Gender Violence in South Africa

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Recent news reports of a high government official in South Africa charged with rape, reveals a widespread problem of gender violence. The rape trial of Former Deputy President Jacob Zuma has brought attention to the alarming fact that South African women experience high levels of violence. People Opposing Woman Abuse (POWA), an organization whose aim is to draw attention to social and legal problems around sexual violence in South Africa, estimate that a woman is raped in South Africa approximately every twenty-six seconds. Only one in nine rapes is ever reported. A history of gender bias can be blamed for this rampant disregard of human rights. Studies show that women in South Africa are more likely than men to know their attackers, are more likely to be attacked in their own homes, as well as more likely to be blamed for the crimes against them. One popular explanation for South Africa's high sexual assault statistics, and the high incidence of rape of children, is the belief that sex with a virgin cures AIDS. Another explanation of the rape problem is a lack of power of women, which is both a legacy of apartheid and of traditional African beliefs about the role of women. Some people believe that apartheid took away power from black men, who then began taking out their feelings of disempowerment on those less powerful than themselves. Rape cases are often the hardest to prosecute because the victims are often afraid or unwilling to testify. Women who are raped or whose children are raped often worry that if the rapist goes to jail, the family will be forced to go without food or housing. Most laws in South Africa have been rooted in traditional attitudes to the roles of men and women. Long standing cultural norms and myths are often used to protect the perpetrators of gender violence. Violence against women is not considered a serious crime and the law does not enable partners to bring charges for domestic violence.
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