JOHANNESBURG, South Africa – Among a number of stunning findings, research conducted by the South African Medical Research Council has found that one in four male South Africans admitted to committing rape.
South Africa has one of the highest rates of rape in the world and the largest number of people living with HIV. According to police statistics, 36,000 women were raped in 2007, nearly 100 per day.
The purpose of the research was to understand the prevalence of rape among a random sampling of adult men, to understand factors associated with rape perpetration, and to describe intersections between rape, physical intimate partner violence and HIV.
The study was conducted in three districts in the Eastern Cape and KwaZulu Natal Provinces of the country, and included men between the ages of 18-49. The sample group included men of all racial groups and of a range of different socioeconomic backgrounds. Half of the men were under 25 years of age and 70% were under 30, averaging out slightly younger than in the general population.
As stated, 26.7 percent of the men said they had raped a woman or girl, and 4.6 percent said they had done so in the past year. 2.9 percent said they had raped men or boys, while 16.8 percent said they had attempted to do so.
Nearly one in two of the men who raped (46.3 percent) said they had raped more than one woman or girl. In all, 23.2% of men said they had raped 2-3 women, 8.4% had raped 4-5 women, 7.1 percent said they had raped 6-10 and 7.7 percent said they had raped more than 10 women or girls.
Asked their age the first time they had raped a woman or girl, 9.8 percent said they were under 10 years old, 16.4 percent were 10-14 years old, 46.5 percent were 15-19 years old, 18.6 percent were 20-24 years old, 6.9 percent were 25-29 years and 1.9 percent were 30 or older.
Chief researcher Rachel Jewkes told the Associated Press that the findings were “shocking” but “not unexpected.” Victim support groups also said they were not surprised.
“The report indicates that rape has become ‘normalized’ as a feature of masculine identity in a society that has emerged from years of oppression — a tragic development for both women and for men,” said Anne Marie Goetz, chief of the Governance, Peace and Security section of the United Nations Development Fund for Women. “The implications of this are grave for women’s security but also for long-term development, which relies upon deepening gender equality.”
Regarding the intersection of rape and HIV, the research showed that, surprisingly, men who raped were no more likely to have HIV than men who hadn’t raped.
“Yet one of the very important findings is the very high HIV prevalence found in all the men, but particularly those aged 25-45,’ the study said. “This provides a salient reminder of how likely it is that a man who rapes has HIV, irrespective of whether he has more than another man.”
The study recommended three courses of action:
- Rape prevention must focus centrally on changing social norms around masculinity and sexual entitlement, and addressing the structural
underpinnings of rape.
- Post-exposure prophylaxis is a critical dimension of post-rape care, but it is just one dimension and a comprehensive care package needs to be delivered to all victims and should include support for the psychological responses to rape.
- HIV prevention must embrace and incorporate promoting more gender equitable models of masculinity. Intervention that do this effectively must be promoted as part of HIV prevention.