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Over a Third of South African Men Admit To Being Rapists

Over a Third of South African Men Admit To Being Rapists

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.

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Photo from Shira Golding's Flickr.

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95 comments

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8:58AM PST on Feb 19, 2011

I knew the this problem was rampant in S.A but not to this extent, mind you I'm not surprised. I really hope that they continue to work with children and educate them on this issue, however it's tough to change the children if the parents still accept this type of crime. There is alot of work to do indeed, it's sort of overwhelming to figure out where to start.

11:28AM PST on Jan 29, 2011

Macho culture. Testosterone. What to do? (I have a few politically incorrect corrections in mind)

4:53AM PST on Jan 3, 2011

a great victory for women of the world, the president of Israel has been comitted to jail for sexual abuse - we need to see this kind of action as an example for men to realise that this behavior deserves serious punishment.

1:45AM PST on Jan 1, 2011

Women are not safe anywhere in the world.........obviously it is worse in some countries than others but the bottom line is that there is a lot of work to do all over the world to make the world a safer place for women. Don't forget that what happens to one of us happens to all of us. We need to continue to fight for each other and the safety of each other not against each other.

12:31PM PST on Dec 16, 2010

As a ex- South African glad this has been exposed. They kill people daily so to them rape is nothing.
Sadly this country has now joined the rest of Africa with Corrupt Governments. Beautiful country gone to the dogs. So very sad.

4:44PM PST on Dec 9, 2010

"raping out of boredom" what the crap?!

3:26AM PST on Dec 6, 2010

from: Sandra Milner
'Erna, I am also an EX South African - you should get out of the denial stage and recognise that South African has a horrific problem of rape - maybe the figures are not absolutely accurate but you cannot get away from the tragedy of rape in South Africa - the ratio is completely different to what you would find in Europe or other parts of the world. Its about time that South Africans recognise the problem and start doing something about it - or will that only happen when you get raped???!?!?'

my response:
I live here and this is a part of my reality. I am under no illusion that rape is a very serious problem in our country. But come on, can you seriously expect a true account of things with such a small number of test subjects?? I am a 26 year old white South African female, and while I live in constant fear, my plight is far from that of my black sister living in an informal settlement where her brothers, uncles, father (etc) believe she is worth less than nothing and 'deserves' what she gets when they rape her. I believe the study is long over due, but I am very disappointed that they did such a bad job of it. We deserve proper statistics to tackle the problem from the right angles, and trying to be 'diplomatic' about it doesn't benefit anyone!!

11:14PM PST on Dec 3, 2010

The only way men will stop raping women is if they know they could be castrated if they are caught. Until then, it will always continue...

3:57PM PST on Dec 1, 2010

This is finally getting attention! It is about time.

2:29PM PST on Dec 1, 2010

Rape is rape, these men know what they are doing. Where is the law? Or is there one? Castrate the bas#ards.

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