In South Africa, instances of rape are all too frequent—one in every four male citizens admits to having nonconsensual intercourse. Recently, however, these sexual assaults have taken on a new character: many are now targeted at members of the LGBT community as attempts to ‘cure’ female victims of their homosexuality. This practice—deemed ‘corrective rape’—has led to widespread violence and brutality.

Such incidents are rampant in South Africa, a country known for its progressive social tolerance and high standard of human rights, particularly for minority groups. Most notably, South Africa is the only country in Africa to have legalized same sex marriages. However, despite prodigious governmental strides towards equality, the country has witnessed a rising amount of attacks against homosexuals, mostly in the brutal form of “corrective rape.”

The most widely recognized case of ‘corrective rape’ occurred in 2011, in an attack against Eudy Simelane, a former football star on South Africa’s Banyana Banyana national team. On April 28, 2011, Simelane was found in a park on the outskirts of Johannesburg, brutally beaten, having been gang-raped, stabbed 25 times, and left half-naked to die. Despite the perpetrators’ conviction, Simelane’s case remains problematic. During the sentencing, the judge refused to recognize sexuality as an aggravating factor in the attack.

Eudy Simelane’s ‘corrective rape’ was anomalous in the amount of international attention it received. A multitude of other victims live every day in fear and silence; the potential of an attack is a constant, haunting reality. Such conditions are not the conditions of equality, but rather of social oppression and hate.

By not recognizing the targeted manner of these ‘corrective rapes,’ South Africa’s legal system is perpetuating the social inequalities that exist. It is not enough to recognize these rapes as merely sexual assaults; instead, they must be categorized for what they are—hate crimes. Until this occurs, social inequality and gross human rights violations will continue to persist for the LGBT community in South Africa.

Anna Purcell

Sources: New York Times, BBC