practice these laws do little to protect LGBTI people increasingly faced with violence and victimization.

The Independent reports:

Mvuleni Fana was walking down a quiet alleyway in Springs – 30 miles east of Johannesburg – on her way home from football practice one evening when four men surrounded her and dragged her back to the football stadium. She recognized her attackers. One by one, the men raped her, beating her unconscious and leaving her for dead.

The next morning, Mvuleni came round, bleeding, battered, in shock, and taunted by one overriding memory – the last thing they said to her before she passed out: "After everything we're going to do to you, you're going to be a real woman, and you're never going to act like this again"

Corrective rape, the term itself makes me sick, makes me angry, is wielded by monsters to convert lesbians to heterosexuality - to cure them of being gay.

Triangle Project on lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people, Interim director  Sharon Ludwig stated at a conference last year, 

The attitudes towards LGBTIs can be attributed to our patriarchal society, which is entrenched in South Africa.

It is "unfortunate" that many governmental leaders across Africa preach that being gay in unnatural, alien to Africa, something brought in from the decadent world beyond.  

However, I should not stop the story here.  Heterosexual women in South Africa also are being raped in staggering numbers.   Some estimates suggest that nearly 1.5-million rapes occur in South Africa annually – that's two to three rapes every minute. Reports also suggest that in 40% of the cases the victims are children, and in 15% the victims are children under the age of 11. 

Want more sickening news from the report in the Independent:

(In South Africa) one in every two women will be raped in her lifetime. Twenty per cent of men say the victim "asked for it", according to a survey by the anti-violence NGO, CIET. A quarter of men in the Eastern Cape Provinces, when asked anonymously by the Medical Research Council, admitted to raping at least once – three quarters of whom said their victim was under 20, a tenth said under 10. A quarter of schoolboys in Soweto described "jackrolling" – the local term for gang rape – as "fun".

Helen Moffett of the University of Cape Town, says that  a women who dares to practice freedom of movement (moving around in open spaces), makes eye contact, adopts a confident posture or gait, or speaks out for herself,  is viewed as a dangerous, autonomous being who threatens established gender boundaries and is seen as deserving to be "disciplined" through sexual violence. Disturbingly, rape is interpreted often as "a socially approved project" to keep women in their place.

This is gender war, folks, nothing less.  This is a mad patriarchy desperate to maintain and strengthen its power.  As Gillian Schutte of the South African Civil society Information Service wrote in an opinion piece printed by SABC last year: 

Women’s bodies have been the locale of war since the inception of patriarchy - a misogynistic trend that saw the female body become the site of restraint, control and oppression....

In South Africa the war on women is nothing less than a national calamity as women and children have become victims of a current crisis of masculinity. Whether it is centered on white paranoia, privileged entitlement or economic desperation, the rage is turned onto women...

The fact that these victims and perpetrators are from different social strata and race categories challenges our society to re-examine their prejudices about who exactly it is that is capable of murder, rape and violence.  The truth is that misogyny and violence against the feminine knows no class or race or cultural barriers.  It exists wherever men and women exist....

Patriarchy plays out in various degrees of cruelty and oppression in different countries.  Each continent has its own homespun modes of violence imposed upon women to control and dictate to them how far they develop, how sexual they are allowed to be, how self-realized and authentic or empowered they are given the permission to become.

In the West it is seen in world domination patriarchal practices, in church structures where institutionalized misogyny is rife -- as it is in the corporate and governmental structures. It is also seen in incidents of rape and domestic violence.

And let us not forget that Europe remains the biggest consumers of the flesh trade in the trafficking of women and children through an entrenched sex slave industry, which reveals a lot about what a repressed patriarchy is capable of becoming.  The realities of this underground world of subjugation and horror has not even begun to be revealed because the truth is there are very few survivors of this well-oiled and well-hidden machinery of systematic rape.

It is clear that sexual violence is becoming an instrument for corporations and capitalist interests in a self-serving partnership between Western and African patriarchy – generating an apocalyptic landscape in which the war on women manifests in alarming levels of rape brutality in what plays out as a perturbing and terrifying echo of colonialism.

She adds eloquently and with passion: 

Surely it is time that we, as a society, get it together to tackle this problem head-on and determinedly.  It is men who have declared war on women and it is women who spend an inordinate amount of their energy protecting themselves from this onslaught of male violence.

We need to rise up at every occasion and form a unified voice around ending rape and violence on all women – whether a black lesbian killed in a township by homophobic gangsters or a top white model shot to death by her celebrity boyfriend – the reaction needs to be the same.

We need to form mass protest women’s movements to scream out that enough is enough.

We need to pick up pots and pans, drums, our primal screams, our banners, our outrage and gather outside magistrate’s courts and police stations to show our rage. We need to join those voices that are working to make sure government hears our demands loud and clear and we must find ways to make sure they can no longer ignore the state of emergency that needs to be declared for the women of South Africa.

We need to fight this war within the wider issue of social causes and demand a world in which communities are given services that create safer environments for women.

We also need to work together to dismantle the hold that patriarchy has over our language, our popular culture, our media, judicial systems and institutions of learning. This is all part of the battle.

Misogyny is institutionalized. It is entrenched in our daily lives and it is invisible to those who have been handed this so-called ‘god given’ right to claim procurement and superiority over women.

And for those men, who are already bleating that not all men are the same, consider this: only one man in about 250,000 will speak out against rape.

Until this changes, the silence of the majority of men about the reality of this war on women implicates the male collective.

Now is the time in which both men and women must rise up and end this war on women's bodies, women’s psyches, women’s intellect, women’s emotions and women’s vaginas.

The following is  from Pambazuka News.

Stop hate rape!

Pepe Hendricks

‘An injury to ONE is an injury to ALL!’

Hate crimes, homophobia and discrimination against queer [1] people are global phenomena that are common practice. This situation is especially experienced in Africa and the Middle East where harsh and punitive legislation and policies are authorised and endorsed. The lack of democracy, or the protection thereof, also perpetuates extreme human rights abuses, which often takes the form of physical assault. A case in point is in South Africa where the advent of democracy brought protection of rights of citizens, yet there is an increase in hate rapes, particularly of black lesbians, and violence against people in same-sex relationships.

By definition ‘curative’ or ‘corrective’ rape is problematic. The words ‘curative’ or ‘corrective’ signifies some form of justification for this heinous crime. There is thus a need to move away from this term of reference and rather refer to it as hate rape as will be the preferred usage in this document. The word ‘hate’ is also contentious as all rape could be rationalized as stemming from hate and violence that often also stems from self-hatred. However, the act is so abhorrent that it is indeed difficult to find words to describe it and understand how people could indulge in such acts.

By explanation it is the intentional raping, especially of women, in order to ‘cure’ them of their lesbianism. It is claimed that the majority of cases are often perpetrated by gangs of men. This is a global occurrence and seems to have become common practice in South Africa. What is worse is that the government and society turns a blind eye to it and it is still not acknowledged as an area of priority. Even more reprehensible is the fact that families and friends, including parents, are known to have arranged sexual encounters for individuals who they feel are ‘misguided’, or ‘going through a phase’. These people honestly believe that they have the right to intervene in the hope that they could enforce change through this horrific act.

Given the dire implications of this form of hate crime, it is also astounding to note the deafening global silence; as one activist remarked: ‘This is one of the most egregious instances of moral numbness that I have witnessed in my lifetime.’ So where is the thunderous public outcry? The only time that this matter reaches the public eye is when a hate rape is committed and LGBTI organizations and allies raise their placards to condemn these atrocious acts. This raises a sporadic spark of interest and for a short while rage is felt everywhere, then it all dies down. Where are the feminist voices? Where are the gender activists?

Hate rape is a human rights violation that is generally perpetrated by men who have warped viewpoints and are often extremists in their attitudes. So, in order to achieve social justice, it is necessary to engage issues through a feminist lens that dissects men and masculinity because hate rape is escalated by the mainstream, patriarchal and the heteronormative social construct of how sexuality is defined in society. It is evident that there is a need to broaden the issues of hate rape among a wider spectrum of communities, especially on the African continent and the MENA region. Creating dialogue via various media strategies will thus be very useful.

The socialization of society has its roots in religious and often conservative communities. Most often religious texts are misquoted and used as a justification to discriminate and oust those who identify with sexualities other than heterosexuality. Hence, it is necessary to provide alternative religious perspectives that encompass non-judgmental attitudes, compassion, dignity and human rights for all; regardless of sexual orientation.

The current economic recession gives spontaneous rise to poverty. As a result of poverty there is a leaning towards religion for answers; creating an escalation in orthodoxy. These attitudes are slowly influencing policy on the African continent, for example, in countries such as Uganda and Rwanda there is a rise of homophobic laws. Moreover, gender and other social issues are slowly moving off the agenda and there appears to be the enactment of oppressive legislation, discriminatory policies and practices, particularly in African contexts.

An example of the stance of African states is clearly exemplified by the gathering at the 2011 United Nations General Assembly, whereby 79 predominantly African countries (including South Africa) initially voted in favour of an amendment which removes sexual orientation from an anti-execution resolution. This signifies that LGBTI rights are not considered as important and protection against death and other harsh treatment are not provided. These factors indirectly also contribute to the escalation of hate crimes.

As alluded to earlier, hate rape has been part of the broader LGBTI and gender struggle and mainly seen in the form of reactive advocacy when someone has been raped. In South Africa, there have been previous attempts by civil society to launch a campaign against hate rape. However, it was fraught with power struggles and control as well as clashes of perspectives and ideologies of individuals and organizations. Politicking around the issue was often the case and this reduced the impact of the struggle. Its focus was based on the aftermath of hate rape, rather than its prevention. This then gave rise to another campaign, which was predominantly located in the LGBTI sector and similarly marred with inner conflict. So there is a need to inject a new life into a campaign that is more preventative, cooperative and inclusive.

It is time to place hate crime, specifically hate rape, on the mainstream rights agenda and place it as an issue that need a preventative strategy to eliminate it. South Africa and the world need a strong voice to counter the looming threats posed by hate rape. There is a need for strategically placed organisations in various sectors to stand together on lobbying and advocating for change with wide media coverage.


In an article by Kinoti

"Every day you feel like it’s a time bomb waiting to go off," she said. "You don't have freedom of movement; you don't have space to do as you please. You are always scared and your life always feels restricted. As women and as lesbians we need to be very aware that it is a fact of life that we are always in danger."

The voices of activists and government officials

"There is no awareness around hate crimes and corrective rape … We need a programme of action, we need intervention and research, a budget to find out the problems lesbian women encounter." (Funda)

"From New York to Afghanistan, to the Balkans, across Africa, Latin America. I’ve been to many conferences ... (curative rape is) a global phenomenon and it’s often friends and family … It has always been in society since the onset of patriarchy and been used as a tool to control people’s sexuality, women in particular ways and also some men. Many, many of my women friends and comrades themselves are survivors of curative rape." (Muthien, Engender)

"The police and prosecutors refuse to investigate on the basis of hate, the criminal justice system generally is slow and we live in a violent society. For every one murdered there are scores of victims," (Craven, JWG)

"We don’t have enough understanding of the constitution especially around equal rights. Everyone has inherent dignity … We need to include these issues into the school curriculum, address issues around gender and sexuality we’ve avoided for too long." (Madladla-Routledge)

* Pepe Hendricks grew up in the period of apartheid that inspired integrity, dignity and resilience within him in a constant struggle towards promoting equality, dignity and human rights as well as editing the book Hijab: Unveiling Queer Muslim Lives.)


[1] The word ‘queer’ is often considered as a derisive and derogatory term by many people because it was initially used as an offensive term to classify people that associated with sexuality other than that of heterosexuality. However, during the 20th Century, the term was significantly transformed by many activists who reclaimed it as a means of empowerment to desensitise the word. It was embraced as a term to describe diverse sexual orientations and/or gender identities or gender expressions that does not conform to hetero-normative society. Hence the word ‘queer’ is celebrated as the collective term used to describe the spectrum of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender/transsexual and intersex (LGBTI) communities.


REACH said...

Hi we're doing a publication on sexual violence in South Africa, particularly the social and political responses to the rape of Anene Booysen. We really like the photo on this webpage. Is it rights protected? if so what is the procedure to make use of it?
My email address is claudia.lopes@za.boell.org

Oread Daily said...

I don't remember much about it. I probably found it on google photos.