Friday, March 18, 2011

Police No Help to Victims of 'Corrective Rape'

Many victims of corrective rape said they often don't even bother going to the police. Phumla, a resident of the Soweto township outside of Johannesburg said she was raped by men she trusted after accepting a ride home from soccer practice. Instead of taking her home, they took her to a house where another man awaited and raped her. She said they repeatedly told her they were "teaching her a lesson" throughout the attack.

"When it happened to me, 'corrective' rape felt like the worst kind of violence that someone could have inflicted on my person," said Phumla, "As lesbians, we know we are in danger, but we still let those guys drive us home. So I didn't report it to the police because I felt like we couldn't."

Rape, in general, is a pervasive problem in South Africa. There were more than 50,000 reported rapes last year, but women's rights groups estimate only one in nine in rapes are reported. Some statistics run as high as 500,000 and estimate that a woman in South Africa is raped every 26 seconds.

Yet most rapists continue to go free. A study conducted by Tshwaranang, a legal advocacy center focused on ending violence against women in South Africa, showed that in the Johannesburg area, for every 25 men who are tried for rape, 24 go free.

Even the country's new president Jacob Zuma has faced allegations of rape. Three years ago, Zuma was acquitted of raping a family friend and anti-AIDS activist. He was criticized by women's rights organizations for comments made during his testimony. He told the judge that his accuser wore a mini-skirt to his house and revealed her thigh, indicating that she wanted to have sex with him. He said that, according to the Zulu culture, the tribe from which he belongs, his accuser was aroused and he was obligated to have sex with her. "In the Zulu culture, you cannot just leave a woman if she is ready," he testified.

Despite the outrage from South African human right's groups, his insistence that he was simply behaving as an African man -- even testifying in his native Zulu, just increased his popularity with the general population. Turquet says, in spite of South Africa's progressive constitution and legislation regarding women and homosexual rights, the legal system still reflects cultural values and "is lagging behind."