Corrective Rape: Sexual Violence in the Rainbow Country

Content Warning: *rape, sexual violence, homophobia*

“The term “corrective rape” stems from the prevalence of the crime in South Africa, where it is used to describe rape perpetrated by straight men against lesbian women in order to “correct” or “cure” their “unnatural” sexual orientation”– Roderick Brown, Corrective Rape in South Africa: A Continuing Plight Despite International Human Rights Response

   In developing countries, corrective rape is one of the many hate crimes emerging with the rise of embracing gay rights worldwide. Corrective rape can be defined as the act of raping someone-male or female- in order to “cure them” of their sexual orientation or gender identity. Survivors of this hate crime often report verbal abuse by their attackers, with many of the perpetrators citing the victim’s sexuality as the reason for the rape. This problem has especially become a problem in places like South Africa. South Africa legalized gay marriage and created laws that protect LGBT people from discrimination. However, these laws rarely get enforced. Yet, it isn’t possible to determine the exact rate of corrective rape in South Africa, because many of these rapes go unreported. Often, the victim is too afraid of the backlash and ostracization that may occur from reporting. Though corrective rape can happen to others in the LGBT community, this article focuses primarily on sexual violence perpetrated against Lesbians.

Black lesbians in South Africa, are twice as likely to fear corrective rape than their white counterparts. Black lesbians are not only ostracized from their country because of their race but also ostracized from their communities because of their sexualities. Homosexuality is believed to be un-African and a concept brought to Africa via Western Colonization. Black Lesbians who live in Cape Town talk of the violence they face daily: “We’ve had to go into hiding because we feared for our lives in my township. My girlfriend had to come to Cape Town from Johannesburg because of the violence she suffered there, then here in Cape Town men broke into our house, they shot at us, we were threatened every day. We feel like criminals and cowards because we have run away but I don’t think we’d be alive now if we’d stayed there” (ActionAid UK). In a study done by Action Aid, 86% of black lesbians living in Cape Town reported living in fear of sexual violence and intimidation.

Media began shedding light on this subject when Eudy Simelane, an LGBT-rights activist, was found brutally raped and murdered in 2008. Only two of her four attackers were convicted. Lesbian women who are victims of corrective rape often don’t report their crimes, because of fear of outing themselves, discrimination, mistrust of the legal system, and the low conviction rates among rapists. Victims rarely seek medical treatment and psychiatric intervention, so suicide rates among survivors are high. In 2014, the South African parliament launched a strategy to address violence targeted towards women or members of the LGBT community. Unfortunately, this strategy has done little, because there have been reports of 10 corrective rapes a week in Cape Town. The South African population’s tendency to both ignore and condone corrective rape puts potential victims at a greater risk.

“If there is someone who is trying to rape a lesbian, I can appreciate their thing. It’s just to let them know that they must be straight. For me, I have no time to rape them but if another guy wants to teach them the way, they must rape them, they must rock them. Once she gets raped, I think she’ll know which way is nice.”- Young man in The Guardian Interview (Corrective Rape in SA).

Psychological trauma isn’t the only possible effect of corrective rape. “Unprotected sex, genital trauma including vaginal and/ or anal tears, and bite injuries increases the likelihood of HIV-transmission, and are all characteristic consequences of rape”(Alexa Mieses). Also, the women are at high risk of being sexually abused more than once. Survivors often say that their attackers directed homophobic and sexist insults at them. After the sexual assault, the women often have to return to communities that still refuse to accept them. Furthermore, only about 4% of reported rapes end in a conviction.

The South African government must do more in order to protect their LGBT community. South Africa should list sexual orientation under its Prohibition of Hate Speech Bill, ensure that rapists are brought to justice and convicted, provide more resources for the survivors of corrective rape, and allocate more funding of LGBT friendly education of HIV/STD prevention.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: