feimineach.com

I don’t think there is one word I could add to this story to make its message any plainer or any more disturbing. These are the cruel realities of life in South Africa.

Some key statements:

  • One in four South African men questioned in a survey said they had raped someone and nearly half admitted having attacked more than one victim.
  • … practices such as gang rape were common because they were considered a form of male bonding.
  • A recent trade union report said a child was being raped in South Africa every three minutes with the vast majority of those cases going unreported.

What?! How long has this been going on, and why has there been no outrage about this before? And why?!

The researcher suggested that:

"… it’s partly rooted in our incredibly disturbed past and the way that South African men over the centuries have been socialised into forms of masculinity that are predicated on the idea of being strong and tough and the use of force to assert dominance and control over women, as well as other men.

Really? Can this adequately be attributed to a patriarchal society and the on-going prevalence of negative attitudes towards women, or do these statistics require a phenomenon all of their own? I can certainly see her point, but this theory still doesn’t explain these staggering statistics when men all over the world have been socialised into those very same forms of masculinity. (And I question, by the way, what a ‘form of masculinity’ is in the first place.) No, there’s something much more sinister afoot here, and I wish I understood what it was. But more than that, and infinitely more importantly, I wish that somebody, somewhere was doing something about it. The responses in this piece indicate to me a complacency about these crimes and an acceptance that this is just how things are in South Africa. I cannot get my head around this at all. And I’m fucking disgusted.

Full piece behind the cut.

One in four South African men questioned in a survey said they had raped someone and nearly half admitted having attacked more than one victim.

The study, by the country's Medical Research Council, also found three out of four who admitted rape attacked for the first time while in their teens.

It said practices such as gang rape were common because they were considered a form of male bonding.

The MRC spoke to 1,738 men in KwaZulu-Natal and Eastern Cape provinces.

The research was conducted in both rural and urban areas and included all racial groups.

Using an electronic device to keep the results anonymous, the study found that 73% of respondents said they had carried out their first assault before the age of 20.

Almost half who said they had carried out a rape admitted they had done so more than once.

One in 20 men surveyed said they had raped a woman or girl in the last year.

Professor Rachel Jewkes of the MRC, who carried out the research, told the BBC's World Today programme: "The absolute imperative is we have to change the underlying social attitudes that in a way have created a norm that coercing women into sex is on some level acceptable.

"We know that we have a higher prevalence of rape in South Africa than there is in other countries.

"And it's partly rooted in our incredibly disturbed past and the way that South African men over the centuries have been socialised into forms of masculinity that are predicated on the idea of being strong and tough and the use of force to assert dominance and control over women, as well as other men."

She added that all the victims in the main survey were said to be women, but participants were also interviewed about male rape.

'Sad state of affairs'

The study found that one in 10 men said they had been raped by other men.

Some 3% of the men interviewed said they had coerced a man or a boy into sex.

The participants were also tested for HIV and the authors of the survey were surprised that men who had raped were not more likely to test positive for the virus.

Mbuyiselo Botha, from the South African Men's Forum, which campaigns for women's rights, told the BBC's Focus on Africa programme that any view of women as "fair game" had to be challenged.

Mr Botha, a father of two girls himself, said: "I think that yes, the figures are that high and for us, for me in particular, that is a very sad state of affairs.

"It means that we continue in South Africa to be one of the highest capitals of rape in the world.

"I don't think it's cultural per se; I think it has to do with how a lot of us men worldwide were raised. The issues of dominance against women, issues of inequality, are pervasive and you find them throughout the world."

South Africa's government has been repeatedly criticised for failing to address the country's rape epidemic.

A recent trade union report said a child was being raped in South Africa every three minutes with the vast majority of those cases going unreported.

  • The rape statistics are horrific and deeply disturbing.

    I’m afraid our damaged past does indeed have a lot to do with it (just look at how the hostel culture of the mines in Johannesburg eroded families and family values with young men cut off from their communities, their wives, their kids or how the brutalities of the apartheid regime fostered a culture of violence and a nation of people who are barely educated thanks to the atrocity of Bantu schooling) – as do our skewed ideas of what masculinity is and our lack of respect for women.

    (That said, I’ve never heard of rape gates and don’t know anyone who has one.)

    BUT it’s still a good country and I’m happy to be bringing up my daughter here in a democracy we’ve fought for, that we’re still struggling to realise fully.

    There is horror, but there is also hope.

    • Lauren, thank you for this comment and for your positivity. I’m glad to read that you feel that there is still hope for your land. I am slightly less confident than you but of course infinitely less familiar with SA.

      Be well.

    • Emm

      Hi Lauren,

      I think she was referring to slam-lock Trellidors and their not-so-subtle advertising campaign but I may be wrong.

  • Lauren Beukes, local journo and writer, left a rather long response to this here:

    http://letters.salon.com/mwt/broadsheet/2009/06/18/south_africa_rape/view/index2.html?show=all

    And she also made some valid points.

    • Thank you very much for this V. I’ll look into it.

  • Emm

    P.S. I hope you don’t mind, but I think I’ll reblog this story too if I get the chance.

    • Oh course! The more people who hear about this the better. I’ve not been over to your blog for a week or so but I’ll be back soon.

  • Emm

    With such access to the respondents, why didn’t they ask them more about why they were doing it? Or maybe they did and what they say about masculinity etc is so unsatisfactory because they are basing it on the reasons the men give themselves and they are not actually putting forward a theory really.

    A very old statistic stated that one in two women in South Africa is raped in her lifetime. I personally know one survivor of a gang rape and four survivors of single-perpetrator rape. I suspect that I actually knew far more survivors but that women obviously don’t advertise the fact to other people. I mention the statistic because it is often a measure of my experience in the UK. People that I meet here hardly ever know someone who is murdered, raped, assaulted or held up at gunpoint. They barely even know of people that have died in motor vehicle accidents. That is good, I think, and a measure of a much healthier society. And there are much safer places to be on earth than the UK.

    What I am trying to say in a not so eloquent manner is that it is as bad as the statistics suggest.

    If you click on my name link it’ll take you to an article I wrote about Jacob Zuma, by the way. (Continuing from what Vanessa said). 🙂 I think V just needs a bit more encouragement to leave one day but time is running out if she wants to do it before her daughter reaches high school!

    • 🙂
      I would love to leave, but I simply cannot afford it financially. I was hoping that I would ‘win’ the green card lotto, which would provide a quick out, but, alas, it would seem I haven’t.

      • That must be distressful for you, V. Wanting to leave, not not winning the lottery that is! Perhaps one day…

    • Oh, and, the survey was done by means of PDAs and a standard questionnaire, so there was no way to ask in depth questions, I guess.

    • Hey Emm

      Thanks for this comment. I have no doubt indeed that the statistic is as bad as it appears. And you’re right – comparatively with SA, the UK knows no such problems. For that alone, I am grateful. I remember you and I talking when you were over about the high rates of rape in SA, but I am still shocked by this statistic.

      And, no, I agree that by putting forward a ‘theory’ and refuting it in the same breath, it makes no sense at all.

  • It also doesn’t help that our new president has had rape charges against him. And that our government continuously turns a blind eye to the high crime rate, even denies it, spending money instead on weapons the country cannot use and so on. We even have a week of activism in December – and normally rape figures soar in that week.

    It is scary to be the mother of a girl in this country.

    • Hi Vanessa! I was hoping you and/ or Emm would drop in and comment. I didn’t know that about your president. Well there’s nothing like condoning by one’s own actions.

      It must be absolutely terrifying for you to have a daughter in that environment. I did ask Emm about that when we met recently actually – she says that you wouldn’t be keen to leave? (Not that I am saying you should, of course, but it seems to be what many are resorting to.)

  • Emma

    I worked with a South African doctor about seven or eight years ago who had moved to the UK because she felt increasingly uncomfortable about bringing up her children in Cape Town. She said that her house there -and the houses of most of her affluent, white friends, had ‘rape gates’ on all the bedrooms – they basically locked themselves into the bedrooms behind locked metal gates because the incidences of breaking, entering and, I guess, rape, were so high.

    • Wow. That is such a shocking way to live. I can see why she left.