I firmly believe that a major component of activism involves highlighting issues that, for whatever reason, slip through the cracks or are swept under the carpet. One such issue that has somehow remained largely absent from mainstream media discussions and American consciousness is the alarming trend of “corrective” rapes in South Africa. I can only imagine this is the case because the victims are African and lesbians.
In other words, it’s happening to “those” people “over there.”
What exactly is a “corrective rape”? It’s a particularly brutal form of rape — often including torture, strangulation, battery — inflicted upon lesbians with the goal of turning them straight. Some victims die as a result of their “corrective” rape, some contract HIV/AIDS, and others turn to suicide.
Here are some very frightening statistics, courtesy of Change.org:
In the last 10 years:
*31 lesbian women have been murdered because of their sexuality
*More than 10 lesbians a week are raped or gang raped in Cape Town alone
*150 women are raped every day in South Africa
*For every 25 men accused of rape in South Africa, 24 walk free
Keep in mind, of course, that these statistics only reflect those incidents that are reported and recorded.
The South African government and justice system are failing these victims. Perpetrators are released on bail and court cases stall in the system for years. Meanwhile, those victims who survive carry the burden of seeing their attackers free and suffer harassment.
Change.org has circulated a petition to declare “corrective” rapes a hate crime. To date, they have collected over 140,000 signatures. Please add your name to the list! Women’s lives literally depend on it.