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

Republican Majority in Congress Off to Rough Start

Standoff over Homeland Security funding exposes philosophical, tactical problems within party More

Pakistan Blocks Baloch Activist from US Trip

Human Rights Commission of Pakistan slams Islamabad officials for stopping people from leaving country to attend human rights conference More

Video Muslims Long Thrived in North Carolina Before Students Killed

Idyll shattered February 10, when three Muslim university students living in Chapel Hill were gunned down by a neighbor More

ILO: Women Still Losing Out in Global Work Place

International Labor Organization says women are marginally better off now than they were 20 years ago 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.
Muslims Long Thrived in N Carolina Before Slaying of 3 Studentsi
X
Jerome Socolovsky
March 05, 2015 9:04 PM
The killings of three Muslim students in North Carolina early last month came as Muslims across the United States have felt under siege, partly as a result of terrorist attacks being committed internationally in the name of their faith. But Muslims have long thrived in university cities in this part of the American South. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Muslims Long Thrived in N Carolina Before Slaying of 3 Students

The killings of three Muslim students in North Carolina early last month came as Muslims across the United States have felt under siege, partly as a result of terrorist attacks being committed internationally in the name of their faith. But Muslims have long thrived in university cities in this part of the American South. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Fuel Shortages in Nigeria Threaten Election Campaigns

Nigeria is suffering a gas shortage as the falling oil price has affected the country’s ability to import and distribute refined fuels. Coming just weeks before scheduled March 28 elections, the shortage could have a big impact on the campaign, as Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA.
Video

Video Report: Human Rights in Annexed Crimea Deteriorating

A new report by Freedom House and the Atlantic Council of the United States says the human rights situation in Crimea has deteriorated since the peninsula was annexed by Russia in March of last year. The report says the new authorities in Crimea are discriminating against minorities, suppressing freedom of expression, and forcing residents to assume Russian citizenship or leave. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video 50 Years Later African-Americans See New Voting Rights Battles Ahead

Thousands of people will gather to mark the 50th anniversary of a historic civil rights march on March 7th in Selma, Alabama. In 1965, dozens of people were seriously injured during the event known as “Bloody Sunday,” after police attacked African-American demonstrators demanding voting rights. VOA’s Chris Simkins introduces us to some civil rights pioneers who are still fighting for voting rights in Alabama more than 50 years later.
Video

Video Craft Brewers Taking Hold in US Beer Market

Since the 1950’s, the U.S. beer industry has been dominated by a handful of huge breweries. But in recent years, the rapid rise of small craft breweries has changed the American market and, arguably, the way people drink beer. VOA’s Jeff Custer reports.
Video

Video Video Claims to Show Shia Forces in Iraq Executing Sunni Boy

A graphic mobile phone video is spreading on the Internet, claiming to show Iraqi forces or Shia militia executing a handcuffed Sunni boy. Experts have yet to verify the video, but already Islamic State followers are publicizing it across social media, playing on deep-rooted sectarian fears. VOA’s Jeff Seldin reports.
Video

Video Ukrainian Authorities Struggle to Secure a Divided Mariupol

Since last month's cease-fire went into effect, shelling around the port city of Mariupol has decreased, but it is thought pro-Russian separatists remain poised to attack. For the city’s authorities, a major challenge is gaining the trust of residents, while at the same time rooting out informants who are passing sensitive information to the rebels. Patrick Wells reports for VOA.
Video

Video Volunteer Gauge-Watchers Help Fine-Tune Weather Science

An observation system called CoCoRaHS is working to improve weather science, thanks to thousands of volunteers across the country who measure precipitation in their own backyards, then share their data through the Internet. VOA's Shelley Schlender reports.
Video

Video NASA Spacecraft Approaches a Dwarf Planet

NASA’s Dawn spacecraft will make history on Friday, March 6, when it becomes the first man-made object to orbit a dwarf planet named Ceres. It is located in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, almost 500 million kilometers from Earth. Among other objectives, Dawn will try to examine two mysterious bright white spots detected on the planet’s surface. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Young Muslims Radicalized Online

Young Muslims are being radicalized ‘in their bedrooms’ through direct contact with Islamic State or ISIL fighters via the Internet, according to terror experts. There are growing concerns that authorities and Internet providers are not doing enough to counter online extremism - which analysts say is spread by a prolific network of online supporters around the world. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Positive Messaging Transforms Ethiopia's Image

Ethiopia was once known for famine and droughts. Now, headlines more often point to its fast-growing economy and its emergence as a regional peacemaker. How has Addis Ababa changed the narrative? VOA's Marthe van der Wolf reports.
Video

Video Answers Elude Families of MH370 Passengers

For the families on board Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, an airline official’s statement nearly one year ago that the plane had lost contact with air traffic control at 2:40 AM is the only thing that remains confirmed. William Ide reports.

All About America

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