'Root of rape in warped beliefs'

08 February 2013 - 02:06 By KATHARINE CHILD

A third of all South African men have raped, according to a recent Medical Research Council report. But not all of them think of themselves as rapists.

"I paid for her lunch. This gives me the right. How do you eat a meal I paid for and hope there is no payback time?" one rapist told Mbuyiselo Botha, a gender activist who has spent 20 years working with the perpetrators of sexual violence.

Another told him: "It is entitlement. I organised a job for her."

Six South Africans are raped every hour, according to police reports, but the actual figure could be far greater as many victims choose to stay silent.

South Africa has been dubbed the "rape capital of the world". Reports about rape have become almost routine but every now and again a case is so sadistic that it shocks citizens into national outrage.

Like the New Delhi student whose fatal gang-rape triggered riots across India in December, the death of 17-year-old Anene Booysen has sickened South Africans to the core.

Booysen died in hospital after being gang-raped and disembowelled on a construction site in Bredasdorp, Western Cape.

President Jacob Zuma called Booysen's rape and torture "shocking, cruel and inhumane".

DA parlimentary leader Lindiwe Mazibuko urged parliament to set up special public hearings to "begin a national dialogue on South Africa's rape crisis".

Cosatu called for street protests and the Democratic Nursing Organisation of South Africa expressed "shock and anger".

Gender researcher Lisa Vetten said: "After a particularly horrible rape everyone wakes up to the fact that rape is a problem. A good deal of outrage is expressed, but moral outrage and shock can't be sustained - and it does not get directed into long-term action. It becomes overwhelming."

Medical Research Council director Rachel Jewkes said: "[ Rape] is seen as a sport, as something that men can do."

"Entitlement", admits Botha, is a common theme. Many of the rapists he talks to espouse the belief "we rape as men because we can".

Botha said most rapists think they will get away with it.

"They think: I can act with impunity because there is a high likelihood I will not be arrested.

"If I am arrested, there will be shoddy detective work. If there is prosecution, I will go free."

Among the other statements rapists made to Botha are:

"This woman has been drinking alcohol with me. It is payback time."

"This person is my wife. I have a right to her body."

"When she says no she means yes. She wants to pretend she is hard to get. I must try harder to persuade her."

Medical Research Council figures show that:

  • A study in Durban and Eastern Cape indicated that one in nine men had taken part in or observed a gang-rape;
  • About 66000 rapes were reported to police in 2011/2012;

Between 28% and 37% of all men had raped.

Experts say reducing the number of rapes requires long-term societal solutions, such as addressing male perceptions that rape is manly and providing boys with positive male role models.