South African activists demand action against ‘corrective rape’ epidemic
Campaigners have warned that sexual attacks by men against lesbians in South Africa are continuing to increase.
Corrective rape is a hate crime in which men rape lesbians in what they see as an attempt to ‘correct’ their sexual orientation.
Clare Carter left her home in New York City in 2011 in order to interview and photograph victims of the practice in South Africa.
In an article by journalist Patrick Strudwick for The Independent, the photographer said, “Even in the two years I was there the stories I was hearing were getting worse,” she added, “Corrective rape is getting more violent.”
Although statistics for corrective rape have not been compiled nationally, more than 10 lesbians per week are raped or gang-raped in Cape Town alone, according to Luleki Sizwe, a charity which helps women who have been raped in the Western Cape.
Yet in practice, victim say it offers little protection unless its provisions are actually enforced by the authorities.
“The constitution is there but it doesn’t mean anything to anyone,” said Funeka Soldaat, who founded Free Gender, an LGBT rights organisation that specialises in helping victims of corrective rapes.
She started the group after being correctively gang raped and stabbed multiple times.
“Even if you know how the constitution works, you don’t know how to use it to protect yourself. If you don’t have money you don’t have access to the justice system. Violence in the townships is normal. Homosexuality is [seen as] un-African. Patriarchy is everywhere. The way religious leaders read scripture is painful. Children start raping at 14, 15 and take pictures. We’re sitting on a time bomb.”
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David Hessey, who works for the Gay and Lesbian Association, also blames the courts for failing to deal with corrective rape cases.
“It is not treated as a serious offence. We are awaiting the sentencing of a corrective rape case – a father raped his daughter’s girlfriend to ‘cure’ her and he has been convicted – but it took two years to get the case to court and this is fast for South Africa. Most take six years which is why most people don’t report it.”
She had been sexually assaulted with a toilet brush and died from internal injuries.
Ever since a 1998-2000 report by the United Nations Office on Crime and Drugs ranked South Africa as highest for rapes per capita, it has repeatedly been described as the rape capital of the world: 500,000 rapes a year; one every 17 seconds; one in every two women will be raped in her lifetime.