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

    Video How Aleppo Rebels Plan to Withstand Assad's Siege

    Rebels in Aleppo are laying plans to withstand a siege by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s forces in likelihood the regime cuts a final main supply line running west of city

    Scientists Detect Gravitational Waves in Landmark Discovery

    Researchers likened discovery to difference between looking at piece of music on paper and then hearing it in real life

    Prince Ali: FIFA Politics Affected International Fixtures

    Some countries faced unfavorable treatment for not toeing political line inside soccer world body, Jordanian candidate to head FIFA says

    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.

    By the Numbers

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    NATO to Target Migrant Smugglersi
    X
    Jeff Custer
    February 11, 2016 4:35 PM
    NATO has announced plans to send warships to the Aegean Sea to target migrant smugglers in the alliance's most direct intervention so far since a wave of people began trying to reach European shores.
    Video

    Video NATO to Target Migrant Smugglers

    NATO has announced plans to send warships to the Aegean Sea to target migrant smugglers in the alliance's most direct intervention so far since a wave of people began trying to reach European shores.
    Video

    Video Russia's Catholics, Orthodox Hopeful on Historic Pope-Patriarch Meeting

    Russia's Catholic minority has welcomed an historic first meeting Friday in Cuba between the Pope and the Patriarch of Russia's dominant Orthodox Church. The Orthodox Church split with Rome in 1054 and analysts say politics, both church and state, have been driving the relationship in the centuries since. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video Used Books Get a New Life on the Streets of Lagos

    Used booksellers are importing books from abroad and selling them on the streets of Africa's largest city. What‘s popular with readers may surprise you. Chris Stein reports from Lagos.
    Video

    Video After NH Primaries All Eyes on South Carolina

    After Tuesday's primary in New Hampshire, US presidential candidates swiftly turned to the next election coming up in South Carolina. The so-called “first-in-the-South” poll may help further narrow down the field of candidates. Zlatica Hoke reports.
    Video

    Video US Co-ed Selective Service Plan Stirs Controversy

    Young women may soon be required to register with the U.S. Selective Service System, the U.S. government agency charged with implementing a draft in a national emergency. Top Army and Marine Corps commanders told the Senate Armed Services Committee recently that women should register, and a bill has been introduced in Congress requiring eligible women to sign up for the military draft. The issue is stirring some controversy, as VOA’s Bernard Shusman reports from New York.
    Video

    Video Lessons Learned From Ebola Might Help Fight Zika

    Now that the Ebola epidemic has ended in West Africa, Zika has the world's focus. And, as Carol Pearson reports, health experts and governments are applying some of the lessons learned during the Ebola crisis in Africa to fight the Zika virus in Latin America and the Caribbean.
    Video

    Video Smartphone Helps Grow Vegetables

    One day, you may be using your smartphone to grow your vegetables. A Taipei-based company has developed a farm cube — a small, enclosed ecosystem designed to grow plants indoors. The environment inside is automatically adjusted by the cube, but it can also be controlled through an app. VOA's Deborah Block has more on the gardening system.
    Video

    Video Illinois Voters Have Mixed Emotions on Obama’s Return to Springfield

    On the ninth anniversary of the launch of his quest for national office, President Barack Obama returned to Springfield, Illinois, to speak to the Illinois General Assembly, where he once served as state senator. His visit was met with mixed emotions by those with a front-row seat on his journey to the White House. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.
    Video

    Video Exhibit Turns da Vinci’s Drawings Into Real Objects

    In addition to being a successful artist, Renaissance genius Leonardo da Vinci designed many practical machines, some of which are still in use today, although in different forms. But a number of his projects were never realized — until today. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Heated Immigration Debate Limits Britain’s Refugee Response

    Compared to many other European states, Britain has agreed to accept a relatively small number of Syrian refugees. Just over a thousand have arrived so far -- and some are being resettled in remote corners of the country. Henry Ridgwell reports on why Britain’s response has lagged behind its neighbors.
    Video

    Video Russia's Car Sales Shrink Overall, But Luxury and Economy Models See Growth

    Car sales in Russia dropped by more than a third in 2015 because of the country's economic woes. But, at the extreme ends of the car market, luxury vehicles and some economy brands are actually experiencing growth. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video Jordanian Theater Group Stages Anti-Terrorism Message

    The lure of the self-styled “Islamic State” has many parents worried about their children who may be susceptible to the organization’s online propaganda. Dozens of Muslim communities in the Middle East are fighting back -- giving young adults alternatives to violence. One group in Jordan is using dramatic expression a send a family message. Mideast Broadcasting Network correspondent Haider Al Abdali shared this report with VOA. It’s narrated by Bronwyn Benito
    Video

    Video Civil Rights Pioneer Remembers Struggle for Voting Rights

    February is Black History Month in the United States. The annual, month-long national observance pays tribute to important people and events that shaped the history of African Americans. VOA's Chris Simkins reports how one man fought against discrimination to help millions of blacks obtain the right to vote
    Video

    Video Helping the Blind 'See' Great Art

    There are 285 million blind and visually impaired people in the world who are unable to enjoy visual art at a museum. One New York photographer is trying to fix this situation by making tangible copies of the world’s masterpieces. VOA correspondent Victoria Kupchinetsky was there as visually impaired people got a feel for great art. Joy Wagner narrates her report.