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Monday, March 23, 2009

2Cents (An opnion piece): "Lesbians subjected to corrective rape in South Africa"

[Editor's Note: Here is guest post number two from an opinionated friend of The Fruit. Her first piece was about gay marriage. This time, shocked about a recent headline in online news, she had to respond with her thoughts, and ask for us to share what we think, too.]

Lesbians subjected to corrective rape in South Africa

On Friday of last week, I read an article about “corrective rape”. This practice is apparently all the rage in South Africa; “friends”, family (yes, family), strangers, and gangs target women that self-identify or are perceived to be lesbians and rape them to “cure” them of their lesbianism. These rapes typically occur in economically depressed, working class, black communities. In most recent news, teenage boys are now raping schoolmates.

Needless to say, I was appalled by this practice; but I know “corrective rape” happens all over the world. I won’t preach and complain about this situation or the vileness of narrow-minded people. You all are on The Other Fruit’s blog; I’m sure you are as disgusted by this practice as I. However, I encourage you all to look into this abomination if you’ve never heard of it.

But I’m more appalled by the fact that I’ve never heard of this particular “phenomenon” of mass “corrective rape” in South Africa. I did a minute bit of research and discovered articles regarding this subject as far back as 2004; this piece just seemed to make it on MSN’s front page (tiny, at the bottom) because of the conviction of a man who raped and killed a notable soccer player.

Here’s what struck me:

1. I’ve often seen South Africa used as an example of a progressive country because of the implementation of a constitution that banned discrimination, including that based on sexual orientation in 1996 and because in 2006 this country became the fifth nation in the world to legalize same sex marriage. Yet rape, in general, does not seem to be taken too seriously in South Africa (or let’s face it, anywhere else); I read a couple of articles that stated only one or two men have been convicted of “corrective rape” against women in South Africa.

2. After I read a few of those articles, I found numerous sites recommending South Africa as an LGBT vacation spot, pointing out sites to see, and giving advice on how to avoid neighboring countries that aren’t so accepting of the LGBT community. One site even acknowledged the high crime rates in South Africa and downplayed the seriousness of this at the same time by stating that tourists have a lower risk of being victims of crime.

How is it that a country with a “progressive” constitution that protects the rights of people to express their sexual orientation and to be legally married, allows the rape of women who self-identify or are perceived to be lesbians?

And, more importantly to me as an American: Why is it that none of my friends had heard of this “corrective rape” epidemic in South Africa? Why are some LGBT sites touting the charms of South Africa, when some of the articles about “corrective rape” were on LGBT sites?

Is it possible that as “Ugly Americans”, we’ve become so inured to the plight of people, especially people indigenous to the areas we use as vacation spots, that their abuse - even up to and including rape and murder - aren’t important to us in our need for escapism? Are cheap goods, food, and exotic landscapes enough to stop American vacationers from considering the everyday lives of the people that live in those “vacation spots”?

Are the non-concern of the South Africa government and the LGBT community twin symptoms of apathy for the poor, the “foreign” and – dare I say it – women, especially women of color?

[Editor's note: similar corrective violence has also been reported elsewhere, as told here by Bilerico Project guest writer Dante Alencastre, of an attack on a transgender woman and gay man caught in the streets of Peru.]

1 comment:

  1. FBI hate crime data shows that attacks founded on sexual orientation continue to be characterized by a high level of violence, with a higher proportion of personal assaults than in other categories of hate crime.
    In the United States, the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs (NCAVP) and more than thirty of its member organizations across the country released an annual report in May 2008, showing a 24 percent increase in incidents of violence against LGBT people in 2007, compared to 2006. They noted that 2007 also had the third-highest murder rate in the ten years that NCAVP has been compiling the report, with murders more than doubling from 10 in 2006 to 21 in 2007.

    And this from the APA:
    "Lesbian, gay, and bisexual people in the United States encounter extensive prejudice, discrimination, and violence because of their sexual orientation. Intense prejudice against lesbians, gay men, and bisexual people was widespread throughout much of the 20th century. Public opinion studies over the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s routinely showed that, among large segments of the public, lesbian, gay, and bisexual people were the target of strongly held negative attitudes. More recently, public opinion has increasingly opposed sexual orientation discrimination, but expressions of hostility toward lesbians and gay men remain common in contemporary American society. Prejudice against bisexuals appears to exist at comparable levels.

    Sexual orientation discrimination takes many forms. Severe antigay prejudice is reflected in the high rate of harassment and violence directed toward lesbian, gay, and bisexual individuals in American society. Numerous surveys indicate that verbal harassment and abuse are nearly universal experiences among lesbian, gay, and bisexual people. Also, discrimination against lesbian, gay, and bisexual people in employment and housing appears to remain widespread.
    Prejudice and discrimination have social and personal impact. On the social level, prejudice and discrimination against lesbian, gay, and bisexual people are reflected in the everyday stereotypes of members of these groups. These stereotypes persist even though they are not supported by evidence, and they are often used to excuse unequal treatment of lesbian, gay, and bisexual people. For example, limitations on job opportunities, parenting, and relationship recognition are often justified by stereotypic assumptions about lesbian, gay, and bisexual people.

    On an individual level, such prejudice and discrimination may also have negative consequences, especially if lesbian, gay, and bisexual people attempt to conceal or deny their sexual orientation. Although many lesbians and gay men learn to cope with the social stigma against homosexuality, this pattern of prejudice can have serious negative effects on health and well-being. Individuals and groups may have the impact of stigma reduced or worsened by other characteristics, such as race, ethnicity, religion, or disability. Some lesbian, gay, and bisexual people may face less of a stigma. For others, race, sex, religion, disability, or other characteristics may exacerbate the negative impact of prejudice and discrimination.

    The widespread prejudice, discrimination, and violence to which lesbians and gay men are often subjected are significant mental health concerns. Sexual prejudice, sexual orientation discrimination, and antigay violence are major sources of stress for lesbian, gay, and bisexual people. Although social support is crucial in coping with stress, antigay attitudes and discrimination may make it difficult for lesbian, gay, and bisexual people to find such support."