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Austin Cline

"Corrective Rape" for African Lesbians

By November 10, 2003

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In most African communities, prejudice against homosexuality continues to run very deep - so deep, in fact, that people don't appear to have a problem with committing sexual violence against gays or lesbians in order to express that prejudice. In South African townships, lesbians are being raped under the theory that this will somehow cause them to change their sexual orientation and start being sexually attracted to men.

IOL reports:

Since January this year, 33 black lesbians have come forward with their stories of rape, assault, sexual assault and verbal abuse to organisations fighting hate crimes in Johannesburg townships. Zanele Muholi, a reporter for the lesbian and gay publication Behind the Mask, has documented 12 rapes, four attempted rapes, six verbal abuse cases, three assaults with a deadly weapon, and two abductions. ... "Eight of the perpetrators were friends and neighbours, two - family, seven - familiar to the survivors, two - ex-boyfriends, seven - strangers, and five - attacked by gang members," she said.

The purpose, victims are told, is to "turn you into a real African woman." Apparently real women are heterosexual. In one case a victim was told by her mother that "'this is what happens to girls like you ." Part of the problem, though, is not simply intolerance of lesbians - it is also a fundamental intolerance of women in general. One of the victims, Kekeletso Khena, said:

It's the most disturbing. It boils down to the fact that you as a woman have a role to be a wife, mother and subordinate to your husband. If you are lesbian you are not fulfilling those roles.

There is, then, a very important link to rigid and stratified gender roles and violence against anyone who challenges or breaks those roles - not just homosexuals, although they are among the most obvious and easiest targets of bigotry and discrimination. Any time you hear someone talking about what is appropriate behavior for "real men" and "real women," you can be reliably count on the fact that they are expressing an attitude which has historically contributed to all manner of violence and discrimination. They may not realize it, that is true, but they may also not care a great deal.

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Comments
March 13, 2009 at 4:36 pm
(1) Brooklyn says:

I may not condone homosexuality. But raping someone with the belief that it will make them heterosexual is completely apaling! And even though my beliefs differ from others when it comes to homosexuality. I believe everyone should be treated with respect! Regardless of beliefs or sexual preference! We’re all human and to think you are better than someone because of there preferences or beliefs will get you no where! I am very sorry this is happening to anyone in this world!

March 13, 2009 at 11:53 pm
(2) Dimitri says:

Your thinking about homosexuality isn’t much different from the Africans. Whether or not you condone it, we still exist. It isn’t a naughty behavior to be approved or disapproved. It just is. How can people be so ignorant in 2009?

March 14, 2009 at 1:30 am
(3) AlwaysAmazed says:

I can’t believe people actually say they “don’t condone homosexuality,” with a straight face! Do you condone that I like to wear jeans and t-shirts or that I have hazel eyes? It’s sad that people are not able to THINK for themselves or justify their statements. The only “reasons,” I’ve ever heard for people not “condoning,” it are their book of fairy tales that condones SLAVERY may or may not be in agreement with it (hard to really say if you’ve actually READ the passages for yourself) or they wouln’t want to be gay; as if that is an intelligent reason.

March 26, 2009 at 10:02 am
(4) ryu says:

The upper comment has left me baffled.
You ‘DONT CONDONE’ homosexuality’ ???
As if you or any person has anything to say about it. It is a reality and not for you to condone or judge! You might as well say “I don’t condone the sun”.

April 20, 2009 at 6:40 am
(5) T says:

I have an issue with the way in which this article has been written. As an individual currently living in South Africa, I feel that you are homogenizing a people by making it seem that everyone in the country is against homosexuality and thus, condones this violent sexual behaviour. Yes, it is a phenomenon that should be brought to light but please don’t make it seem that this is a norm and that everyone in this country agrees with it. I can assure you that there are extremely active, locally based organizations that are doing everything they can to create awareness, advocacy and are making every effort to reduce these hate crimes.

Speaking in generalizing terms about any demographic is extremely problematic. I adamantly agree that there are serious gender inequality issues in this country (and every other country in the world for that matter), and that the vulnerability of women in this country is much higher. However, your approach only serves to reinforce a portrayal of Africa being the ‘Dark Contintent’ where anarchy reigns supreme. This is simply not the case. Do better.

April 20, 2009 at 6:50 am
(6) Austin Cline says:

I have an issue with the way in which this article has been written. As an individual currently living in South Africa, I feel that you are homogenizing a people by making it seem that everyone in the country is against homosexuality and thus, condones this violent sexual behaviour.

And where, exactly, do I do that?

Maybe the “issue” you have is more with your own interpretation than with anything I actually wrote?

December 19, 2009 at 7:31 pm
(7) robingee says:

There is no “condoning” homosexuality. No one gets to decide if it’s OK or not. It’s a fact of life, it’s the way someone is. So while you may think that the rapes of lesbians is terrible, the fact that you say you don’t “condone” it is appalling to me.

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