Tuesday, July 28, 2009

For Anyone Who Thinks Patriarchy Doesn't Exist...

Today the BBC World Service aired one of the most disturbing pieces I've ever heard. The piece stems from the brutal gang rape and murder of South African football star, Eudy Simelane, which took place in April 2008. The Guardian covered this tragedy and the attendant phenomenon termed "corrective rape" (recall the movie Boys Don't Cry), which generally goes unaddressed by the South African criminal justice system:

The partially clothed body of Eudy Simelane, former star of South Africa's acclaimed Banyana Banyana national female football squad, was found in a creek in a park in Kwa Thema, on the outskirts of Johannesburg. Simelane had been gang-raped and brutally beaten before being stabbed 25 times in the face, chest and legs. As well as being one of South Africa's best-known female footballers, Simelane was a voracious equality rights campaigner and one of the first women to live openly as a lesbian in Kwa Thema.

Her brutal murder took place last April, and since then a tide of violence against lesbians in South Africa has continued to rise.
Human rights campaigners say it is characterised by what they call "corrective rape" committed by men behind the guise of trying to "cure" lesbians of their sexual orientation.

Now, a report by the international NGO ActionAid, backed by the South African Human Rights Commission, condemns the culture of impunity around these crimes, which it says are going unrecognised by the state and unpunished by the legal system.

The report calls for South Africa's criminal justice system to recognise hate crimes, including corrective rape, as a separate crime category. It argues this will force police to take action over the rising violence and ensure the resources and support is provided to those trying to bring perpetrators to justice.

The ferocity and brutality of Simelane's murder sent shockwaves through Kwa Thema, where she was much known and loved for bringing sports fame to the sprawling township.


The Guardian talked to lesbians in townships in Johannesburg and Cape Town who said they were being deliberately targeted for rape and that the threat of violence had become an everyday ordeal.

"Every day I am told that they are going to kill me, that they are going to rape me and after they rape me I'll become a girl," said Zakhe Sowello from Soweto, Johannesburg. "When you are raped you have a lot of evidence on your body. But when we try and report these crimes nothing happens, and then you see the boys who raped you walking free on the street."

According to the BBC World Service piece, black lesbians in particular are targeted. Both the BBC World Service and Guardian pieces have candid interviews with South African men who casually/humorously discuss raping women, how they justify their actions, the violent socialization of masculinity that leads to this patriarchal phenomenon, and the lack of response by South African authorities -- lack of response by bystanders/general public, police, and up through the courts (i.e., radical criminology). See also here.

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  1. These girls/women live in a warzone to begin with, the threat of rape is a constant reality for any woman in South African cities. Lesbians seem to be "extra" targeted, but I can't stop thinking that the place they are living in is not safe at all for any woman. Every woman is threatened & on guard. Living publicly-openly as a lesbian in todays' South Africa is something that takes both real courage & a degree of foolishness (similar to trying to live openly as a lesbian in Iran or Afghanistan). Just survival without being raped would be my priority if I lived in any of those countries, and personally, I would hide parts of myself in certain situations if I needed to. I don't know if that is what women *should* do, though. Maybe there is room to tone down public expressions of being lesbian while still presenting yourself as lesbian. An analogy: if I lived in a country where most/all women wore headscarves, I would wear a headscarf too even though I wouldn't want to, but in some other ways I might act/speak how I wanted even though it wasn't what other women did.

  2. Very true that any woman or girl living in South Africa is at-risk, irrespective of her sexuality. I have another post from June titled "Sexual Violence and Male Bonding," which overviews a story on research which found almost 30% of men in South Africa admitted to perpetrating rape. Ridiculously high rates. Being that I'm a middle aged guy in a safer environment overall, I'm much, much less at risk and can't see the world from your point of view. Still, your point about doing what it takes to stay safe is definitely well taken.

  3. Yeah this was just amazing, there are many things about humans that i can't really understand, why ?