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Rise of ‘corrective rapes’ on lesbians in South Africa

Jessica Geen March 13, 2009
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A new report has suggested a rise in ‘corrective rapes’ on lesbians in South Africa.

According to charity ActionAid, women in Johannesburg and Cape Town are suffering an increase in homophobic attacks and sexual assaults which are seen as a form of punishment or “cure”.

One lesbian and gay support group says it is dealing with 10 new cases of lesbian women being targeted for ‘corrective’ rape every week in Cape Town alone.

Figures suggest there are an estimated 500,000 rapes in South Africa every year and for every 25 men accused of rape in the country, 24 walk free.

The report, titled Hate Crimes, claims that victims often report that their attackers say they are “teaching them a lesson” or showing them how to be a “real woman”.

Zanele Twala, Director of ActionAid South Africa, said: “So-called ‘corrective’ rape is yet another grotesque manifestation of violence against women, the most widespread human rights violation in the world today. These crimes continue unabated and with impunity, while governments simply turn a blind eye.”

One victim told ActionAid: “We get insults every day, beatings if we walk alone, you are constantly reminded that you deserve to be raped.

“They yell ‘if I rape you then you will go straight, that you will buy skirts and start to cook because you will have learnt how to be a real woman’.”

Thirty-one lesbian women have been reported murdered in homophobic attacks since 1998, yet there has only been one conviction.

However, support groups have claimed that the actual number of women killed is likely to be much higher because hate crimes on the basis of sexual orientation are not recognised in the country’s criminal justice system.

Ms Twala has called on foreign governments to help stop the tide of violence.

She said: “It is clear that the South African government must put a stop to these crimes against women and fulfil the promises of the constitution.

“Worldwide, it is utterly unacceptable that millions of women and girls live daily in fear of their lives. The international community have a duty to address violence against women as the most serious threat to security in the world today.”

Related topics: Africa

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