Combating South Africa's rape culture

Jack Bloom says society in general repelled by rape, but social pressure in some sub groups fuels it


It's always a pathetic sight when the accused in a criminal trial try to hide their faces. The two men on trial for the gruesome rape of 17-year Anene Booysen both appeared with a towel over their heads. Is their apparent shame because they were caught, or do they really know right from wrong?

If it is the latter, why did this not stop them from doing the crime, if indeed they are the culprits?

It appears that Booysen was murdered after the rape in order to escape identification and conviction. But she bravely named one of the men in her last agonising hours in hospital.

The outrage over this rape case is welcome provided it leads to real action. In October 2001, nine-month-old Baby Tsepang was brutally raped in a small town in the Northern Cape. Despite the uproar then, there have been many more cases of baby rape. And we also have elderly grannies raped, sometimes by their grandsons.

Studies on why men rape in South Africa are deeply disturbing.

The Medical Research Council says: "Many forms of sexual violence, particularly sexual harassment and forms of sexual coercion that do not involve physical force, are widely viewed as normal male behaviour".

A quarter of all the boys interviewed in a Soweto survey said that "jackrolling", a term for gang rape, was "fun". The MRC found that 28% of men in a survey in Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal had forced a woman to have sex with them against her will.

A sense of sexual entitlement was the most common motivation, and it was often done by bored men seeking entertainment. Peer pressure was a strong factor, particularly in gang rapes.

Raping out of anger or as a punishment was a motivation for more than half the rapes of girlfriends. Nearly half the men felt guilt, but a third of the men felt no remorse for their actions.

It is interesting that remorse was more likely if there consequences for the rape. A fair number had been verbally admonished or punished by family and friends. It's strange that society in general is hugely repelled by rape, but social pressure in certain sub-groups actually fuels it.

Young men are the key group to target in stigmatising rape rather than glorifying it as some sort of manliness test.

The cultural context needs to change, especially since the 2012 Victims of Crime survey found that 17% of sexual assaults are perpetrated by family members, and 58% by someone known to the victim.

The pathetically low capture and conviction rate for rape also needs to go up dramatically. According to official statistics, only 4501 (7%) of 66 196 sexual offences reported between 2010 and 2011 resulted in convictions.

There must be radical improvement in police detective capabilities and specialised rape courts set up speedily.

The scandal is that the specialist sexual offences unit was disbanded by former Police Commissioner Jackie Selebi. Let there be no excuses in future for practical steps that ensure that rapists face the severest consequences.

This article by Jack Bloom MPL, DA Leader in the Gauteng Legislature, first appeared in The Citizen.

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