Corrective rape is a hate crime in which people are raped because of their perceived sexual orientation or gender identity. The common intended consequence of the rape, as seen by the perpetrator, is to turn the person heterosexual or to enforce conformity with gender stereotypes.
The term corrective rape was coined in South Africa after well-known cases of corrective rapes of lesbians like Eudy Simelane (who was also murdered in the same attack) and Zoliswa Nkonyana became public. Although some countries have laws protecting LGBT people, corrective rape is often overlooked.
Corrective rape is the use of rape against people who do not conform to perceived social norms regarding human sexuality and gender roles, with goals of punishing "abnormal" behavior and reinforcing societal norms. The crime was first identified in South Africa, where it is sometimes supervised by members of the woman's family or local community.
Impact on victims
Corrective rape is a major contributor to HIV infection in South African lesbians. Corrective rape and other accompanying acts of violence can result in physical and psychological trauma, mutilation, HIV infection, unwanted pregnancy, and may contribute to suicide.
A 2000 study suggested the visibility of lesbians within a community, an atmosphere supportive of hate crimes against gay men and lesbians, isolated locations, reactions to hate crimes by the broader community, and responses by police and justice systems contribute to corrective rape. Failure to conform to social norms for gendered behavior is also thought to contribute.
Many believe that it should be recognized as a hate crime because of the misunderstanding of homosexuality and the animus toward gay people that motivate corrective rape. In one article, Tina Machida, a Zimbabwean lesbian who lives in Harare, writes, "They locked me in a room and brought [a man] every day to rape me so I would fall pregnant and be forced to marry him. They did this to me until I was pregnant."
A U.S. State Department report on Zimbabwe states, "In response to social pressure, some families reportedly subjected their LGBT members to 'corrective' rape and forced marriages to encourage heterosexual conduct. Such crimes were rarely reported to police. Women, in particular, were subjected to rape by male family members." Following the publication of an earlier report with similar wording, Zimbabwean journalist Angus Shaw said that lesbian women are raped by men to "make them enjoy heterosexual acts" and gay men are raped by women to "remove their sexual orientation tendencies".
In South Africa, women have less sexual and economic power than men. One of the factors associated with this inequality is strict gender roles, which has led to one of the highest rates of violence against women in the world. The South African government conducted a survey in 2009 on sexual assault. One in four men admit to having sex with a woman who did not consent and nearly half of these men admitted to raping more than once. Corrective rape is used as a "punishment" for people who are gay or do not fit traditional gender roles (usually women), where often they are verbally abused before the rape. The perpetrator may claim to be "teaching [the women] a lesson" on how to be a "real woman." Because women have less control over their economics, which creates economic vulnerability, they have less control over their own sexual activities. Poor black women who live in townships are more likely to become victims of corrective violence, and gay women are more likely to be isolated with little support, which increases their chances of being targeted.
Corrective rape is not recognized by the South African legal system as a hate crime despite the fact that the South African Constitution states that no person shall be discriminated against based on his or her social status and identity, including sexual orientation. Crimes based on sexual orientation are not expressly recognized in South Africa; corrective rape reports are not separated from general rape reports. In December 2009, there had been 31 recorded murders of lesbians in South Africa since 1998, but only one had resulted in a conviction. According to Human Rights Watch, in the last 20 years, attitudes toward homosexuality have become worse in South Africa.
Corrective rape is on the rise in South Africa. More than 10 lesbians are raped or gang-raped weekly, as estimated by Luleki Sizwe, a South African nonprofit. It is estimated that at least 500 lesbians become victims of corrective rape every year and that 86% of black lesbians in the Western Cape live in fear of being sexually assaulted, as reported by the Triangle Project in 2008. Yet, victims of corrective rape are less likely to report it because of the negative social view of homosexuality. Under-reporting is high for sexually violent crimes, thus the number of corrective rapes are likely higher than what is reported. Although it is thought to be uncommon, men also become victims of corrective rape. A study conducted by OUT LGBT Well-being and the University of South Africa Centre for Applied Psychology (UCAP) showed that "the percentage of black gay men who said they have experienced corrective rape matched that of the black lesbians who partook in the study". However, not all men admit to being victims of corrective rape.
One South African man stated, "Lesbians get raped and killed because it is accepted by our community and by our culture."
Galip Asvat, a successful hair salon business owner, is a gay man born in Klerksdorp. He moved to Hillbrow, which was a haven for the LGBT community, in the early 2000s. One early morning in 2007, Asvat was ambushed and raped by three men in his apartment building. "They thought I was a woman, and when they found out I was a man, that's when they became even more violent." His beating was brutal and the gang of men nearly cut off his genitals.
Sizakele Sigasa, a lesbian activist living in Soweto, and her partner Salome Masooa were raped, tortured, and murdered in July 2007 in an attack that South African lesbian-gay rights organizations, including the umbrella-group Joint Working Group, said were driven by lesbophobia. Two other rape/murders of lesbians occurred in South Africa earlier in summer 2007: Simangele Nhlapo, member of an HIV-positive support group was raped and murdered in June, along with her two-year-old daughter; and Madoe Mafubedu, age 16, was raped and stabbed to death.
On 28 April 2008, 31-year-old soccer player Eudy Simelane was abducted, gang-raped and killed in KwaThema, her hometown near Johannesburg. Simelane was a star of the South Africa’s acclaimed Banyana Banyana national female football squad, an avid equality rights campaigner and one of the first women to live openly as a lesbian in KwaThema.
In 2013, two writers from South African men's magazine FHM were fired as a result of corrective rape "jokes" they made on Facebook. After a disciplinary hearing on Friday, July 19, 2013, FHM dismissed both men from their positions, calling their comments "entirely unacceptable".
South Africa is a signatory of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), which obligates states to remove discriminatory barriers from the full and free exercise of rights by women. The Convention's duty to modify the conduct of private citizens to ensure equality for women covers attitudes that include the inferiority of women and stereotyped gender roles, which arguably encompass the animus toward gay women that motivates many men to commit corrective rape. 66% of South Africa women said they did not report their attack because they would not be taken seriously. Of these, 25% said they feared exposing their sexual orientation to the police and 22% said they were afraid of being abused by the police.
In August 2011, the Department of Justice established a National Task Team (NTT) to address the issue of hate crimes against LGBT people. In April 2014, then Minister of Justice Jeff Radebe launched a National Intervention Strategy for the LGBTI Sector developed by the NTT to address sex-based violence and gender-based violence against members of the community. The NTT has established a rapid response team to attend to unsolved criminal cases as a matter of urgency and produced an information pamphlet with frequently asked questions about LGBTI persons. Radebe stated that the Department of Justice acknowledged the need for a specific legal framework for hate crimes and that the matter would be subjected to public debate.
Amnesty International has received reports of violence against lesbians in Jamaica, including rape and other forms of sexual violence. Lesbians reportedly have been attacked on the grounds of "mannish" physical appearance or other visible "signs" of sexuality. Some reports of abduction and rape come from inner-city communities, where local non-governmental organizations have expressed concerns about high incidences of violence against women.
Child sponsorship charity ActionAid has published an article discussing corrective rape, and see ending violence against women as a pivotal part of their mission. The group joined with 26 gay and women’s rights and community groups, to organize a campaign focused on South Africa but also aimed at the international community, to raise awareness of the issues. The campaign was dedicated to the rape and murder of two lesbian women in a Johannesburg township and called for sexual orientation to be specifically recognised as grounds for protection by police and justice systems.
Nature-nurture debate as a cause
Some sources argue that many cases of corrective rape are caused by the entire framing and drawing moral conclusions from the nature-nurture debate. That the combination of claiming male homosexuality to be innate, using that claim as an argument for homosexual rights, and claiming homosexuality in women to be subject to environmental factors after birth, as a combo leads to acceptance of ideologies that want to convert lesbians into heterosexual women. People of this viewpoint point at a contradiction between the claim of specifically male biological determinism and claiming gay men to have feminine brains, and suggest as a solution to stop using "nature or nurture" or "biology or choice" arguments for homosexual rights altogether and instead focus on arguments of the one person's sexuality is none of another person's business type.
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