Rape Culture in South Africa Contributes to HIV Prevalence

by Vins
Published: Last Updated on

South Africa is currently one of the highest reported country with rape in the world. Rape culture in South Africa includes child and infant rape, corrective rape, homosexual rape, and prison rape. Beginning from the roots of their history post-apartheid, rape had become most popular and grew even more when it was reported to authority because of corruption in police stations. Approximately about 500,000 rapes cases are estimated to take place in the country every year.

Due to the past that lead to the growth of rape culture in South Africa, when the colonial rule of the white men meant no white man were hanged for rape with the exception of a black man convicted of raping white women. Government officials have failed to take on an executive role in creating policies and laws in order to respond to rape except for the rape law reform process which started in 1997 and finally was signed by President Thabo Mbeki which broaden the legal definition of rape “while creating new ranges of sexual offense and addressing a wide range of issues relating to how sexual offense cases are managed by the police, forensic practitioners and in the courts.” Although with the law passing, research has shown that the government has failed to allocate adequate resources, budget cost involved into these legislative changes, train proper oversight and accountability in law enforcement and build on existing services.

A study done in 2009 provided the statistics of 19.6% of men whom had committed rape were known to be HIV-positive concluding that the spread of HIV was impacted by the rape culture in the country. Another study claimed that 46.5% of men had forced a women into having sex when they were about 15-19 years of age.

With the negative reputation that South African police officers hold of abusing power, many rape cases are not reported due to the fear and lack of proper law enforcement. The Tshwarangnag Legal Advocacy Center reported that 44% of rape cases were closed by the South African Police Services and the conviction rate of cases in their sample was approximately 4%. Unreliable law enforcement and abuse of police powers contribute to the rise in rape culture in the country and also the discouragement of reporting rape cases. Approximately only 1 in 9 rapes are reported supported by the environment and culture of these people. They have no one to trust and no one to rely on for support so instead, they’re reported by rapist as “asking for it”. The culture of patriarchy in South African is firmly rooted in their tradition and ideals reported by the South African government. Children also are preys to the outbreak of rape and is said that one out of four minors are reported to have been sexually abused before the age of 18. Another contribution of rape culture is a myth that having sex with a virgin will cure a man of AIDS. Corrective rape is also a form of patriarchy when men raped women lesbians in a practice to convert them to heterosexuality. Unfortunately, not much is being done in South Africa to prevent the outrageous number of rape cases and spread of HIV by neither the law enforcement nor government officials. Corporate media had also failed to enlighten the rest of the world about the agonizing experiences currently happening in South Africa.


Rebecca Davis. “How rape became South Africa’s enduring nightmare”. The Guardian. http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/sep/29/south-africa-rape-nightmare-crime-stats

“Rape Crisis Cape Town Trust” http://rapecrisis.org.za/rape-in-south-africa/#responses-to-rape

Rachel Jewkes, Yandisa Sikweyiya, Robert Morrell, Kristin Dunkle. “Understanding Men’s Health and Use of Violence: Interface of Rape and HIV In South Africa.” “http://www.mrc.ac.za/gender/interfaceofrape&hivsarpt.pdf

Student Researcher: Richard Eltosam (University of Vermont)

Faculty Evaluator: Rob Williams (University of Vermont)