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Focus Gend. 1994 Jun;2(2):35-9.

Rape in South Africa: an invisible part of apartheid's legacy.

Abstract

PIP:

Male dominated power systems in South Africa coupled with a culture of aggression and domination have not allowed for the mainstream emergence of qualities such as trust, compassion, and gentleness, frequently associated with female virtues. Rape under such circumstances is the assertion of male power, and, as expected, the numbers of rape cases and other forms of gender violence have increased. Under an apartheid system, where only the rape of white women was prosecuted, and gender and race issues could diffuse the black struggle, there were difficulties in mobilizing support to end violence against black women. There was social acceptance that rape of black women was part of life. Police statistics on the incidence of rape were notoriously unreliable, because only a small percentage of cases are reported to police, and many women would be ashamed to admit to marital abuse, including rape. In women's groups, it was reported that 1 out of every 4 women had been raped, and raped at early ages, such as 14 years of age. In impoverished communities, there is widespread poverty, injustice, prejudice, alcohol abuse, and other conditions impacting on women. The rapists may be school classmates, or street fighters, or political activists. The sexual initiation of women worldwide and in South Africa frequently is accompanied by coercion. Abduction and forced sex is considered legitimate for young men, who believe that mental health is deleteriously affected by lack of sex. Girls may even be abducted from the classroom, as a way of preventing women's power and control over assets and resources and diminishing the potential threat to gender power relations. School girls who become pregnant are often forced to leave school. Victims of rape may be excluded from family life and forced to seek prostitution as a means of support. Rape is reportedly experienced among older women with bottles, tins, or other devices which inflict injury. Only rape with penal penetration is an official offense. HIV infection is an increased risk for raped women, who are likely to suffer from bleeding. With an end to apartheid, it is up to the new government to enforce more equitable laws. Improvements are evident in Soweto at Baragwanath Hospital and in some police precincts, but the best protection is to teach nonviolence and respect for women.

PMID:
12345530
DOI:
10.1080/09682869308520009
[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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