For many years, South Africa has borne the unenviable and derogative tag, “The Rape Capital of the World.” For a country renowned for its struggles against discrimination, this is hardly the kind of publicity that its citizens crave. But how does one explain 66,000 reported cases of rape in 2013 alone? In the previous year, reported rape cases stood at 64,000. This translates to approximately 27 rapes every day.
Majority of rapes remain unreported
If these statistics are shocking, take a moment to reflect and realize that most cases of sexual violence against women go unreported. The Medical Research Council in South Africa estimates that out of 25 cases of rape only one is reported. According to Rape Crisis, a Cape Town website dedicated to breaking the silence in the fight against rape, fear of reprisals, fear of stigma from society after exposure, and protection of family unity and loyalty, are some of the reasons that precipitate a culture of silence by victims of rape.
What about culture?
One of the underlying reasons for the proliferation of rape incidences in the country is culture. Culture in this case is two-pronged. The first understanding of culture is the traditional way of life as passed down from generation to generation. The second approach to culture is what has come to be regarded as a culture of violence in South Africa.
South African cultures and its smaller subs-sets represented by various tribes, is predominantly patriarchal. Young men, especially during and after initiation are socialized to hold women in low regard. To initiates, a woman is a weak sexual object that must subject itself to male dominance. Rape is, therefore, a weapon and a form of expression of male machismo.
Culture of violence
The apartheid, pre-independence era may have come to an end in South Africa but there are reverberations of the concomitant of that time. People have become used to violence as a way of life. History has taught the common man that nothing comes without violence. Moreover, since men were at the forefront of the fight against apartheid, those who stood back were labeled women, essentially weaklings. This combination has spawned a culture of rape, one that society almost does not frown upon.
Caught in a trap
South African women are living though precarious times. They live in a country that prides itself of diversity and tolerance, but where women and girls live in fear of sexual violence.