CURRENT ISSUES IN RAPE: CORRECTIVE RAPE
As discussed extensively in this chapter, legal remedies to rape have undergone extensive change, evolving from a crime against another man's property to a serious violent offense. The U.S. is not alone in this effort. In many countries, not just the U.S., national governments and organizations have adopted various measures to address the longstanding crisis of violence against women, including rape (Htun & Weldon, 2012). Although these well-intentioned changes appear effective on the surface, rapes persist.
Focus Box 3.3 Corrective Rape in South Africa
The Rape of Mvuleni Fana: In 1999 in Springs (a city on the East Rand in the Gauteng province of South Africa—approximately 30 miles east of Johannesburg), Mvuleni Fana was on her way home from football practice when four men Fana knew surrounded her, seized her, and raped and beat her unconscious. The last thing Fana remembered was being told: "After everything we're going to do to you, you're going to be a real woman, and you're never going to act like this again." Fana's experience was different from the majority of cases in two ways. First, she survived. At least 31 women in the past 15 years died as a result of their attacks. Her case was also unusual in the fact that, unlike
24 out of every 25 South Africa rapes, her case made it to trial. Two of her rapists were sentenced to prison for 25 years. the other two remain at large.
The Rape of Pearl Mali: In 2004, 12-year-old Pearl Mali was correctively raped by an elderly man whom her mother brought home from church. Mali's mother had deduced she was a lesbian based on her "tomboy" appearance and personality. Mali does not know much about the arrangement between her mother and the elderly man, only that there was money involved. Over the next four years, the man regularly raped Mali, as her "de facto husband," in order to make her straight. Mali attempted to contact the police, only to be laughed at for not "turning" sooner. When Mali became pregnant by her rapist at the age of 16, she was able to obtain a restraining order against him. However, Mali's mother and the man took the baby away when he was seven months old for fear that Mali would "turn him gay" if she touched or fed him. Three years later, Mali is still trying to win custody of her child and is only allowed weekend visitation.
Source: (New York Times, 2013)
Internationally, South Africa is celebrated for its transformation to a peaceful democratic society that embraces principles of human dignity, freedom, and equality. South Africa adopted one of the most progressive and inclusive constitutions in the world and was the first to legitimize gay, lesbian, and transgender rights. Discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation is condemned and prohibited. Despite these legislative protections, however, pervasive homophobia, hate, and violence against LGBT populations continue.
Black lesbian women, in particular, have become the primary targets of corrective rape. Corrective rape refers to rape of lesbian women by men to "cure" them of their sexual orientation. In South Africa (and other African nations, as well), some believe that homosexuality is an imported White disease (Mittelstaedt, 2008) that is curable through heterosexual contact. Funeka Soldaat, founder of Free Gender, a Black lesbian activist group in the Khayelitsha township, stated "the community thinks homosexuality is un-African" (Carter, 2013). Determining the true extent of this problem is nearly impossible, although it is estimated that at least 500 lesbian women are victims of corrective rape each year and that 86% of Black lesbian women in the Western Cape live in fear of it (Di Silvio, 2011). Reporting of corrective rape is expected to be rare, as victims are likely to face greater trauma and secondary victimization if their sexual orientation became known. Focus Box 3.3 outlines two noteworthy cases of corrective rape in South Africa.