File this under completely horrifying: a new study says that more than one in three South African admitted to having raped a woman. According to research from the Medical Research Foundation, in the Gauteng province, where Johannesburg is located, 37 percent of the 487 men surveyed said that they had committed rape; 7 percent admitted to having participated in a gang rape. Over half the women surveyed said that they’d experienced violence from a man, but the study estimated that about 25 percent of rapes committed are reported to the police.
According to Rachel Jewkes, a lead researcher from the study quoted in a story from the AP, “two-thirds of the men surveyed in that study said they raped because of a sense of sexual entitlement. Other popular motivating factors included a desire to punish women who rejected or angered them, and raping out of boredom.
“Rape is completely trivialized by a great number of men,” Jewkes continued. “It is seen as a legitimate activity.”
A study from the same organization conducted in 2008 found that 28 percent of men said that they had raped a woman, which means that the numbers of rapes are rising quickly – or men are more willing to report having committed rape, both of which are alarming trends. Jewkes pointed out that men who were abused during childhood are much more likely to become rapists, and blamed apartheid for creating what she called a “culture of impunity” surrounding rape.
Jewkes called for the creation of more programs which would empower schoolchildren, which is definitely crucial in showing boys that rape is an unacceptable crime. But there clearly also need to be more outreach programs for women who have been raped, and I wonder why this study seems to assume that rape occurs exclusively between heterosexual couples.
Childhood education is a good start, but the South African government also needs to begin prosecuting rape more aggressively, and in the wake of the previous studies, others have pointed to the hyper-masculine rhetoric of South African political campaigns as a significant roadblock in challenging old frameworks of masculinity which encourage men to see women as sexual objects. The researchers’ next step is to replicate the survey across South Africa, and it will be interesting to see whether the results are the same outside large metropolitan areas.
Which is all to say: in South Africa (as in the rest of the world), there is a lot of work to do.
Photo from Shira Golding's Flickr.