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

Egypt's Suez Canal Dreams Tempered by Continued Unrest

Seen as a potential driver of recovery, Cairo’s plan to expand waterway had been raising hopes to give country much needed economic boost More

Ebola Maternity Ward in Sierra Leone First of its Kind

Country already had one of world's highest maternal mortality rates before Ebola arrived, virus has added even more complications to health care More

Malaysia Flight 370 Disappearance Ruled Accident

Aircraft disappeared on March 8, 2014; with ruling, families of 239 passengers and crew can now seek compensation from airline 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.
Super Bowl Ads Compete for Eyes on TV, Webi
X
January 29, 2015 9:58 AM
Super Bowl Sunday (Feb. 1) is about more than just the NFL's American football championship and big parties to watch the game. Viewers also tune in for the world famous commercials that send Facebook and Twitter abuzz. Daniela Schrier reports on the social media rewards for America’s priciest advertising.
Video

Video Super Bowl Ads Compete for Eyes on TV, Web

Super Bowl Sunday (Feb. 1) is about more than just the NFL's American football championship and big parties to watch the game. Viewers also tune in for the world famous commercials that send Facebook and Twitter abuzz. Daniela Schrier reports on the social media rewards for America’s priciest advertising.
Video

Video Theologians Cast Doubt on Morality of Drone Strikes

In 2006, stirred by photos of U.S. soldiers mistreating Iraqi prisoners, a group of American faith leaders and academics launched the National Religious Campaign Against Torture. It played an important role in getting Congress to investigate, and the president to ban, torture. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Freedom on Decline Worldwide, Report Says

The state of global freedom declined for the ninth consecutive year in 2014, according to global watchdog Freedom House's annual report released Wednesday. VOA's William Gallo has more.
Video

Video As Ground Shifts, Obama Reviews Middle East Strategy

The death of Saudi Arabia’s king, the collapse of a U.S.-friendly government in Yemen and a problematic relationship with Israel’s leadership are presenting a new set of complications for the Obama administration and its Middle East policy. Not only is the U.S. leader dealing with adversaries in Iran, the Islamic State and al-Qaida, but he is now juggling trouble with traditional allies, as White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video MRI Seems to Help Diagnose Prostate Cancer, Preliminary Study Shows

Just as with mammography used to detect breast cancer, there's a lot of controversy about tests used to diagnose prostate cancer. Fortunately, a new study shows doctors may now have a more reliable way to diagnose prostate cancer for high risk patients. More from VOA's Carol Pearson.
Video

Video Smartphones About to Make Leap, Carry Basic Senses

Long-distance communication contains mostly sounds and pictures - for now. But scientists in Britain say they are close to creating additions for our smartphones that will make it possible to send taste, smell and even a basic touch. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video NASA Monitors Earth’s Vital Signs From Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, is wrapping up its busiest 12-month period in more than a decade, with three missions launched in 2014 and two this month, one in early January and the fifth scheduled for January 29. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, the instruments being lifted into orbit are focused on Earth’s vital life support systems and how they are responding to a warmer planet.
Video

Video Saved By a Mistake - an Auschwitz Survivor's Story

Dagmar Lieblova was 14 when she arrived at Auschwitz in December 1943, along with her entire Czech Jewish family. All of them were to die there, but she was able to leave after several months due to a bureaucratic mix-up which saved her life. Now 85, with three children and six grandchildren, she says she has a feeling of victory. This report by Ahmad Wadiei and Farin Assemi, of RFE/RL's Radio Farda is narrated by RFE’s Raymond Furlong.

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

All About America

AppleAndroid