'Corrective' rape is when a man rapes a lesbian woman or child in order to cure his victim of her lesbianism, essentially to make her go straight.
In other words, the men who are perpetrating this violence, believe that by raping a woman they can turn her into a "real African woman."
There are no hard statistics to point to just how prevalent or how many of these so-called 'corrective' rapes occur because rapes are not classified by sexual orientation in South Africa, nor does the government acknowledge that it is a major issue.
Earlier this year, a Ministry of Justice spokesman is quoted
We accept that there is room for improvement, but that does not mean that the situation has gotten out of hand.
South Africa is the only country on the African continent to have legalized gay marriage. It is one of only a handful of countries in the world (Canada is on that list) to have fully legalized same sex marriage.
The South African Constitution also specifically forbids any discrimination based on the sexual orientation of its citizens. It is because of this enshrined constitutional right that NGO groups are fighting to have 'corrective' rape considered a hate crime.
In 2003, Kekelosto Khena is quoted in an article entitled "Corrective Rape makes you an African woman
" as saying:
I was raped because I was a butch child. I was 13 years old the first time it happened. My Mother walked into the room soon afterward and said to me 'this is what happens to girls like you.'
It did not occur to me what she meant but looking back now that's not the kind of thing you expect from a mother.
In 2007, the Human Sciences Research Council (HRSC) issued a report entitled "Cloud over the rainbow nation
" saying that "there is one issue that remains hidden from the public eye
" and that issue is violence against black lesbians, and more specifically 'corrective' rape.
In December 2006, the HRSC co-hosted a seminar on Gender Based Violence, Black Lesbians, Hate Speech and Homophobia
. This seminar was held in an effort to bring to the fore the horrifying action of 'corrective' rape and other violent acts being taken against black lesbians.
A 'corrective' rape survivor told those in attendance at the seminar:
Rape causes anger. It destroys and wrecks lives. It causes divisions and it damages an innocent soul...Is this the freedom that we were fighting for as South Africans?
In 2009, the widely-known Channel 4
in the UK undertook an investigation into 'corrective' rape and broadcast a report on it by Samira Ahmed.
When asked "What do you think of the men who say you have to rape a lesbian to fix her
?", the man Ahmed was interviewing replied:
I think that is good because that is not good to be a lesbian. I think that is a good idea to do that to them.
Ahmed then asked for clarification: "It is a good idea to rape them
?" reply: "Not to rape them but they are showing them what they are
." In other words, they are showing them that by having sex/'corrective' rape with a man, that they are now, finally a woman.
Another woman interviewed in the Channel 4 story talks about how her 13 year old twin daughters were raped because of her sexuality, not because of their own.
She describes the day she saw her girls approaching her with their cousin and how they "couldn't walk. They couldn't do anything
." She knew right then and there that her little girls had been raped. About the men who raped the girls:
They say we wanted to show you you don't have to be like your Mother. You're supposed to be the woman that needs to be fucked by other men.
One of this woman's young daughters later committed suicide.
Also in 2009, ActionAid
issued a report entitled "Hate Crimes: The rise of 'corrective' rape in South Africa
." ActionAid conducted interviews with 15 survivors of 'corrective' rape and it is those survivors words that form the basis of their report.
They tell me they will rape me and after raping me I will become a girl. I will become a straight girl. Zakhe, 23 from Soweto, SA.
At school I was betrayed by my best friend. He told me to come to his house for a school assignment but when I got to the house we fought until he hit me so hard I collapsed, and then he raped me because he said I needed to stop being a lesbian. Nomawabo, 30, Limpopo, SA.
Earlier this year, Time
magazine covered the story, as well.
A video clip from the CNN documentary on 'corrective' rape can be found here
. A text story from CNN can be found here
How many media storms and NGO reports will it take to end this abhorrent practice? Only time will tell.