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Sexual violence in South Africa

11 October 2013, 10:23

The rate of sexual violence in South Africa is among the highest in the world, second only to the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Sexual violence is the use of force or manipulation to get someone to engage in unwanted sexual activity without his or her consent. An estimated of 500,000 rape cases take place in the country, every year.

According to the report by the (United Nations Office on Crimes and Drugs) for the period 1998–2000, South Africa was ranked first for rapes per capita. In 1998, one in three of the 4,000 women questioned in Johannesburg was raped, according to Community Information, Empowerment and Transparency (CIET) Africa. 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.

 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) MRC. Several news publications wrongly reasons these results to the rest of the South African population, given reported rape prevalence several times higher in the two provinces in question than i.e. in Mpumalanga or Northern Province. Nearly three out of four men who admitted rape stated they had first forced a woman or girl into sex before the age of 20, and nearly one in ten admitted doing so before the age of 10. A survey from the (comprehensive study) "Rape in South Africa" from 2000 indicated that 2,1% of women aged 16 years or more across population groups reported that they had been sexually abused at least once between the beginning of 1993 and March 1998, results which seem to stark conflict the MRC survey results. Similarly "The South African demographic and health survey of 1998" gave results of rape prevalence at 4,0% all women aged between 15 and 49 years in the sampled households (a survey also)

 On Valentine’s Day, when the world celebrates the positive aspects of sexual love, it is beyond disturbing to realize that, by the time you have read this article, at least two women will have been raped in South Africa. That is because, on average, a woman is raped every four minutes in the country. In South Africa our Constitution protects the right of women to live free from violence. Our government has also signed a number of regional and international conventions agreeing to uphold these same rights and duties.

Rape Crisis people know that the prevalence of rape is much greater than those cases that are reported to the South Africa Police Service (SAPS). This fact is backed up by scientific studies conducted by the South African Medical Research Council (MRC). The barriers to reporting rape are many. For the survivor of rape these barriers include the horror of being forced to relive the trauma of the rape every time she speaks about it, the shame of what other people will think, how they will judge her behaviour before they judge the behavior of the rapist, the pain it will cause her mother, her father, her friends, her husband or girlfriend or lover, the fact that the rapist and his friends or family or gang will offer her threats or bribes to drop the case and, perhaps the reason closest to our vision as an organization, the fact that she has little faith in the South African criminal justice system to support her in seeing that justice is done. Perhaps if this system recognized their rights more fully then more rape survivors would report or disclose these attacks.

The fact is, rape is entirely commonplace in all our cultures. It is part of the fabric of everyday life, yet we all act as if it's something shocking and extraordinary whenever it hits the headlines. We remain silent, and so we condone it. The three of us deal with this issue in different ways every day of our lives, yet we too are guilty of protesting articulately outside but leaving it on the other side of the door when we sit down to dinner with our families. Until rape, and the structures – sexism, inequality, tradition – that make it possible, are part of our dinner-table conversation with the next generation, it will continue. Is it polite and comfortable to talk about it? No. Must we anyway? Yes.

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