Thanks to the power of the Internet, the rape crisis in South Africa has jumped onto the world stage, due to a video of a gang rape that has “gone viral.” With gruesome tales of the sexual assault and gang rape of babies, small girls and women, it is an issue that has now drawn the attention of human rights and women rights groups across the globe.
According to some estimates, a woman is raped in South Africa every 17 seconds. Doctors Without Borders puts the number at a rape every 26 seconds. By comparison, the equivalent number for the U.S. is a rape every two minutes. The U.S. population is six times the population of South Africa (50 million people), so the difference is even greater than the numbers would suggest.
One statistical analysis said that women in South Africa have a better chance of being raped than of being able to learn how to read. Some observers have indicated that the country and its men have developed a casual response to rape because of the country’s violent past and the lack of prosecutions for rape—which resulted in women believing that there was no point in reporting their assault to authorities.
Recent surveys in South Africa have unveiled male attitudes about rape that are extremely troubling. One in three of the 4,000 women questioned by the country’s Community of Information, Empowerment and Transparency said they had been raped in the past year. In a survey conducted among 1,500 schoolchildren in the Soweto township, a quarter of all the boys interviewed said that “jackrolling,” a term for gang rape, was fun. More than 25 percent of South African men questioned in a survey admitted to raping someone; of those, nearly half said they had raped more than one person, according to a new study conducted by the Medical Research Council.
In some cases, men set upon girls who are viewed as lesbians, in a “corrective” rape. One famous soccer player, Eudy Simelane, was murdered in 2008 after she was raped.
Hopefully, the international attention being directed at the problem may embarrass South African officials enough to do something to stop this tragedy.