By Melanie Nathan, January 04, 2014.
Touted in an article as the most comprehensive report on the issue, “Crisis in South Africa: The shocking practice of ‘corrective rape’ – aimed at ‘curing’ lesbians,” is the work of Clare Carter, who left her home in New York City in 2011 to photograph South Africa’s corrective rape victims.
Horrified at the magnitude of the problem, she apparently spent two years in South Africa, “finding those affected and gaining their trust.” In total, Carter photographed 45 survivors, hearing their stories and piecing together the mosaic forces fueling the crime by interviewing priests and NGO workers, gay rights activists and family members. She also met with rapists.
“Even in the two years I was there the stories I was hearing were getting worse,” she says. “Corrective rape is getting more violent.”
In the article, which appeared in The Independent, Patrick Strudwick notes:
“Indeed, when we meet in London, Carter produces transcripts of interviews with the survivors she photographed, which more often than not refer to knives, stones and sticks being used.”
The report is shocking, but it is not new. And the read is shocking as Carter provides details of some of her interviews. However this is what we have been writing about for years on a case by case basis, and these stories have been receiving our attention, but not enough of South Africa’s so as to result in change.
To tout Ms. Carter, however, as the most comprehensive reporter on this is inaccurate. For one, Zanele Muholi, South African photographer has been photographing, filming and recording these stories long before Clare Carter went to South Africa and since. Zanele has done this in a more empowering way. She has provided local lesbian women, many survivors of so called “corrective rape” with their own cameras and collected years of material through their eyes. She has empowered them with Inkanyiso* and other forums, and asked them to write their own stories. She has taught these young women, with the help of other activists, such as Funeka Soldaat of Free Gender, to be their own spokespersons to the world. Unfortunately many of the photos and films bearing those stories were lost in a targeted burglary of Zanele’s home, where hard drives, flash drives and camera equipment was stolen. But she did not give up and the project has continued.
Nonetheless, whether the stories, are depicted by Carter or survivors, they are profoundly important for the West to see, for different purposes. At this juncture I think Carter’s review if properly touted could and should embarrass the Zuma presidency. This is a President whose popularity is diminishing, who was booed at the Mandela memorial. He is embroiled in controversy at this time. He is a president who stood accused and was acquitted of rape charges, yet has failed to speak out or do anything at all about the endemic rape in South Africa.
As pointed out in the article:
“Ever since a 1998-2000 report by the United Nations Office on Crime and Drugs ranked South Africa as highest for rapes per capita, it has repeatedly been described as the rape capital of the world: 500,000 rapes a year; one every 17 seconds; one in every two women will be raped in her lifetime. Twenty per cent of men say the victim “asked for it”, according to a survey by the anti-violence NGO, CIET. A quarter of men in the Eastern Cape Provinces, when asked anonymously by the Medical Research Council, admitted to raping at least once – three quarters of whom said their victim was under 20, a tenth said under 10. A quarter of schoolboys in Soweto described “jackrolling” – the local term for gang rape – as “fun.”
In March 2011, I attended a meeting at the Cape Town Parliament, with members of the lesbian community in South Africa. We delivered an 500,000 signature petition to the Minister of Justice, Jeff Radebe, who convened the invitation meeting. It was at that meeting that we provided a draft of imperative reforms that we hoped could be implemented at government level. At the meeting a National Task Team was convened, forming a partnership between Government, and LGBTI and women stakeholders, to investigate and to recommend reform. To date there has been no definitive reports or reforms emanating from The Task Team.
The South African Constitution is one of the most progressive in the world, and expounds equality for all, including for LGBTI people, and yet gays, lesbians and women are not free, they are imprisoned by the violence of heterosexual men. This article should be read and shared, as it tells some of the horrific stories, and by spreading it around perhaps we can embarrass South African President Jacob Zuma into doing something about this horrendous problem.
The Article can be read in full here.
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*Inkanyiso was conceptualized by the visual activist, Zanele Muholi in 2006.
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This is the face of South African lesbian who was beaten and raped for five hours by a man who told her he wanted to “turn her into a woman”. http://oblogdeeoblogda.me/?s=corrective+rape&submit=Search
By Melanie Nathan, May 18, 2012. Here are two articles I wrote about Zanele Muholi, the famed lesbian artist, photographer and filmmaker, from 2010 and 2011 respectively. Now that Zanele Muholi has had her work stolen by a thief who removed 20 hard drives from her apartment, I decided to republish these pieces here. For […]
Zanele is pleading to the burglar/s to return her equipment with all the work intact.
Please Help my friend find her stolen work – What Zanele has lost is a body of history that is irreplaceable – “I have dedicated my life to this work,” Zanele Muholi. By Melanie Nathan, May 12, 2012. “Loss, lost, violated, ripped, stripped, ransacked… ngilahlekelwe,” are the devastating words that appear on the Facebook page […]