A man has been charged with raping a lesbian in South Africa in hopes of turning her straight.
According to police, the 24-year-old victim had gone to Sunnyside, a suburb of Pretoria, to visit a friend, and discovered the unnamed suspect, 25, was there, as well. The assault occurred shortly after her friend left the apartment to get food.
Police say the suspect was from Cameroon and viewed same-sex relationships as an “abomination.” “[The attitude is,] I will put you in your place as a woman,” activist Geoffrey Ogwaro told Rekord East. “You are suppose to be a woman and you should have sex with a man and not a fellow woman.”
The accused was granted bail on the condition he not contact the victim, believed to be an ex-girlfriend, and that he report to police in Pretoria twice a week.
In Cameroon, homosexuality is punishable by up to 5 years in prison and a fine of $350 to $3,500. (In 2011, a court convicted two young men based solely on the way they spoke and that they ordered a cream-liquor drink at a straight nightclub.) Police, who often harass and extort money from gays, have also been known to turn a blind eye to vigilante executions.
South Africa, meanwhile, has one of the world’s highest rates of violence against women: More than 42,000 rapes were reported in 2015 alone. (In a 2009 government survey, one in four men admitted to having sex with a woman without consent.)
Corrective rape is used the world over as a punishment for people—usually women—who are gay, transgender, or don’t fit traditional gender roles. In South Africa, it’s more common in rural townships, where women have less independence, education, and support systems in place. The Equality Act of 2000 bans hate crimes based on sexual orientation, but such cases are rarely prosecuted.
“There is a clear sense of entitlement to women’s bodies which underlies the general rape pandemic, and no doubt the attack of lesbian women or women who read as gender non-conforming,” ActionAid South Africa’s Emily Craven told The Telegraph. “The notion that women do not need men for either economic support or sexual pleasure is one that is deeply threatening to entrenched patriarchal values.”
It’s estimated at least 500 lesbians a year are victims of corrective rape in South Africa, but societal homophobia keeps many from reporting the crime: Lesbian activist Sizakele Sigasa and her girlfriend were sexually assaulted, tortured, and murdered in Soweto in July 2007. The following year, soccer player Eudy Simelane, one of the first South African celebrities to come out as a lesbian, was abducted, gang-raped, and killed near Johannesburg.
Filmmaker Xolelwa Nhlabatsi’s short “Lost in the World’ addressed the issue of corrective rape in South Africa. In the film, a police officer seeks revenge after her girlfriend is raped and murdered.