South African lesbians are suffering rapes by men trying to "cure" their homosexuality, in what is becoming one of the most common hate crimes against gay women here, a new study said Friday.
The study by the anti-poverty group ActionAid said that women living in townships in Johannesburg and Cape Town are reporting increasing attacks and murders by men committing so-called "corrective" rape.
South African women generally face a staggering risk of rape in a country with one of the highest crime rates in the world. Almost half of South African women will be raped in their lifetime, according to the report, which said 500 000 rapes are committed each year.
1 in 25 rapists convicted
Of every 25 men brought to trial for rape, only one is convicted, it added. But lesbians are being singled out by men who think that the rape will change their sexual orientation, said Zanele Twala, head of ActionAid South Africa.
"So-called 'corrective' rape is yet another grotesque manifestation of violence against women, the most widespread human rights violation in the world today," she said. One support group in Cape Town said it is responding to 10 new cases of "corrective" rape every week, in that city alone, the report said.
Constitution recognises gay rights
South Africa's constitution enshrines equal rights for gay people, but hate crimes based on sexual orientation are not recognised by law or in courts, the study said. At least 31 lesbians have been killed in homophobic attacks over the last decade, but only one case has led to a conviction, it said, warning the real number of killings is likely much higher in country where 50 people meet a violent death every day.
The head of the South African Human Rights Commission, Jody Kollapen, said in a foreword to the study that the findings should push the criminal justice system to recognise hate crimes. "Hate crimes of this nature require decisive action and those responsible must be held to account," he said. – (Sapa-AFP, March 2009)
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