Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Child Rape in South Africa

Rape, including child rape, is increasing at shocking rates in South Africa. Sexual violence against children, including the raping of infants, has increased 400% over the past decade (Dempster, 2002). According to a report by BBC news, a female born in South Africa has a greater chance of being raped in her lifetime than learning how to read (Dempster, 2002). When South Africa became a democracy in 1994, there were already 18,801 cases of rape per year, but by 2001 there were 24,892 (Dempster, 2002). Numbers vary by different institutions, but are nevertheless extremely troubling. The Institute of Race Relations found that more than 52,000 rapes were reported in 2000, and 40% of the victims were under age 18 (du Venage, 2002). The University of South Africa reports that 1 million women and children are raped there each year (South Africa: Focus on the Virgin Myth, 2002).
High Profile Baby Rapes

A number of high profile baby rapes since 2001 (including the fact that they required extensive reconstructive surgery to rebuild urinary, genital, abdominal, or tracheal systems) increased the need to address the problem socially and legally. In 2001, a 9-month-old baby was raped by six men, aged between 24 and 66, after the infant had been left unattended by her teenage mother. A 4-year-old girl died after being raped by her father. A 14-month-old girl was raped by her two uncles. In February 2002, an 8-month-old infant was reportedly gang raped by four men. One has been charged (McGreal, 2001). The infant has required extensive reconstructive surgery. The 8-month-old infant's injuries were so extensive, increased attention on prosecution has occurred.
The Effect of Apartheid on the Current Violence

The apartheid system in South Africa separated Whites from Blacks and mixed race individuals. The Separate Amenities Act in 1948 created separate building entrances, schools, public restrooms, public benches, etc. for Blacks and mixed race individuals. Race was identified by physical attributes that tended to be arbitrary (if an official stuck a pencil in someone's hair and it stuck, the person was Black). The Population Registration Act of 1950 created the "pass laws" forcing non-Whites to carry a pass with them at all times. The Prevention of Illegal Squatting Act of 1951 enabled the government to force Blacks and mixed race individuals to live in designated areas. "Section Six" in Capetown remains a relative ghost town of empty apartments and homes. Individuals who lived there were forced to move outside of the city by the government, thus creating the townships, such as Soweto (near Johannesburg) and Cape Flats (near Capetown). Today, townships are miles and miles of tin shacks and/or boards haphazardly nailed together to form shelters.
Schools are Inadequate and Violent

The apartheid system and its removal have also had an indirect effect on the large number of rapes occurring in schools. For years, teachers fought against the apartheid system as their main objective, and schools were sites of political uprisings and violent places. Now that apartheid is dismantled, teachers and the education system have struggled to refocus resources on actual education and qualified teachers. The Bantu Education Act and its system, forced upon Blacks and individuals of mixed race during apartheid, provided only rudimentary skills for menial jobs, not professions. White domination was apparent through this education practice. The generation responsible for teaching children now is ill prepared. In addition, AIDS is killing teachers. AIDS is beginning to kill massive numbers of educated professionals. In a recent Cape Times article, discipline and AIDS were cited as the biggest threat to education in South Africa (Peer, 2002).

Gangs are growing in South Africa and intimidate teachers, disrupt lessons, and rape at will. According to a Human Rights Watch assessment, "Gangs... make schools places where drugs, thugs, and weapons can move as freely through the gates as people," and "Schools become territorial prizes... courses are not conducted according to any regular schedule" (Scared at School, 2001). The reorganization of schools after the apartheid system has created a chronic shortage of classrooms and teaching materials, high student-teacher ratios, and no access to proper sanitation with nearly half of the schools using pit latrines, which are inadequate in number. Thirteen percent of schools have no sanitation facilities and 56% have no electricity (Scared at School, 2001). Many girls are raped in bathrooms and latrines in schools, many by other classmates and 40% by teachers (Scared at School, 2001).
Police and Legal System

In the past, the police represented the oppressors. Police in Soweto and other townships killed hundreds of rioters and protesters before the apartheid system was removed. It has taken time for individuals, including women, to go to the police system for help after a rape or other violent act. In many instances, there are not enough police in the townships to cope with the growing numbers of murder, rape, and robbery. Police have had incidents where a woman or girl was being held and repeatedly raped by gangs in a township, but they didn't have enough manpower to go in to stop or overpower the number of men (Lydia Richards, Professor, University of Capetown School of Nursing, personal communication, June 7, 2002).
Townships Breed Violence and Social Breakdown

A social worker at Red Cross Children's Hospital in Capetown, a hospital that treats the largest number of child rapes, described the geographical outlay and problems in townships that may contribute to child rape (Carla Brown, Chief Social Worker for Child Rape Victims, Red Cross Children's Hospital, Capetown, personal communication, June 11, 2002). Many areas lack running water and electricity, and outhouses are used by a large number of individuals. Living spaces may be a 10 x 8 room where a large number of individuals live (10 or more) - parents, children, grandparents, uncles, or friends all live in one cramped space. People must undress, bathe, and sleep in extremely small areas without partitions. There are no private areas for parents to have sexual relations and members of the family may sleep next to children on the floor - grandfathers or uncles sleeping next to small children. Children going to outhouses late in the evening may be sent alone and exposed to possible rape or violence. Townships have areas of tall grasses, garbage, and discarded junk. Girls walking to school have been raped in these areas because of lack of visibility from the outside world. Gang initiation is beginning to consist of child rape, including the rape of young boys. Individuals who are not lucky enough to have a job are left with other family members, sometimes other children or other male relatives who rape these children. There is an increasing number of children orphaned due to the death of their parents from AIDS. These children are left with other young caregivers, exposing them to rape and violence.
Reasons for Rape

Various cultural beliefs in South Africa regarding rape hinder the problem of decreasing and reporting rape. It is difficult to impossible for a woman to say no to sex. Many girls and women believe that if they know the boy or it is a boyfriend who rapes them, they cannot say no to sex, even forcible sex. Many men believe they are entitled to sex or even believe that women enjoy being raped. In a study done in the Gauteng area, 8 in 10 men believed women were responsible for causing sexual violence and 3 in 10 "asked for it" (Scared at School, 2001). Approximately 50% of male youth believed no to sex meant yes, and nearly one third said forcing sex on someone they knew was not sexual violence (Scared at School, 2001). A majority of men thought "jack rolling" ("recreational" gang rape) was bad, but boys between the ages of 15 and 19 thought it was "good" or "just a game" (Scared at School, 2001).

The raping of infants and/or children may also be due to the belief that sex with a child or baby will cure AIDS. Virginity testing is growing and many times occurs in school. Girls must lie on their backs with their pants and underwear off and legs in the air, preferably on a sloped floor (IRIN HIV/AIDS Weekly, 2001). A survey in East London, South Africa, by the University of South Africa found that 18% of 498 workers believed that sex with a virgin could cure AIDS (South Africa: Virgins, victims..., 2002). In Gauteng, 32% of those interviewed believed this myth. Some discount this belief for the reason behind rape, but Barbara Kenyon, director of the Greater Nelspruit Rape Intervention Project in the Northern Province of South Africa, has found in follow-up visits that many children become HIV positive and that children who are raped are getting younger and younger. Some analysts have stated that desperate people are desperate for a cure. Money for AIDS drugs is essentially unavailable despite the victory by the South African government last year against pharmaceutical companies to buy AIDS-treatment drugs at a cheaper price. Unemployment among Blacks and mixed race is anywhere from 30%-60%, but typically around 60%. Many individuals work without formal work contracts and benefits. The median income for Blacks and mixed race can be as low as $300/year, and the cost for AIDS drugs average $40 to $50 per month, clearly out of reach for a large majority of the population. Payment for health care in hospitals or care centers is means-based. Others blame the high rate of violence, including sexual violence, on a culture of violence that existed in South Africa for decades because of apartheid.
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