News / Africa

Activists: Rape in Africa Driven by Inequality, Weak Prosecution

FILE - Millicent Gaika, recovering from a ‘corrective’ rape attack in a Cape Town, South Africa.FILE - Millicent Gaika, recovering from a ‘corrective’ rape attack in a Cape Town, South Africa.
x
FILE - Millicent Gaika, recovering from a ‘corrective’ rape attack in a Cape Town, South Africa.
FILE - Millicent Gaika, recovering from a ‘corrective’ rape attack in a Cape Town, South Africa.
Anita Powell
Rape is considered an epidemic in Africa - even in countries with advanced legal systems like South Africa. A look at the statistics, some of the cultural roots, and the legal and implementation challenges better bring into focus the challenges the continent faces in fighting rape.
 
South African police say 64,000 rapes were reported in the country last year, in a nation that is often called "the rape capital of the world."
 
Activists say the problem with this figure, however, is that it likely is wrong. And not just slightly wrong - maybe catastrophically so.
 
In early November, a top South African think tank questioned the police department's math - saying they used old, lower population figures in calculating its annual crime report, thus skewing the result to make it appear that crime figures have improved more than they have.  

Hidden violence

More worryingly, a recent study by the Medical Research Council concluded that only one in 25 women reports rape in the most populous province, Gauteng.
 
That, said gender rights activist Shireen Motara, is the first big problem. She said women in South Africa often don't report rape because of the reaction they get, even though the nation's laws are among the most progressive in the world. Motara is executive director of the Johannesburg-based Tshwaranang Legal Advocacy Center, which helps women who are victims of violence. She said South Africa's violent culture and rampant misogyny often counteract its progressive laws.

"We put the burden on women to say, you have to dress appropriately, you have to act appropriately so that, you know, you don't get raped," said Motara. "And if you do get raped, the first question that gets asked is, 'what did you say?' - or 'were you drunk?' - or 'how were you dressed?' So for me, it links back to that broader conversation that we're having about gender inequality in our society in general."
 
The nation was recently riveted by a particularly brutal rape and murder of a Western Cape teenager. On November 1, a South African court sentenced her confessed rapist to two life sentences, the harshest possible penalty.
 
Bianca Valentine, an attorney for Tshwaranang Legal Advocacy Center, said this recent case is a sadly rare instance of justice being done. “I think that overall, unless you have extensive media coverage or you have victims who are being assisted by a well-structured and well-financed organization who is able to push the legal system, victims of sexual violence do not receive adequate and effective justice through the criminal justice system,” she said.

Stigma attached to commonplace brutality

That's especially clear elsewhere on the continent. Volatile eastern Congo is a veritable minefield of sexual violence. Girls, women, babies, the elderly are frequently run over by marauding combatants - both rebels and government forces - who have been accused of gang-raping, pillaging and murdering civilians. Yet few rape cases ever make it to a courtroom. Victims say the stigma of being raped prevents them from reporting the crime.
 
Conflict-plagued countries are not the only ones affected. In Kenya, men recently arrested for brutally raping and disabling a teenage girl were ordered to cut grass for their crime, and then released.
 
Motara said the key is to change the stubborn and outdated perceptions that affect not just South Africa, but the entire continent. And, she said, the trauma of rape is holding back the entire continent from the success it deserves.
 
"We continue to live on a continent where women are second-class citizens. Where what women do in a society is not valued, where violence against women is seen as par for the course, it's almost seen as normal," said Motara. "The bigger part of that problem, I think, for me, is that our leaders are not speaking up against the extent of the violence on the continent. So we have lots of discussion on how we are going to economically transform Africa. But we are not grappling with the fact that, you know, half, or more than half in many cases, of the population don't have access to their rights."
 
Experts say changing the status of women will take time, and that change may come too late for some people. In the past three minutes, as many as eight South African women or girls were raped.

You May Like

Karzai's Legacy: Missed Opportunities?

Afghanistan's president leaves behind a much different nation than the one he inherited, yet his legacy from 13 years in power is getting mixed reviews More

Video Secret Service Chief Under Fire for White House Security Breach

Julia Pierson faces tough questions from lawmakers after recent intrusion at White House, says: 'It is clear that our security plan was not executed properly' More

Frustrated, Liberian Students Want Ebola Fight Role

Thousands have volunteered to go to counties, rural villages to talk to people in their language about deadly virus More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Xaaji Dhagax from: Somalia
November 08, 2013 1:56 AM
If South Africa is "the rape capital of the world" then let's call Somalia as Africa' s "rape village".
Somalia got the long standing culture of blaming the victims when it comes to rape issues. Few days back a local journalist reported that woman was gang raped by group of soldiers. The entire government were very unreasonably furious about the story. The journalist and victim of rape were arrested and treated like traitors.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihadi
X
Mahi Ramakrishnan
September 30, 2014 2:16 PM
Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihad

Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Could US Have Done More to Stop Rise of Islamic State?

President Obama says airstrikes against Islamic State militants in Syria will likely continue for some time because, in his words, "there is a cancer that has grown for too long." So what if President Obama had acted sooner in Syria to arm more-moderate opponents of both the Islamic State and the Syrian government? VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports from the United Nations.
Video

Video Treasure Hunters Seek 'Hidden Treasure' in Central Kenya

Could a cave in a small village in central Kenya be the site of buried treasure? A rumor of riches, left behind by colonialists, has some residents dreaming of wealth, while others see it as a dangerous hoax. VOA's Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Iran's Rouhani Skeptical on Syria Strikes

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani expressed skepticism Friday that U.S.-led airstrikes in Iraq and Syria could crush Islamic State militants. From New York, VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports the president was also hopeful that questions about Iran’s nuclear program could be resolved soon.
Video

Video US House Speaker: Congress Should Debate Authorization Against IS

As wave after wave of U.S. airstrikes target Islamic State militants, the speaker of the Republican-controlled House of Representatives says he would be willing to call Congress back into session to debate a formal, broad authorization for the use of military force. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports from Washington, where legislators left town 10 days ago for a seven-week recess.
Video

Video Ebola Patients Find No Treatment at Sierra Leone Holding Center

At a holding facility in Makeni, central Sierra Leone, dozens of sick people sit on the floor in an empty university building. They wait in filthy conditions. It's a 16-hour drive by ambulance to Kailahun Ebola treatment center. Adam Bailes was there and reports on what he says are some of the worst situations he has seen since the beginning of this Ebola outbreak. And he says it appears case numbers may already be far worse than authorities acknowledge.
Video

Video Identifying Bodies Found in Texas Border Region

Thousands of immigrants have died after crossing the border from Mexico into remote areas of the southwestern United States in recent years. Local officials in south Texas alone have found hundreds of unidentified bodies and buried them in mass graves in local cemeteries. Now an anthropologist and her students at Baylor University have been exhuming bodies and looking for clues to identify them. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Waco, Texas.
Video

Video Ebola Robs Liberians of Chance to Say Good-Bye to Loved Ones

In Liberia, where Ebola has killed more than 1,500 people, authorities have worked hard to convince people to allow specialized burial teams to take away dead bodies. But these safety measures, while necessary, make it hard for people to say good bye to their loved ones. VOA's Anne Look reports on the tragedy from Liberia.
Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.

AppleAndroid