ActionAid, an international anti-poverty agency founded in 1972, recently issued a report on the use of rape to control women in South Africa, and specifically violence against Lesbians to “correct” their misbehaving ways.
The organization reports:
In South Africa, no woman is safe from violence. The country’s war against its women continues unabated, with an estimated 500,000 rapes, hundreds of murders and countless beatings inflicted every year. For every 25 men accused of rape in South Africa, 24 walk free.
This shameful record has resulted in an increasingly brutal and oppressive culture of male violence, in which women are forced to conform or suffer the consequences.
As part of this oppression, the country is now witnessing a backlash of crimes targeted specifically at lesbian women, who are perceived as representing a direct threat to a male-dominated society.
”Corrective” rape survivors interviewed by ActionAid for the report Hate Crimes: the rise of corrective rape in South Africa, said that verbal abuse from their attackers before and during the rape included them “teaching us a lesson” and “showing us how to be real women and what a real man tasted like.” The research was carried out in conjunction with ActionAid partners People Opposed to Women Abuse (POWA), Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) and the Lesbian and Gay Equality Project (LGEP).
Since when does being a “real man” involve violence against women? Is that what heterosexual men tell each other on their rampages?
Where I come from, being a real man means never hitting someone smaller or weaker than yourself.
Real men don’t hit women; there’s no glory in mopping the floor with someone who can’t fight back. If males have something to prove, let them fight each other.
The only men who hit women and children are males who are afraid of other men. Fear and masculinity are opposites. Courage is the highest attribute of a real man.
He doesn’t care if some women don’t want him. He doesn’t feel a need to bash people who aren’t doing him any harm.
Support groups say that rape is fast becoming the most widespread hate crime targeted against gay women in townships across South Africa.
One lesbian and gay support group says it is dealing with 10 new cases of lesbian women being targeted for ‘corrective” rape every week in Cape Town alone.
Zanele Twala, Director of ActionAid South Africa, said: “So-called ‘corrective’ rape is yet another grotesque manifestation of violence against women, the most widespread human rights violation in the world today. These crimes continue unabated and with impunity, while governments simply turn a blind eye.”
Thirty one lesbian women have been reported murdered in homophobic attacks since 1998. But support groups stress that because hate crimes on the basis of sexual orientation are not recognised in the South African criminal justice system, the actual number of women killed is likely to be much higher.
The murderers are walking free. Of the 31 cases, only two have ever made it to the South African courts and there has been only one conviction.
Tsidi, a hate crime survivor from Cape Town said: “Here in South Africa you have judges sending women to jail for stealing a loaf of bread to feed her baby, but men who gang rape women, who murder lesbians… they walk the streets as free men.”
South Africa has one of the most progressive constitutions in the world, guaranteeing the rights of gay and lesbian people. However, the South African legal system has not caught up. Hate crimes on the basis of sexual orientation are not recognised by South African law and the courts refuse to recognise that it plays any part in these cases. The police are reluctant to investigate hate crimes against lesbian women and there is inadequate support for the survivors.
One lesbian woman said: “We get insults every day, beatings if we walk alone, you are constantly reminded that…you deserve to be raped, they yell, if I rape you then you will go straight, that you will buy skirts and start to cook because you will have learnt how to be a real woman.”
“Worldwide, it is utterly unacceptable that millions of women and girls live daily in fear of their lives. The international community have a duty to address violence against women as the most serious threat to security in the world today,” Ms. Twala said.
Obviously the problem of violent male domination and state-sponsored homophobic violence isn’t confined to the followers of Nigerian Archbishop Peter Akinola. It isn’t confined to the Anglican Church or the continent of Africa. We find it sponsored by every major religion in every society in the world, West and East, North and South.
To a lesser extent we also find it condemned by every major religion in every society. But power = money, and to understand why we live in such an unjust world, follow the money.
President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton should take swift steps to crack down on male violence against women and Gay people, including economic sanctions. Ms. Twala is right, such violence is the leading threat to family and personal security in the world.
Of course, if Obama and Clinton were to take such steps, the clamor among rich American businessmen would make eardrums rattle. “Now is not the time,” they’d say. “We need every job and dollar we can get in this economic recovery!”
Oh, but now is exactly the time to condition continued trade with other countries on progress in women’s rights. We’re still richer than any other nation, and we can afford to drive prices lower; it’s called bargaining.
“Steel-thighed” Hillary would be the perfect Secretary of State to carry this policy out. If Americans think she’s a tough broad, wait till she takes on a bunch of bushmen in primitive societies, backed by every woman on the planet.
Then she can come home, look every Fortune 500 CEO in the eye and say, “You’re next, buster.”
If she works it right, she doesn’t even have to be president to get her way. Michelle Obama can lead the cheering section—and then outdo her in style, beauty and popularity if she starts getting too big for her pantsuits.++