"Corrective Rape" Against Lesbians Rises in South Africa

by Winnie McCroy
EDGE Editor
Tuesday Jan 7, 2014

The abhorrent practice of "corrective rape" against lesbians is on the rise in South Africa, and activists are demanding action. According to a recent articlein Pink News, more than 10 lesbians each week are raped or gang-raped in Cape Town alone, according to the women's charity Luleki Sizwe. United Nations statistics show that South Africa ranks highest in rapes per capita, with 500,000 each year, or one every 17 seconds.

Discrimination based on sexual orientation was banned by the constitution Nelson Mandela signed 17 years ago, but the authorities do little to enforce it.

"The constitution is there but it doesn't mean anything to anyone," said Funeka Soldaat, who founded Free Gender, an LGBT rights organization that specializes in helping victims of corrective rapes, after being 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."

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 offense," said Hessey. "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."

According to an article, in the Independent, most of these cases don't even reach trial and if they do, the attackers are rarely convicted. Photographer Clare Carter traveled to South Africa in 2011 to photograph these "corrective rape" victims, and said that, "Even in the two years I was there the stories I was hearing were getting worse. Corrective rape is getting more violent."

Even young men participate in the practice, known as "jackrolling," and say it is fun. Police laugh at reports of rape, eyewitness accounts are discounted, and familial collusion is common.

Winnie McCroy is the Women on the EDGE Editor, HIV/Health Editor, and Assistant Entertainment Editor for EDGE Media Network, handling all women's news, HIV health stories and theater reviews throughout the U.S. She has contributed to other publications, including The Village Voice, Gay City News, Chelsea Now and The Advocate, and lives in Brooklyn, New York.


  • Wayne M., 2014-01-09 21:25:47

    So-called "corrective" rape is an act of violence against women - and those involved need to realize that they are the real perverts.

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