THE ABNORMAL NORMALITY OF RAPE IN SOUTH AFRICA
By: Nokwazi Qumbisa
According to womenforwomen.org, per hour one woman is raped in South Africa. Six cases of rape are reported to the police per hour. Meaning 144 rapes are reported per day. That’s not counting the number of rapes that go unreported.
According to the Medical Research Council’s (MRC), up to 3 600 women could be raped in the country every day. While women’s groups in South Africa estimate that a woman is raped every 26 seconds, the South African police estimate that a woman is raped every 36 seconds.
Who’s to blame for the three-month old baby who’s being raped by her father right now? What about the 16-yearold who’s pregnant by her stepfather?
With a justice system that has been accused of not punishing rape effectively, victims are often left to either keep quite about the ordeal in fear of prosecution or the family decides to keep it a secret as a way to protect their child. In drastic cases the community takes this into their own hands. The down side of taking matters into their own hands is the wrong person can be punished for the wrong crime.
Children are taught from a young age not to talk to strangers, and to avoid overly friendly men. However, it’s a proven fact that people are usually attacked by someone they know. When a woman has been raped by a friend after he promised her a ride, she gets blamed for being too open and trusting.
More than 25% of a sample of 1,738 South African men from the KwaZulu-Natal and Eastern Cape Provinces admitted to raping someone when anonymously questioned; of these, nearly half said they had raped more than one person, according to a non-peer reviewed policy brief issued by the Medical Research Council.
The rate of sexual violence in South Africa is among the highest in the world. Sexual violence is the use of force or manipulation to get someone to engage in unwanted sexual activity without his or her consent. It is estimated that over 40% of South African women will be raped in their lifetime and that only 1 in 9 rapes are reported.
South Africa has some of the highest incidences of child and infant rape in the world. In 2001, it was reported by the South African Police Service that children are the victims of 41 percent of all rapes reported in the country. Although there are varying opinions on the number of reported rapes of children, one report states that in the year 2000, rapes and attempted rapes of children under the age of 18 were reported to be 21,538 and another from 2001 states that there were 24,892 rapes. A trade union report said that a child was being raped in South Africa every three minutes. Some cite a 400% increase in sexual violence against children in the decade preceding 2002. A third of the cases are committed by a family member or close relative. Child welfare groups believe that the number of unreported incidents could be up to 10 times that number. The largest increase in attacks was against children under seven.
One could again ask themselves: what’s wrong with the education or cultural systems in South Africa? A related survey of 1,500 school children, found that a quarter of the boys said they viewed gang rape as something fun. This isn’t supposed to be normal, as it’s an act of violation and violence, which leaves the victim tormented for a long time. Among children, a survey found 60% of both boys and girls, aged 10 to 19 years old, and thought it was not violent to force sex upon someone they knew.
Rape victims are encouraged to speak out and to get help. There’s no way of looking at it as though the victim is to blame. No has never meant yes.