Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Reports of "Corrective Rape" of Lesbians in South Africa

**Trigger warning!: These videos discuss and detail instances of rape and sexual abuse, please be aware that this material might be distressing or distrubing**

I think it is unfortunate that the reports are being framed as South Africa being unable to deal with violence and crime against women in the wake of the end of apartheid. This framing makes European nations falsely seem like they are bastions of sexual and gender freedom and tolerance. It would be wrong to merely see this as something that "happens over there" as the U.K. press has framed it. It is important to recognize that violence against women generally, and lesbians or gender non-conforming women specifically, is normalized in patriarchal society.

In the 1950s and 1960s in American women would get arrested if they weren't wearing enough women's clothing, many women would report being raped and sexually harassed by police while they were in custody. And this is not a thing of the past, unfortunately, instances of rape against queer women appear in the news regularly.

Nonetheless, it was heartbreaking to hear the women tell their stories particularly the woman whose twin daughters were raped to "teach them that they don't have to be like their mother." The strength that these women showed when they spoke and their dedication to speaking out against these acts of violence was awe-inspiring.

The responses of the men were disgusting, both the responses that women should be raped because being a lesbian is "wrong" and the comment that talking about the rapes reflects badly on the African nation. In that man's comment I heard echoes of the logic that women of color should not report the domestic violence and sexual assaults that happen in our communities because they reify ideas about men of color and violence. It is extremely troubling when men accuse women of being "traitors" for speaking out and reporting domestic and sexual violence.

For more information please check out the ActionAid press release

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