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Activists: Rape in Africa Driven by Inequality, Weak Prosecution
Rape is considered an epidemic in Africa – even in countries with advanced legal systems like South Africa. A look at the statistics, some of the cultural roots, and the legal and implementation challenges better bring into focus the challenges the continent faces in fighting rape.
South African police say 64,000 rapes were reported in the country last year, in a nation that is often called "the rape capital of the world."
Activists say the problem with this figure, however, is that it likely is wrong. And not just slightly wrong – maybe catastrophically so.
In early November, a top South African think tank questioned the police department's math – saying they used old, lower population figures in calculating its annual crime report, thus skewing the result to make it appear that crime figures have improved more than they have.
More worryingly, a recent study by the Medical Research Council concluded that only one in 25 women reports rape in the most populous province, Gauteng.
That, said gender rights activist Shireen Motara, is the first big problem. She said women in South Africa often don't report rape because of the reaction they get, even though the nation's laws are among the most progressive in the world. Motara is executive director of the Johannesburg-based Tshwaranang Legal Advocacy Center, which helps women who are victims of violence. She said South Africa's violent culture and rampant misogyny often counteract its progressive laws.